One of the heated topics which has been going on is the change in the toll charges for foreign vehicles into both Malaysia and Singapore. When the topic was tabled by Singapore to increase the rates, it definitely sent uproar throughout the Malaysian ranks so much to the extent that Malaysia made a decision to fire the first shot by raising the rates first. Question. Was this a well thought of decision?
All over the media, you will see "patriotic" Malaysians demanding the toll rates to increase to at least RM100 to "show this Singaporeans that we can fight as well." Supposedly Singapore calls on our move and opts to raise the bar even higher. What will Malaysia's move be? Raise the toll fees to RM200? And the process goes on to the extent that flying in would be a significant bargain.
ON THE MALAYSIAN VIEWPOINT
When this decision was made, was there consideration for the Malaysians who are working in Singapore? The reason we go abroad to Singapore is to earn a living and return to Malaysia with a higher income. More money being spent in Malaysia and more available job opportunities in Malaysia considering the largest portion of foreigners working in Singapore are Malaysians. With the increase in fees, it will soon become a burden not only for the existing Malaysians working there but it also acts as a deterrent for the future ones hoping to have a share of the Singaporean dollar.
In the spirit of good relations, has the Malaysian government considered striking a deal with Singapore to allow Malaysian buses to travel further in to the East, West and South of Singapore to bring the Malaysian workforce closer to their Singaporean workplaces. Singapore's reasoning behind the hike is to limit vehicles coming into Singapore (considering it is an island), not a source of revenue. I am sure they will not risk their existing Malaysian workforce and upsetting the economy. With proper discussions and rationale, an effective public transport system can be established to bring Malaysians into Singapore.
ON THE SINGAPOREAN VIEWPOINT
Another "patriotic" action is to keep Singaporeans from buying our goods in Malaysia (Johor Bahru in particular) and in hope, keep them out entirely. Talking to a friend who runs a business in Johor Bahru selling curtains, his biggest clients are Singaporeans who on the weekends, do not hesitate to spend hundreds in one go. The same can be said for other business owners (groceries, appliances, etc.) as well. Can we, as Malaysians provide enough sales for our local businesses as the Singaporeans who demand for our goods? The irony is that we are promoting Visit Malaysia Year 2014 but yet we are taking restrictive measures to prevent foreign spenders like Singaporeans from entering. Perhaps VMY 2014 should be renamed Selective VMY 2014
"What about subsidised fuel?" the "patriots" will ask. The answer is simple. Why do we have subsidies in the first place but Singapore doesn't? Proudly, the "patriots" will say, "Because the Malaysian Government cares for us." The harsher truth is because many of us can't foot the immense cost of unsubsidised fuel. Why? Because where the government makes from exorbitant taxes, corruption and low wages for the citizens, it makes up by giving you a fuel discount. An ok government discounts you on as much goods as possible. A great government makes you afford the expensive goods. If the Malaysians can afford unsubsidised fuel, there shouldn't be a concern of placing police officers at every petrol station in Johor Bahru.
ON THE OVERALL VIEW
If this continuous, "I raise, you raise" policy goes on, the only people who will suffer the most are Malaysians. At this point, Singapore holds the spending power and that is what we want from an economic standpoint. When they come over, they need to buy Malaysian Ringgit. The more MYR is demanded, the more MYR in circulation making it more demandable and hopefully we can revaluate our already weakening currency.
Of course, many of you would be already saying, "Go over to Singapore la if you think they are so great, unpatriotic bugger." Trust me, I am in no way supporting Singapore. Instead, I can only urge one thing to Malaysia; THINK! We have been living next to Singapore and Thailand for so long. As the world heads towards globalisation, we still want to increase hostilities among our neighbours. For once as Malaysians, can we swallow our pride, ego and arrogance and see Singapore as an essential trading partner for the sake of our own economy? Instead of sealing off our borders like North Korea, why not we welcome Singaporeans and their deep pockets to help boost our local businesses?
This will be a tall order and may be impossible to achieve. But see it in all its honesty, when a Harimau (Tiger a.k.a Malaysia) and a Singa (Lion a.k.a Singapore) go head on in a fight, who wins and who loses? No one. Both will lose indefinitely. But combine a Harimau and a Singa hand in hand and you will have an un-defeated pact.
Note that this is just my two cents. Hopefully, a price war will not ensue at the expense of the citizens of both nations. Have a great day ahead. Cheers.
"Can't we all just be friends?"
Photo credits: AFP