PETALING JAYA: A DAP lawmaker has called on the government to address the widening gap between the rich and the poor, which he says is reflected in the difference in spending power between the two groups.
Speaking to FMT, Klang MP Charles Santiago said just because people are travelling and spending their money overseas does not mean that the country is rich.
“There are maybe about 15% of the people who are travelling and are very rich, who are able to overspend. But the majority of the people are still struggling to make ends meet.
“We have to look at a very different consumer behaviour,” he told FMT.
He was responding to claims that the RM5 billion increase in Malaysians’ overseas spending is a positive economic indicator.
Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that Malaysians spent RM41 billion in 2015, and over RM46 billion in 2016.
“If the economy is not doing well, I don’t think people can afford to go to overseas.
“We make a lot of noise (about the economy) but Malaysians are still travelling abroad and spending,” he said.
Santiago, who is also an economist, said there was a huge difference in the way the rich and the poor spent money.
He said this confirmed the level of inequality in Malaysia, as some could go overseas while others could not even put food on the table.
He also referred to a recent Unicef report which found that Malaysian children were worse off than those in several other Asean countries.
The report said one in five children in working class neighbourhoods such as low-cost flats was stunted, while one in 10 was underweight.
Malnutrition for children in low-cost flats was also worse than the national and Kuala Lumpur average, with the prevalence of malnutrition higher among older children.
Santiago said the report clearly showed how bad the situation was in the city.
“Parents are unable to provide food for their children. They are not able to do so because their wages are very low.”