While we can argue till the cows come home on whether Singapore or Malaysia has better food, there’s no denying that a lot of folks here do enjoy the tasty fare that our neighbour across the Causeway has to offer.
Besides, let’s face it – who doesn’t like café hopping, eating bak kut teh or feasting on sumptuous seafood without the hefty price tag?
Plus, with an exchange rate of 1: 3 (as of 10 October 2016), getting cheap bargains in Malaysia have become a favourite pastime for Singaporeans.
Unfortunately, eating out in Malaysia could soon cost a lot more as the price of cooking oil increases for the first time in 10 years.
This is due to the removal of subsidies for cooking oil packages that will be implemented from November 1. The move will lift the ceiling price for the 1kg polybag to RM2.90 ($0.97) from RM2.50 ($0.83), and from RM13.35 ($4.45) to RM15.25 ($5.09) for 5kg bottles.
Besides costlier cooking oil, many in the nation are concerned that the subsidy removal would spark off a chain effect that could make eating out more expensive than ever. This is especially true as food outlets and restaurants prepare to “pass the buck” to consumers.
Such concerns are not unwarranted. In 2011, food inflation in Malaysia reached an all-time high at 5.67% following subsidy cuts for fuel and sugar as part of the first subsidy rationalisation programme in mid-July 2010.
Food inflation in Malaysia averaged 3.56% from 2011 to 2015. It increased 3.5% in August 2016, compared to Singapore’s food inflation at 2.2% in September 2016.
Expressing his concerns over possible price hikes by food traders, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations’ (Fomca) deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said the government will need to ensure that these prices do not go up by too much.
Yaw Boon Choon, president of the Federation of Malaysian Hawkers Association expressed similar concerns. The price increase in cooking oil will most heavily impact hawkers such as cakoi sellers, who use a lot of oil in their cooking, he was quoted saying.
While the cost of living in Malaysia might seem low compared to Singapore at first glance, it has been rising steadily over the years. Today, a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant in its capital, Kuala Lumpur, could easily come up to RM50 ($16.68).
Since the implementation of 6% Goods and Service Tax (GST) in Malaysia on 1 April 2015, 47% of employees in the country reportedly started packing food from home and 56% minimised the amount of lunches with colleagues, according to findings from a Jobstreet survey.
However, with the exchange rate in our favour, the hike in food prices will unlikely have a huge impact on Singaporeans planning to pig out over the weekend in Johor Bahru.
Folks who are there for grocery shopping will unlikely be deterred by the price hikes either, as RM2.90 ($0.97) for 1kg of cooking oil is still low compared to what they will be paying for here, which is roughly $3.50kg for every litre of cooking oil on average.