On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Walk a mile in our shoes

A notice pasted on wall stating 10% service charge and 6% GST at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

A notice pasted on wall stating 10% service charge and 6% GST at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

We want politicians who understand what real Malaysians have to put up with every day, and to help up deal with them.

GET real – real Malaysians talk about the further increase in the cost of living since the Goods and Services Tax was implemented two weeks ago.

We are at the adjustment stage as we try to come to terms with the changes that are affecting our daily lives.

We are definitely looking at the bill more closely. Even if we are prepared for the 6% GST to show up, we grumble why we have to pay 10% for service charge as well.

We know the GST is supposed to go to the government coffers, but we are not sure if the service charge is going straight into the pockets of the restaurant owners or to the workers who should get the money. Some of us may also have a sneaky suspicion if the GST will actually go where it is supposed to go.

Okay, we admit we do not have a tipping culture, and we have to be “forced” to give service tax. But at the same time, let’s admit that in most cases, there is no quality service from most restaurant helpers.

We now check our receipts more carefully because we do not want any extra charges to show up. Let’s get real. We are all affected by the rising cost of living.

At roadside stalls, where no GST is charged, we also notice that the food portion has shrunk or the price has gone up slightly. Yes, even these stallholders need to earn more to make ends meet.

This is what most Malaysians talk about in their daily conversations. If our politicians and bureaucrats think these are all made up, then they are either in self-denial or living on another planet, which means they really deserve to be sacked from their jobs.

Stop waiting for just good news which you only want to hear. If you want real feedback, talk to real people, not apple polishers or opportunists.

The typical Malaysian wage-earner cannot escape the taxman as everything is deducted at source. So there is always a gap between the actual salary and the take-home pay after all the statutory deductions.

Not only does he have to juggle his expenses, he also cannot be sure about the annual increment exercise. After all, employers also can cite reasons like weak market sentiments to reduce the increments and bonuses.

Middle class Malaysians are the worst off. They are truly squeezed in the middle. They can’t qualify for BR1M and they are too poor to live the life of the rich and famous of Bangsar.

Our leaders can rattle off statistics to convince us how well the Malaysian econo­my is doing but we are sorry to tell them that the trickle-down effects are not being felt at all. Most of us are not reporting roaring businesses. Try talking to those in the retail business especially.

So the last thing we are interested in are squabbling politicians. They include retired politicians who just can’t accept the fact that they are retired. And then there are those still in service who really need to get special lessons on how to provide convincing and truthful answers during interviews.

Either way, Malaysians are not amused with the daily overdose of news about murder conspiracies, alleged missing money and plots to overthrow the leader­ship – not when many of us have to put food on the table and figure out where the money should go this month.

But of course, if we Malaysians think that the cost of living is our biggest issue, PAS Members of Parliament think otherwise.

Nothing matters to them more than to push through the Private Member’s Bill to impose hudud law. It was at the top of the party’s biggest agenda but it didn’t happen, so most of them must have travelled back to the East Coast grumbling away. They have to wait until the next Parliament meeting. Good luck, try again.

Their next more important item, of course, is to prepare themselves for their coming party elections. Economic issues? That’s too difficult to understand and explain to the village folks. It doesn’t have emotional appeal and it will be difficult to grab the attention of the ceramah crowds.

And of course, it doesn’t help that the ringgit has shrunk. The cost of doing business has gone up and it has also become more expensive for those of us with children studying overseas.

If there’s any consolation, the price of petrol has just gone down a bit, but the hawkers have not reduced their prices since the last time the prices of crude oil went up. For many businesses, what goes up need not come down, never mind the law of gravity.

But just when we think our politicians on the opposite sides of the divide must disagree on everything, it is interesting to note that when it comes to increasing the allowances of our elected representatives, there is almost brotherly love and reconci­liation in the august hall from everyone. No need to call for block voting, all in favour, just say “aye”. It is amazing what money can do.

You know what else Malaysians want? We want our cops to get back to catching criminals, especially snatch thieves, instead of locking up journalists whose only crime was to file inaccurate articles.

We want our MPs to stop sleeping on the job and to actually take part in ­voting in Parliament instead of sneaking off somewhere with pathetic excuses.

We want politicians who understand what real Malaysians have to put up with every day, and to help us deal with them. These are issues that affect all of us, whatever our race or religion, and there is no need to see everything through political eyes. It should not be about helping only those who will vote for them.

Live your lives as we simple folks do. Be sensitive, listen to us. Don’t talk down to us. That is all we ask for – remember we elected you and not the other way around.