I refer to press reports quoting Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya as saying that he feels confident that a reverse Malay tsunami was likely, whereby Malay voters who used to support the opposition would now swing to UMNO and Barisan Nasional (BN).
According to Shabudin, his prediction was based on “feedback and grassroots support he has gotten from the Malay electorate around the country, especially the ones in Tasek Gelugor.”
If Shabudin’s comments prove one thing, it is that UMNO leaders are far removed from what is actually happening on the ground. I have just spent three days campaigning in the Malay heartland in Johor and the feedback I received is the same as elsewhere in Malaysia – people are hard hit by GST and inflation caused by the failure of Barisan Nasional policies.
However, it is pointless to argue based on anecdotal evidence. Instead, let us consider the facts. During an interview on BFM recently, Dato’ Wira Ameer Ali Mydin, the managing director of local hypermarket chain Mydin, stated that the retail sector in Malaysia is expected to face difficult times.
This is based on the fact that retail sales and more tellingly hypermarket sales have been consistently dropping in the last one year, despite the Malaysian GDP showing positive growth figures. As hypermarkets make up half of the total grocery market in Malaysia, and with Mydin being one of three players who cumulatively control 50 per cent of market share, it is a serious point of concern when their data reveals negative growth of around four to five per cent in the last one year.
According to Ameer, one of the main reasons for this contraction is inflation. Tracking 150 basic items in his stores, he reveals that their prices have gone up by more than 14 per cent over the last five years. This includes basic household items such as cabbage, which has gone up 29 per cent, ikan kembung hitam (19.5 per cent), Maggi chilli sauce (38.8%) and Ayam brand sardine (30.6 per cent). This is a far cry from the official consumer price index statistics published by the Government.
Mydin’s data is most alarming, because it means that the B40 or bottom 40 per cent of households in our country are hardest hit by rising cost of living brought about as a direct and indirect result of BN national policies over the last five years. This includes the introduction of GST in 2015, the withdrawal of subsidies for petrol, gas, cooking oil and sugar, as well as the weakening of the ringgit following the 1MDB financial scandal.
With the actual state of the economy in such dire straits, it is mind-boggling that Shabudin and other UMNO leaders would even dare to think that they will win more votes, especially from the Malays and Bumiputera who make up the bulk of the B40. In contrast, it is almost a certainty that voters by and large will swing away from BN, which has clearly failed them, and choose instead a new government that is committed to addressing the bread and butter concerns of all Malaysians.