Didn’t you see it coming? The ong lai is now ripe. It’s time to do a little juicing. Oil prices are up (relatively speaking). Public transport fees are up. Postage is up. More ups in the pipeline in Ong Lai country. Our leaders tell us it’s affordable! We just need to get used to the price.
Comrade Li Lan Si was a homeless Beijinger now living in Xiamen. He was ranting about the dire situation in China and many Singaporeans must feel the same way. It doesn’t matter how many courses you’ve attended to upgrade yourself. It doesn’t matter how many times you switch line. You can stay employed, but your income doesn’t go up. The same folks who “value” you working until 70 are devaluing you from age 50.
Let’s take a look at public transport fares and the impending increases.
The new formula:
Price Index [Core Consumer Price Index (50%) + Wage Index (40%) + Energy Index (10%)] – Productivity Contribution + Capacity Adjustment Factor
The ratio of the individual economic factors for the Price Index is kept the same from the previous formula, which considers the changing operational costs of the public transport companies, such as staff wages, fuel costs and maintenance of assets. But things are not that simple as what the Ivory Tower Academics ITA would point out. Transport companies can mitigate rises in fuel cost by hedging. Of course, hedging is speculative and can cut both ways. Is it fair for consumers to pay for the company’s hedging losses?
Yes, it’s time to juice the ong lai. Most whose income went up are accomplices in the squeeze from the top. You squeeze me, I squeeze you. Those who are not in the position to squeeze get flattened.
In the malls and at the airports in Indonesia, the toilet cleaners are young men and women in their 20-30s. Whenever I enter, I get the greeting “selamat pagi pak, silakan pak”. When I exit, they would even say “Terima kasih, Pak”. Once, even the female toilet cleaner greeted me when she happened to be standing at the entrance. Indonesians nowadays are even more polite and cheerful than Thais.
5 years ago, I posted the following on Facebook:
When I was a little boy, the checkout girls at the supermarkets were all older than I was. When I started working, they were mostly younger than I was. If the trend continues, I should be a lot older than the checkout girls now, but instead, many of them are older than I am.
Needless to say, Indonesian checkout girls at the supermarkets are also young ladies. Their incomes, though meager by our standards, are sufficient for them to raise a family while our checkout girls can only be aunties with little or no household debt/liabilities. People my age are retired and at home looking after grandchildren. Are people here really that poor? Are we really that wealthy when we’re not buying and spending rupiah but struggling to make ends meet at home?
On the very busy roads of Jakarta, it would be difficult if not dangerous to make a turn or enter a main road. Slum dwellers take the initiative to direct traffic by standing in the way of cars and buses so the drivers who have been waiting forever for the traffic to thin down could continue their journey. In return, the death-defying traffic stoppers may get a few coins from motorists.
You can also enlist their help if you wish to cross busy roads. Again, payment is optional but I’ve seen them happily do it for free for the elderly. Are these people really that poor when they can afford to demonstrate kindness and generosity? Why should we be surprised that these slum dwellers are kinder and more generous than people 1000 times richer? All our lives, we have been taught by our cynical parents and government that in order to be successful and secure, we must be selfish, stingy and calculative. Why should we be surprised that our kindness movement has failed?
On the whole, Indonesia has progressed tremendously in the last 20 years. Sure, Indonesians may still have a long way to go, but we must compare fairly if we wish to compare. Pull any Indonesian uncle my age off the streets and ask him if he would like to go back to the Indonesia 10 years ago. His answer would almost certainly be no. Ask me whether I would like to go back to the Singapore 10 years ago, my answer is a definite yes.