Time to tighten our belts

Azmyl Yunor

Fuel subsidies are unsustainable in the long term because of the large financial burden they place on the state. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 14, 2024.

ON my flight back to Kuala Lumpur from Sarawak, while asleep, I suddenly felt a cold shiver run through me.

Upon arrival at KLIA, I had a raging fever. It seemed the Gawai trip had left me dehydrated.

By the fourth day, my fever subsided but a pulsing headache followed – I was warned that I might have a suspected dengue since this is the pattern it takes but it turned out to be just a viral fever).

While I was recovering at home, the big news that followed was about the targeted diesel subsidy for Peninsula Malaysia and the backlash that followed the decision.

Like any raging fever, I think the dropping of our oil subsidies is an example of the maxim “things must get worse before they get better”. Hence, my short tale about my fever.

Look, we have had it really good in Malaysia for a long time. None of our neighbours have subsidised fuel yet life goes on.

I think it’s high time for Malaysians to “ikat perut” (tighten our belts), as they say in Malay, to curb our unfettered consumerist tendencies, which explains why we are the fattest nation in Asean).

Here are three silver linings we should consider if our petrol and other subsidies are taken away.

We’ll spend more time at home

We spend too much time in shopping malls in Malaysia – on the peninsula, at least. Shopping malls, just like supermarket aisles, are designed to make us consume and on average, a family of four would need to spend at least RM100 for a family meal and snacks in a mall per visit.

On the flip side, since we spend so much of our earnings paying for our house mortgages or rental, why not spend more time at home instead and truly make it your castle, no matter what size it may be?

If you are single, a childless couple, or just cohabitating, there’s even more reason to stay home.

While parents may find themselves in a bind because children need their time out and about, I am a firm believer in making your child deal with boredom rather than distract them in some temple of consumerism or a fancy gadget that depletes your own hard-earned money.

Stay home, keep the gadgets away, turn off the smart TV or laptops, and spend time with your children.

If you do not have children, spend some time pondering the meaning of life, looking out your window. Or read a book.

We’ll walk more

This is the simplest solution in dealing with the price of petrol once our precious subsidy is taken away.

Malaysians are lazy, especially those who live in the Klang Valley. We are a spoiled rotten bunch.

Where I live away from the more upscale part of the Klang Valley, people are lazy too because they ride their motorcycles everywhere (even on walking paths meant for bicycles and pedestrians).

While I am encouraged by the number of people I see strolling at the local parks, I think we can do better.

Walk to your local Speedmart or grocery store. Buy enough for you to be able to pick up and walk back with. Walk again the next time you need more.

By limiting your ability to zip to-and-fro out of sheer laziness, you also become more disciplined and precise in the goods you need and don’t need.

Maybe then our town councils will step up efforts to make our streets more pedestrian-friendly like in Putrajaya where absolutely nobody walks on its wide and beautiful pavements.

We will be more resilient

If you work in a corporate setting, the words “resilience” and “sustainability” have been bandied around a lot lately. Well, let us now live by them.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” makes the point that suffering is good for you as it makes you more resilient.

There are plenty of things in our daily lives that we absolutely have no need of – a frappuccino, fancy car, big lunch, eating meat every day, movie streaming subscriptions, to name but a few.

Life is simpler if you turn down the noise of others around us.

Subsidies, at the end of the day, are unsustainable. 

Most Malaysians have a faith or religion they profess to, but how many of us truly live by the wisdom it teaches us?

Let’s take a deep breath and be ready to tighten our belts. – June 14, 2024.

* Azmyl Yunor is a touring underground recording artiste, and an academic in media and cultural studies. He has published articles on pop culture, subcultures and Malaysian cultural politics. He adheres to the three-chords-and-the-truth school of songwriting, and Woody Guthrie’s maxim “All you can write is what you see”. He is @azmyl on Twitter.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.


  • Cannot-lah!!!

    Most Malaysian have their exercises by walking at shopping malls.

    Five minutes in the sun girlfriend/wife starts complaining but five hours at shopping malls and they love it.

    Posted 1 month ago by Malaysian First · Reply