In 1970, my mum was working as a maid, earning a monthly salary of RM 50. That was the year the NEP started. My sister had to stop schooling early because my mum could not afford her school expenses. I was farmed out to be taken care of by relatives. My dad had died more than 10 years earlier. We were living way below the poverty line. Yet, with her salary, she could buy 0.5 oz of gold, which cost USD 35/oz.
I managed to secure a state scholarship to do engineering at the University of Malaya. With my starting salary of RM 750 as a graduate engineer with the government in 1973, I could buy 5.9 oz of gold (official gold price USD 42.22 per oz, although the free-market price was much higher, varying from USD 58 to USD 97. See here: http://www.nma.org/pdf/gold/his_gold_price.pdf)
Today, a fresh graduate will earn RM 1785 per month in government service. That salary will buy 0.6 oz of gold (USD 905 per oz. See here: www.kitco.com ). In other words, after 35 years of the NEP, from 1973 to 2008, a graduate’s earning power has dropped by almost 90%! She is almost at the poverty level of a maid in 1970! We are talking about graduates. Don’t even think about the poor farmers in the field or the estate workers. They are in such a deep hole, that we don’t even know where to find them.
My question is: How can we be doing well with such numbers? Just do some simple comparisons. In 1970, a bowl of mee cost RM 0.70, a car RM 7,000, a double-storey terrace house in SS 2, Petaling Jaya cost less than RM 39,000. Mind you, that was a 26 feet wide house (8m), not the pigeon holes we call terrace houses nowadays. Today, the corresponding prices are between 5 to 10 times higher. But our salaries have not matched inflation. Honey, they have shrunk our ringgit!
Over the years, many readers at Malaysia-today have wrung their hands over the overt racism and discrimination of UMNO. I would like to suggest that our problems are not with UMNO per se but rather with the system of the Rat Race. I will elaborate on this in Part II – The System. Stay tuned.