Rafizi: Malaysians addicted to eating out because of past administration’s failed policies

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli said that Malaysians have an addiction to eating out and spend significant sums on it, but that they cannot be blamed for it.

Past policies are the reason for Malaysians spending a higher proportion of their income on eating out and takeouts compared to fellow Asian country South Korea, he told Malaysiakini.

"The one that is most elastic and most difficult to come down is actually cooked and takeaway food,” he was quoted as saying with regard to household spending.

"That’s why we have the dichotomy when it comes to inflation, it looks healthy. It’s about 2 per cent, 2.5 per cent.

"But by and large, the public feel that it just cannot be right because they feel that they don’t have enough at month-end,” he reportedly said.

He reportedly said that this is because of "unintended consequences of policies of the past” and the structure of Malaysia’s economy and wages.

Despite the increase in the price of food caused by previous administrations shifting away from agriculture, Rafizi reportedly said that it is difficult to encourage Malaysians to return to growing local produce such as ginger and chili.

"In other countries, eating out is seen as a leisure thing. You spend a lot more buying raw materials, cooking, and eating them, every now and then, you go out (to eat).

"If you look at it at the highest level, we are addicted to imported food because for decades, we didn't think that it's worthwhile doing it (producing raw food), we had enough money to import, and we are paying the price now,” he was quoted as saying.

Other policy failures including poor public transportation have contributed to the issue of Malaysian households subsisting on eating out and food delivery, he added.

"It’s also about the time the people spend on traveling to and for work, and how much time they have when they return from work to prepare food.

"So these are all the things that I think are the unintended consequences of many policies of the past,” he was quoted as saying.

As part of the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) Mid-Term Review (MTR) launched last week, the economic wellbeing of Malaysians will be aided by viewing household expenditure through the behavioural economics lens, he reportedly said, explaining that it helps the government in formulating policies.

The move from broad-based fuel subsidies towards targeted schemes is economically necessary and will not spell out the death of the unity government, he reportedly added.

Instead, he reportedly said that it would improve the lives of all Malaysians and improve the coalition government’s popularity at the polls.

He also reportedly said that the issues surrounding targeted subsidies must be seen from a "much bigger macro perspective”.

"My view is the reason why subsidy retargeting was very problematic before is because it was always approached from the requirement of the government to manage its funding.

"The bigger macro perspective, whether we like it or not, it’s not just about cost, it’s not just about the government’s requirement to fix its spending, it is also about salary and jobs,” he was quoted as saying.