“If you tremble with indignation at the sight of injustice, you are a comrade of mine” – Che Guevara
Unity, a basic tenet in any facets of the world especially a democratic state encompasses the ability to empathize and understand the challenges faces by individuals from different economic backgrounds. This could be achieved when people of the world specifically Malaysian can learn to understand that some privileges or feasibilities are not accessible to most others. The apparent existence of socio-economic gap hinders economic growth of individuals in the lower economic bracket. As resources are being heavily privatized, concentration of wealth becomes more apparent which gives more bargaining power to the wealthiest 20 percent of the people. Therefore, it is important to ponder upon whether such economic inequality is just a norm which we should just ride on the bandwagon or should we allow publicization of resources to allow the state to govern the state’s resources. There are numbers of resources which are not accessible to a lot people of the state which requires state intervention and corporations to actively get involved in aiding and accommodating the people to allow easy access to these important and essential resources.
In 2020, most people have already grasped the idea that education is the most essential element in the economic growth of an individual. So where do we go from here? What should be pondering upon at the back of our heads and what governmental policies the state should introduce in order to make education system better? Currently, the Malaysian education system centralizes upon theories and not critical thinking skills. Our education mostly focuses on memorizing, calculating and writing essay; however, we have failed to consider that having critical thinking skills is an important essence in order to become a better and sustainable individual. This implicates the poor people in a way it only serves them with knowledge which they cannot utilize in the future after finishing schools. Unlike the wealthy and middle-class societies, they can always resort to any available job opportunities as they are usually more linked and has an established networking which allows them to have more opportunities knocking on their doors. However, the same case does not necessarily apply to less unfortunate people. When we provide better syllabus, which encompasses the ability to have common sense, skills to find a job and also being able to think critically and when such facility is accessible to everyone indiscriminately, organically the problem of poverty can be slowly resolved. A revamped curriculum which focuses on adding lessons on how to establish networking, write resumes and speaking skills are only found in elite and established institutions like Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (“MRSM”), Sekolah Berasrama Penuh (“SBP”), cluster schools and private schools which is not necessarily affordable to individuals in the lower economic bracket. Another related problem which also becomes a stumbling stone in one’s achievement and personal economic growth is the crippling norm which dictates that necessarily, a person with a good paying job is a much better person than some others. Thus, hinders motivation for this target audience to be successful.
Another problem which should be heavily and constantly addressed is the ability for individuals in urban low-income residence to have mobility. Such as public transportations, parking lots and even feasible residential areas which is friendly to disabled person. We can observe that there is a crucial need to improve accessibility to mobility for the residences. There is a political prerogative for every city councils to play an active role in ensuring that residents are always taken care of and can have access to feasible transportation. When citizen have easy and accessible public transportation system, adequate parking spots it cultivates motivation for people to go to work and make it less tiresome for most of us. A microscopic observation into the urban low-income residence is that there is higher morbidity rate relatively more than in the city. There are amputees, disabled individuals who requires the aid of a wheelchair and crutches. However, we can observe that in a lot of Projek Perumahan Rakyat Miskin Tegar (“PPRT”) friendly ramps and alternative routes are not provided even when lifts are out of service. Therefore, when urban residential areas can provide accommodation for disabled people, they can also integrate and are able to be economically productive thus provide better personal economic growth indiscriminately.
According to Malaysia & the Department of Statistics, it can be shown that the rate of poverty in urban areas has been gradually improving for the past few years. This also includes the basic salary for people in urban areas although, whether the income obtained is proportional to the rampant increase in cost of living is debatable, this probably shows progress in economic growth. However, this also occurs to middle to rich class. What is the economic impact of this? More bargaining power is given to people in urban areas as much as more bargaining power is gradually given to individuals who are necessarily wealthier and has middle class income. When there is an increase of demand as per the great economist Adam Smith, an increase in purchasing power would force the corporations to hike up prices of essentials and goods. Thus, the statistics which showcase and increase of salary or income in the lower economic bracket is an illusion to the unresolved problem of economic gap that we have in the state. The wealthy will always have more bargaining power, as income will also increase for them as well. More Ringgits in the street would indicate more demands, more demands would indicate that there are more individuals capable of buying at a certain price, which pushes corporation and the state in fact to increase the prices of these essentials and goods. In the recent observation at a PPRT in Taman Medan, it was seen that people are still struggling to make ends meet and were always everyday hopeful and they get help and aid from the government. This indicates that the financial and resources which has been given to people in the urban residential areas are not sustainable and increase of income should not be heavily relied upon to assess whether problems of poverty have been gradually solved.
In a nutshell, the vast economic and income gap is a problem which needs to be resolved. As discussed earlier in the introduction, centralization of wealth and privatization of resources is the tool which widen the gap of the economic classes in any states in the world. Resources should not be privatized, education should be revamped and mobility needs to be accessible.
This essay was co-written by Nuruddin Aslam, Aeman, Danial, Eileen and Ran. This essay is part of the “Transformasi Sosioekonomi dan Kesatuan Nasional” project organized by Merdeka Center, Team Selangor, Naratif Malaysia, MyPJ, Gerakan Pembebasan Akademik, Persatuan Kenduri-Kendara Desa Mentari, Persatuan Kenduri-Kendara Blok 3 Kampung Lindungan and Cultural Harmony Camp Youth.