PETALING JAYA: In the midst of economic uncertainty and elevated prices, low-income households face major financial challenges in preparing for the upcoming Deepavali festival.
This is despite Malaysia’s inflation rate having dropped to 1.9% in September 2023 from 2% in August.
Varick Selva, 20, who is currently working in a part-time job, revealed the B40 income group needs to make substantial sacrifices to celebrate Deepavali.
“We (B40) need to cut our clothing expenses and give priority to our food budget (for the Deepavali celebration),” he told FMT Business.
“We are still able to celebrate Deepavali. However, our celebrations are on a smaller scale, and not in a big way.”
The diploma holder urged the government to consider allocating a modest allowance to vulnerable groups, such as students and unemployed persons, to allow them to enjoy quality time with their families during Deepavali.
Meanwhile, retail store employee Kalaikumar Ravi, 30, agreed that preparing for Deepavali can be a major financial burden, particularly for those in the B40 group.
Thus, he advised those who celebrate the festival to strategically cut down their expenses and prioritise building their savings to achieve financial stability.
“Teenagers and the elderly should prioritise spending only on essential food products rather than splurging on alcoholic beverages and expensive clothing,” he said.
“I myself intend to manage my finances sensibly to lead a more decent lifestyle.”
Businesses also impacted
The tepid economic environment is also impacting businesses, not only the lower income groups.
Madana Sriram is a disabled entrepreneur. He said small-scale businesses and restaurants also face tough challenges due to high prices of goods.
He is currently operating the Amma’s Homemade Muruku shop in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, together with his disabled friend, Patrick Joseph Pereira.
“We can survive for now, but if this continues it will end up a disaster,” he told FMT Business.
Madana, 64, said that the business does not generate much profit nowadays but is able to support their livelihood for the time being.
“There is only a small profit margin, so we are offering minimum prices of RM10-RM30 based on the flavour of the biscuits,” he said.
Madana said the government should prioritise channelling the bulk of its aid programme to low-income citizens, irrespective of background.
“The government must act more fairly in sharing the cake with poor citizens,” he added.
Apart from small-scale enterprises, larger businesses are also struggling to thrive as the economy has not yet fully recovered from the disruptive Covid-19 pandemic.
Vijey Dev Ananth, proprietor of the Devi’s Corner restaurant in Bangsar, said his establishment is now focusing on staying afloat instead of generating profits.
“Due to the Covid-19 crisis, I haven’t seen any profits in the past three to four years. I’m currently focused on repaying the debts accumulated over the last three years,” he told FMT Business.
Vijay feels confident that his business will turn a profit within the next two years.
With the challenging situation, he said his restaurant will be more guarded in terms of spending during the Deepavali celebration.
“In light of our current Covid-19 recovery phase, we plan to keep our celebrations more modest,” he added.