THE recent rapid inflation in the country, causing immediate financial burdens to Malaysians and affecting our social, mental, and physical well-being, is extremely concerning. This issue has been made worse by the recent announcement by the domestic trade and consumer affairs minister that public subsidies on basket of goods will be lifted effective July 1.
This is, and should be treated as, a national crisis.
As Malaysia recovers socio-economically from the pandemic, the rise of living costs compounds the financial stresses resulting from extra expenses incurred in the last two years, such as maintaining the standard operating procedure, the loss of business opportunities, and supply chain disruptions, just to name a few.
At time of writing, the government has yet to announce a solid mechanism to tackle this national crisis as it continues to worsen. As the removal of subsidies on chicken, eggs and bottled cooking oil comes into effect on July 1, it is inevitable that the prices of these staples will continue to soar, further exacerbating “shrinkflation”, where food costs at eateries go up while portions get smaller. The RM100 handout announced by the prime minister may help for a week, but how will it help Keluarga Malaysia in the months to follow?
Taking into account the prime minister’s U-turn yesterday that the chicken price would not be floated and a new ceiling price would be introduced instead, it has to be pointed out that the government is simply treating the symptoms, not the disease. The U-turn and the announcement of a new ceiling price for chicken will not yield sustainable economic effects.
This national crisis has moved my party, Parti Aspirasi Sains Malaysia (SAINS), and I to urge Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and his undeservedly well-stocked cabinet, to consider the following short- and long-term approaches to achieve a healthy inflation rate target gradually.
1. Control money supply
The latest data on Malaysia’s Money Supply (M1) as of April 2022 stood at over RM620 billion, a steep rise, from RM450 billion before the pandemic – an increase of nearly 38% in just over two years. The rapid increase in money supply (M1) is certainly a major contributing factor to the current inflation rate and it needs to be controlled desperately before the situation worsens.
If we look at the United States, the latest number on its money supply (M1) is approximately US$21 trillion (RM92.44 trillion), an exponential rise from its pre-pandemic supply, which stood at around US$5 trillion in early 2020, with inflation shooting up to 8.6% as of May 2022, the largest jump since December 1981.
Thus, there is a pressing need for the government to be extra careful when it comes to sudden injections of cash into the economy that encourage short-term spendings such as EPF withdrawals.
2. Reactive fiscal policies