JANUARY 9 — Why apocalypse? Because, unless you’ve been stuck in a cave or on a train to Busan, the ringgit is at present doing bungee-jumping minus the cord. Against the USD, it’s been 4.5, then 4.7, then 4.8 – when is our government going to put things right by inaugurating a global barter system? 1 American Breakfast: 3.5 satay sticks or something?
Our currency is now so weak every time I go to the washroom the toilet paper mocks me, “Don’t wipe your butt with me. I’m a silk pillow compared to that crap in your wallet.”
Did we step into a time machine and go back to 1998? I think we have. Do all of you feel about 20 years younger? I think you will.
Anyway, I’m planning a trip to Singapore in February. After looking at the accommodation costs I was like, heck, how about I bunk up at a Changi toilet cubicle next to the hand-dryer? I even have nightmares about the McDonald’s counter service at Orchard Road. I fear they’re gonna give me — after conversion — only one-third of a serviette.
I spoke to my friend who works in Raffles Place — if you don’t know where in Singapore that is, let’s just say it’s the first place that will be attacked by a Pacific Rim deep-sea monster should it invade the island-state — and he broke down sobbing on the phone. “Oh you poor thing! You literally POOR thing! Oh please let me set up a United Nations donation fund for your travel costs!”
Apocalypse (why) Now
Some people still ask, how come the ringgit is falling so badly? Isn’t the government doing an amazing job with the economy? Didn’t we just launch a spit-shined new MRT? (Yeah, okay it’s about 20 years after Singapore launched theirs but better late than never and theirs is more kiasu than ours, right?)
Weren’t there reports on how the Malaysian economy is "robust", "resilient" and other r-spelled adjectives? So how come the ringgit is falling like it’s on a vacation to the earth’s core?
After ignoring the fact that I don’t happen to have a PhD in Worthless Money, I’m like, yeah, good question! How come, ah?! Why oh why are forex investors generally chucking the ringgit?
Surely it’s not because the world is concerned about the country’s political situation? How can they NOT trust the stalwart leadership of the team in Putrajaya which has proven time and time again they are incapable of corruption?
My country is Financial Credibility personified; dammit, we’re a 120,000 square mile Swiss bank. How dare these foreigners think badly of us.
Anyway, back to currency sky-diving.
Have you watched Point Break? Not the Keanu Reeves one, but the recent one starring nobody famous. Remember the scene where the sky-divers jumped from a cash-transporting plane into the underground Cave of Swallows?
The "sky-2-earth" transition? I think that’s what’s happening. The ringgit is attempting what no other currency (not even the rupiah) has tried i.e. rearrange the boundary-flows between atmosphere and biosphere. That sentence was just so profound, champagne has to be served soon.
Strangely enough, when the ringgit sets a course for the Marianna Trench, most people do two bizarre things 1) buy stronger currencies and 2) act like they have no money. Both are open to question.
For instance, assume you buy more SGD in response to the falling RM, how does this help you exactly? No matter how bad the ringgit falls, you can’t use SGD in KL (and seriously, even if you could, why the hell would you?).
Are you going for a holiday in Singapore? That doesn’t sound like a "solution" to your problems (in fact, quite the opposite). I’m no financial expert, but holding on to SGD when the RM is dropping sounds like grabbing on to a life-raft that only works in another river, doesn’t it?
Or do you plan to convert your SGD into RM after some time? Which, hmm, means you hope to get more ringgit after its value has fallen further? WTF?! Finally, if the ringgit rises back up, then congrats you’re even more screwed.
The second thing people — many people — do is behave like a recession just hit. I think it’s a bit of a leap from, “The currency is so low even shit refuses to touch it!” to “We’re gonna be beggars tomorrow!!”, but, what the heck, I suspect this is more logical given how prices rise because some/many of our goods are tied to foreign components. That previous sentence sounds so technical and boring I’m going to slap myself.
But, in that case, welcome to World War R.
Surviving World War R
The good news is that Malaysians will live on. We’re going to survive. First, let’s reinforce the habit: Stay at home, watch RTM, read newspapers. No need to buy non-Malaysian novels. What’s JK Rowling and Jeffrey Archer compared to our local publications anyway? Heck, I can’t wait to read one of those books at Popular with catchy titles like Tindakan Ganas Zionis with their world-class cover art.
No need to go American Chilli’s, eat Malaysian belacan cukup. Plus, there’s always budget-friendly Eden Gardenia bread─“so good you can even eat it on its own” (the key phrase has always been "on its own", get it?).
Also, if ever a humanity-hating A.I. machine takes over the world’s nukes and launches them all? Only two things will survive the nuclear holocaust: Cockroaches and mixed-rice.
Now that we’ve established this scientific fact, let’s apply it. My friend told me there’s a mixed-rice stall in Old Klang Road where you pay RM6 and you’re allowed to pile your plate up as high as Kinabalu, as long as you don’t spill. Now that’s sublime; now that’s the promised land. And only losers feel the need to earn Sing dollars when you've got RM6-a-mountain-for-lunch awesomeness right here.
Failing that, we’ve got classics like Maggi Mee which is the only brand in the universe which doesn’t need to market itself. In fact, should Maggi Mee stop producing that celestial perisa kari noodles, a global zombie outbreak will begin and Patient Zero will be from Kuala Lumpur.
Push come to shove, take biscuits from your office pantry. Or go for blood donations ─ the Milo and cakes are usually not bad.
Hit rock bottom? Diet, fast, whatever. A huge segment of the population is used to it. It’s just we fat Chinese gluttons who aren’t. ‘Bout time we reap the kuasa in puasa, Malaysia.
Tech and telco?
Frame up your iPhone and upgrade to a Lenovo which costs less than a KFC Bucket. Cut your data plans and use the free wi-fi in the malls and food courts. And if you always buy apps? Quit. What are we — Americans?
If you’ve been paying for "Premium" this and "Premium" that, it proves you are not worthy of your Malaysian passport. Repeat: Malaysians don’t pay extra for anything but food (and cars and phones and alcoholic drinks and a number of other B.S. items over the weekend). And we’re not as kiasu as Singaporeans to say it.
Here, by the way, is the reason why Malaysians are better at surviving an apocalypse than Singaporeans: We’re just not shy to do embarrassing stuff (like cut back and live like paupers) when the need calls for it.
Go to a mamak stall, order one glass of tea and sip r-e-a-l-l-y slow. But if you’re a clubbing kaki? Seriously — you trippin’, dude. I mean, if you regularly blow RM200-300 on an alcoholic night-out, you should have ZERO complaints about a free-falling ringgit.
You clearly have priorities and resources way beyond the "average" Malaysian. My advice: Order soya bean instead of vodka lime. Oh, these places don’t serve soya bean? Then go somewhere which does.
Go local, baby! Port Dickson is big enough for all of us. Fraser’s Hill has horses. And Genting Highlands has free parking. What are you waiting for? Ban the Air Asia page from your website. Now Everybody Don’t Have To Fly.
As per Brad Pitt, “If you can fight, fight. Our war has just begun.” See you at the mixed-rice shop.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.