From the Selangor Times Issue 44, 14-16 Oct 2011. Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered!
Lord Bobo, in the wake of the Budget 2012 announcement, many of my friends were complaining on Facebook, Twitter, and at the mamak during breakfast that the budget ignored the middle-class rakyat. For all the pre-budget speculation, we didn’t receive any help to counter the problem of escalating cost-of-living expenses, or the fact that it’s almost impossible to buy a home without selling your soul to a bank for the next 30 years. Why were we forsaken? (Ignored, via email)
There is only one rational explanation for this, and it is one that is as old as time. In fact, it has even been made into a catchy song, and is very easy to remember. Obviously, as you and your friends think that you did not receive any “goodies” as part of the budget, you haven’t been on your best behaviour over the past 10 months. During this time, the government – in particular the man bearing these magical gifts – has made a list, checked it twice, just to find out if you’ve been naughty or nice.
On a more serious note (specifically, F-sharp), many people who are claiming to be middle-class aren’t middle-class at all. In all likelihood, their standard of living is pretty high. It really depends how you measure whether or not you are able to maintain a good standard of living. Your bank balance isn’t really a good measure unless you manage your finances prudently. One can easily earn RM10,000 a month (definitely not middle class) but live from paycheck-to-paycheck without savings.
One of Lord Bobo’s minions was having dinner at a restaurant in KL a few days after the budget was announced and overheard a young lady who looked to be in her late 20s complaining that she and her other “upper middle class” friends had been ignored by the budget, blaming the government for not being able to purchase a home in a nice housing development. She argued that they were being ignored because the government expects upper-middle-class urbanites to vote for the opposition anyway, and hence did not need to soften them up. All this seemed to make sense, that is if you ignore the fact that she was carrying a Chanel handbag, using an iPhone with a Bottega Veneta cover, and wining and dining at a restaurant that costs an average of RM200 per person. Oops.
Financial planning aside, let’s not forget that Malaysians continue to live heavily-subsidised lives. There is no doubt that expenditure, taxes, subsidies and all manner of other financial and economic thingamajiggies (to use a technical term) need to be worked on. But before blaming the government for your financial situation and saying that you are “forsaken”, start by taking ownership and responsibility for where your salary disappears to every month.
Dear Lord Bobo, last week you wrote that you hoped for a budget that was not just aimed at winning votes, but one that was best for the country moving forward. Now that it’s been announced, what is your view of Budget 2012? (Cash Chow, via email)
There has been a lot of post-budget analysis since the big announcement. Lord Bobo is no economist, so we recommend that you Google and read the thousands and thousands of expert views. His Supreme Eminenceness would not want to look silly in the midst of all those experts. After all, we might end up doing something stupid. For example, we might say that Malaysia needs to cut subsidies or the country will be bankrupt by 2019, and follow that up a year later by giving the thumbs up to a Malaysian budget that does not cut subsidies. That would surely immediately expose Lord Bobo as a joke, for no expert would do something as silly as that. Right?
I just read that Nasi Lemak 2.0 doesn’t qualify for a tax rebate. What’s this about? (Mee Goreng 1.0, via email)
There has been some controversy over this tax rebate over the years. It used to be that only Malaysian-made movies that had more than 60% Bahasa Malaysia dialogue would qualify for a rebate on entertainment tax. There has been an instance where a Malaysian-made internationally acclaimed and award-winning movie did not qualify for the rebate as it “was not Malaysian enough”. As qualifying criteria go, it really doesn’t get much more vague than that.
In January, the Minister of Information, Communication and Culture announced that Malaysian-made Cantonese, Mandarin, and Tamil movies would also be entitled to the rebate, provided that Bahasa Malaysia subtitles were inserted. Since then, the application of this policy has continued to confuse, and the Nasi Lemak 2.0 announcement adds to the uncertainty. The announcement by the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) director-general Mohd Naguib Razak stated that Nasi Lemak 2.0 “has been viewed with prejudice because the producer (Namewee) had sparked a controversy before.” This statement is interesting on two counts. Firstly, it now seems that in order to qualify for the tax rebate, a film must have a non-controversial producer. Secondly, Namewee isn’t the producer (he is the scriptwriter and director, the film was produced by Fred Chong).
His Supreme Eminenceness is rarely surprised (that’s one of the side effects of being omniscient). This decision is surprisingly unsurprising. As Finas has in the past put itself as a judge of how “Malaysian” a movie is, it is quite unsurprising that it would reach a decision and release a statement justifying the decision based on criteria which is not only vague, but inaccurate. Sadly, that seems to be a very Malaysian thing to do.
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