2016: Hopes and Dreams for Perakeans

Cover Story

By Ili Aqilah and Nantini Krishnan

2015 has been yet another interesting year for each and every one of us. For Perakeans and Ipohites, we witnessed the coronation of Perak Darul Ridzuan 35th Sultan, Sultan Nazrin Muizzudin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Azlan Muhibbudin Shah Al-Maghfur who is known for his humble and friendly manner and in August, Dato’ Zamri Man was sworn in as the new Ipoh Mayor. We also became the victim of the terrible haze where the Ipoh Air Quality Index (AQI) recorded unhealthy readings of 182. But resilience triumphed and we survived. As this year is about to end, Ipoh Echo sent its team out to the public and asked for their expectations and dreams for 2016 Ipoh.

Laments about rising costs and reduced disposable income causes concerns for most

The biggest lament that was unanimously agreed by all was the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which has definitely affected everyone especially those with large families.

As a married woman whose main occupation is caring for the family, managing household affairs, and doing housework, Sundrambal, 58, doesn’t technically have an official job outside her home. According to her, GST effects are great on lower income earners. Other than receiving money from Social Security Organization (SOCSO), she also had to work part-time from home after GST implementation to ensure she could take care of the family and raise her children. “The amount I am getting now from SOCSO is not sufficient for my family after GST. I hope in the coming year that the government will do something to reduce housewives’ burden by reducing household prices or maybe the government can consider increasing the SOCSO amount.”

Rabiah became a housewife after retiring from active employment. They were living a comfortable lifestyle, but now that her husband is the current and only breadwinner of her household, the escalating prices with GST added is becoming a worry. They also have a child who’s in his 20s and studying in a private university in Kuala Lumpur. “As a housewife, I just want the government to reduce our burden by increasing the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) amount in 2016,” said Rabiah, 49.

For newlyweds, Muhammad Adam, 32, and his partner, GST doesn’t affect them much but it does make them think twice about having a big family. “My wife and I work hard day and night. We even have our own online business. But if we want to have children, we might have to make a new plan. I for one hope that GST will be reduced to a lower percentage or even better, abolished,” said the aspiring businessman.

More Job Opportunities Needed

The rising cost of living is forcing everyone to have more than one job to support themselves and their families. Be it part time work or side projects, Ipohites definitely wish Ipoh could offer them more. For Jason Kok, 26, from Kuala Lumpur who moved to Ipoh last year, he has set his mind to start his own business next year. “I moved to Ipoh because I couldn’t cope with the cost of living in KL. My family is living abroad but I choose to stay and be independent. It is hard but I think I need to do this. I’m currently applying for another job to gain experience before opening up my own business next year,” added the lad.

Meanwhile for Advin, 27, he is migrating for better job opportunities. Advin plans to migrate to Australia in order to obtain better work experiences as well as improve his academic qualifications. “However, I do have a desire to come back to Malaysia if I get a good job. I hope in the coming year there will be more career opportunities for Malaysians.” said Advin to Ipoh Echo.

On the other hand, according to Susan Ho, a social media marketer and also piano teacher, it is getting impossible to live in Ipoh with a small salary. “I had to move out and reside in KL. Ipoh’s food prices are getting higher, the taxi rates are ridiculous; the charges are way overpriced!,” added Susan who also wished for more events to cater to the needs of youth; something in which Ipoh is sorely lacking.

“Ipoh does offer a lot of work opportunities, but salaries are not as attractive so naturally the youth will not stay here. Especially when the living cost in Ipoh has increased a lot over the years while salaries have not risen accordingly,” said Susan.

Stronger Country for Better Future

It is hard not to mention the politicians when the public are asked about their hopes and dreams for Ipoh. According to Raj who is working as an engineer in Singapore, he is disappointed with the political situation of Malaysia. “However I think that instead of complaining about how bad things are in Malaysia, we should acknowledge and give due credit for what’s good, and make contributions to improve what’s bad. Every country has its good side and bad side. I will consider going back to Malaysia when the situation improves. I think it will make a great deal of difference if overseas Malaysians can have some faith in our own country and come back to make that difference. I hope things will get better if the country’s new blood improves in 2016,” said Raj.

“They should stay focused on building this country to greatness instead of involving themselves in unrelated issues. They should stay focused and priorities like on us, the rakyat,” added Sam, 37, an avid follower of Malaysia’s political issues.

“Malaysia now faces economic challenges and the Malaysian Ringgit is reaching lows against the dollar. The economy is now seen to be in trouble, with contracting growth, rising inflation, declining consumer and investor confidence, and a depreciating currency. I hope in coming years, Malaysia will be more stable in its economy. Other than that, I also hope in 2016 our country achieve unity among Malaysians,” said Rosli Mansor, 45.

“I will say being in oil and gas, I am among the few who will hope for oil prices to improve. The oil and gas industry has been affected badly due to the low oil price, which some expect to dip even further. Many will be losing their jobs if the situation gets severe. Thus, I hope 2016 will stabilise the oil price, not very high, but to a stabilised price about 60-70-USD/bbl,” said Dhinakaran Govindasamy, 29.

More Attractions and Tourist Spots

For Annie, 16, and her friends, they hope that Ipoh would have more tourist spots that suit the teens next year. “Everyone has been talking about the murals. Now we are looking forward to the opening of MAPS theme park!” said Annie. Recently during the official opening of Cititel Express hotel, State Executive for Arts, Culture, Tourism, Communication and Multimedia, Dato’ Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi announced that the theme park will be open to public in May 2016.

“Perak Tourism and Tourism Malaysia are working hard to attract more tourists; both domestic and international, to come and visit Ipoh and Perak,” said Dato’ Nolee. For three consecutive years, Perak has received more domestic tourists compared to other states in Malaysia.

“I come and travel to Ipoh every fortnight for the food. I am an avid foodie and I have to say Ipoh is the best!,” said Syamimi Adzha, 25 who doesn’t mind traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh. However she admitted that Ipoh needs to have more tourist spots; something that would be suitable for families or big groups.

More Opportunities for Business Traders

Cheong, footwear trader said that wage increases from RM900 to RM1000 in peninsular Malaysia and RM800 to RM920 in Sabah and Sarawak as announced by the government in the Budget 2016 will likely cause many small traders to be out of business. “Traders are already struggling to pay the RM900 minimum wage. Now with it being raised, additional burdens are being put on our businesses,” said Cheong. He hopes the government will reconsider its decision. Another trader, Fahmi said his hope for 2016 is for government to reconsider on GST implementation as well as new wage increases announced in the Budget 2016.

Hopes for a Brighter 2016

Year 2015 has been quite a tough year and one simply can’t help but wish for a brighter year with better amenities and facilities and more assistance from the government sector in 2016. We at Ipoh Echo wish 2016 will be a great year for everyone. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for supporting Ipoh Echo and happy New Year. Cheers!

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