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More than a year has passed since the abolishment of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in June 2018 and the reintroduction of Sales and Services Tax (SST) three months later.
From the very first day of its implementation, GST has been accused as the culprit in driving prices up, especially essential consumer items like food and non-alcoholic beverages.
So, most Malaysians expected prices would at least be stabilized after GST was no longer enforced.
Yes, the prices on a great number of products were cheaper when the GST rate was set to zero from June to August 2018 though the same situation was virtually nonexistent for services.
But, good things don’t last forever, especially when it comes to cheap prices.
The usual suspects
That was evident in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Malaysia November 2019 report released by the Department of Statistics, Malaysia on 20 December 2019.
CPI (read: inflation) has increased by 0.9% within a span of one year from November 2018 (121.0) to November 2019 (122.1).
Well, the usual suspects in driving the overall index up were Miscellaneous Goods & Services (2.5%), Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels (1.7%), Education (1.6%), Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (1.5%), Communication (1.5%), and Furnishings, Household Equipment & Routine Household Maintenance (1.5%).
Besides, the CPI has also increased slightly by 0.1% within a month since October 2019.
The spike was contributed by the increase in the index of Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels by 0.4%, Miscellaneous Goods & Services (0.4%), and Health (0.2%).
In the same manner, the first 11 months of 2019 witnessed an increase in price index at the rate of 0.7% compared to the same period a year before.
For Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages, the index has increased by 1.5% in November 2019 in comparison with November 2018.
To be more specific, the hike was caused by the food sub-group of Vegetables (2.0%), Food Products not elsewhere classified (1.6%), Milk & Eggs (1.4%), Fish & Seafood (1.3%), and Fruits (1.1%).
Costs more to eat out
Since prices of food items are generally up, the cost of eating out was a bit higher in November 2019 when compared to the same month in 2018.
The increase of the price index of this sub-group was caused by the rise in the prices of Rice with Side Dishes, Food Made from Noodles, and Fried Chicken.
Absolutely, cooking at home will always be the cheaper alternative for those who are not willing to fork out extra money for dining out.
The expensive states
Meanwhile, two federal territories and two states had CPI higher than the national rate of 0.9% in November 2019 and the winners were Kuala Lumpur (1.4%), Selangor & Putrajaya (1.3&), and Pulau Pinang (1.1%).
While all 14 states experienced an increase in the index of Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages, six states and two federal territories registered rates higher than the national index for that category in November 2019.
The highest rate was recorded in Selangor and Putrajaya (2.0%), trailed by Kuala Lumpur and Pulau Pinang (1.9%), Perak and Johor (1.8%), and Kedah and Perlis (1.6%).
For core index, the rate climbed by 1.4% from November 2018 to November 2019 and three groups which contributed significantly to the increase were Miscellaneous Goods & Services (2.5%), Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels (2.1%) and Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (1.8%).
Please take note that the Department of Statistics, Malaysia excludes the most volatile items of fresh food and administered prices of goods and services from the calculation of core index.
Up, down, or stay the same?
What lies await for us in 2020? Will the first year of the new decade see the utopian dream of zero inflation rate finally come true?
With the introduction of sugar tax last year and digital tax this month, let us all pray the dream won’t turn to a nightmare.