When we marked Malaysia’s 60th year as a federation yesterday, we would not have been faulted for wondering how we got to where we are today.
Of course many of us were not there to witness the historic event, but we won’t be too far off the mark to assume that everyone was full of hope for their new country.
But now, as we re-examine our place in the country we call home, some of us cannot help but ponder how things have gone so wrong.
Let’s not even talk about the racial divide and religious differences that have come to define us.
Economic issues matter to everyone, even those who believe the Almighty will provide. Like it or not, prostrating yourself before your image of God does not actually put food on the table.
As we celebrate Malaysia Day, we can’t help but compare ourselves with Singapore, that appendage we decided to surgically remove like a cancer nearly six decades ago.
Many of us still have family across the Causeway so we continue to maintain ties at the personal level. We also like to go to Singapore. It is a great place for shopping.
But it has become too costly to spend time there, even if it is just for a few days.
For every dollar we spend in Singapore, we are paying over three times more in ringgit terms.
When the forex market closed on Friday, the Singapore dollar was worth RM3.43. So we now do our shopping back in Penang, Kuala Lumpur or wherever else we live in.
Meanwhile, Singaporeans are spending their weekends teeing off or partying in Johor Bahru because their stronger currency makes it so cheap for them.
If we spend time surfing the internet, it is easy to find data that shows us where else we have been left behind.
Singapore has one of the world’s highest standards of living, and it is also among the richest. But then again, we already know that.
Singapore’s 2023 GDP per capita is expected to reach US$72,794 (RM340,675), making it the eighth most prosperous nation in the world. Malaysia, with US$11,109 (RM51,990), is at number 71, according to a recent article on CEOWorld magazine.
Even our earning capacity dwarfs in comparison with our relatives and friends down south.
It has been estimated that the average Malaysian will earn the equivalent of US$1,485 (RM6,949) a month this year, compared with US$5,726 (RM26,797) for Singaporeans.
It is no wonder that we are losing talent to that tiny rock at the foot of the peninsula.
About 5.5% of Malaysians have moved abroad for better prospects. The global average is 3.3%.
Of those who have left Malaysia, about 1.3 million are in Singapore.
Imagine how much more we can achieve if we can woo just half of these emigrants home.
But just like everything else in Malaysia, the politics of race and religion gets in the way.
Selamat Hari Malaysia!
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.