PENANG trader Mohd Yusoff Man, 59, feels it is harder to make ends meet in recent years, and he blames it on the goods and services tax (GST).
Frustrated at the rising cost of living, many like him are looking to the 92-year-old former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to solve their problems.
Yusoff was among the thousands, who turned up at the Jelajah Semarak mega ceramah featuring the Pakatan Harapan chairman in Kepala Batas, Penang last night.
“If there is a ceramah near me, I will go and listen. I just want to know how we can make things better. Life is tough now,” said the father of three schoolgoing children from Tasek Gelugor.
“Now, the fuel prices also change each week. It is tough when the cost of doing business is not stable… it really is not like how things used to be,” he said at the Seberang Prai Municipal Sports Complex in Bertam.
Yusoff, who is originally from Kepala Batas, said he did not really care who ran the government.
“As long as they do right by the people, we can support them. But this current government… I don’t know what to say if they are still not voted out (in the next general election).”
Another trader Hussein Abdullah, 43, deplored how the GST, ringgit depreciation and higher fuel prices had affected his clothing business.
He often travels to the Thai border for his supplies and he has had to pay more due to an exchange rate that did not favour the ringgit.
“Business has been challenging since the government introduced the GST. With the ringgit down, I have had to pay more for my stock because my Thai suppliers refuse to take the ringgit.
“Petrol prices and shop rent are also going up, driving up costs at a time when sales are dropping. I get fewer customers now as everyone is struggling with the rising cost of living.
“This means I can’t increase my prices. I need to sell the clothes before they go out of fashion, too. If I fail, I will lose even more,” he said.
Hussein said times were never this bad before the GST and before Prime Minister Najib Razak came into power.
Another Tasek Gelugor resident Zack Zainal, 26, said he drove straight to Dr Mahathir’s ceramah upon reaching Penang from Malacca to listen to what the elderly leader had to say.
He said he believed Dr Mahathir, with his years of experience in government, could solve the people’s woes.
“I admire his way of thinking. With his experience, surely he knows what can be done to set things right… to solve the problems we face today,” he said.
At the ceramah, Dr Mahathir and other speakers, who included his son, Bersatu deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir, said the government was taxing the people to pay its debts and to fill its coffers.
Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin also talked about the rising cost of living and how small entrepreneurs such as hawkers were facing difficulties.
School canteen operator Norfisah Ishak, 43, said people had attended the ceramah to get information and clarification on what was happening in the country, and to compare the leaders representing both sides of the political divide.
She said she went to political events organised by both Pakatan and Barisan Nasional to listen to what the politicians had to say.
“That’s why I came to listen to the former prime minister. I think maybe what Pakatan says is right too. The other side seems to make more insulting remarks,” she said.
Norfisah added that what Mukhriz said during his speech about contractors being threatened with the loss of their government contracts should they support Pakatan was true.
“There are threats like that. They said the school tender would be cut if we supported Pakatan,” she said.