Many people have discovered that the upcoming Lunar New Year is not going to be that enjoyable simply because many are short of cash while goods prices are racing upward.

On the problem of low income, PM Najib wrote recently in his bog to urge Malaysians to upskill themselves and try to increase their incomes instead of pinning their hopes on government intervention.

As the country is making the final laps towards the high income vision by 2020, our national leader suddenly told us not to rely on the government but to work harder and make more money ourselves.

Something must be wrong somewhere!

According to the Statistics Department, Malaysians’ average monthly income was RM2,312 in 2015. Those with tertiary education qualifications made about RM3,854 a month while those with high school education only managed RM1,743.

A little more than RM2k a month is hardly enough in an era of skyrocketing prices, but insufficient income to meet the most fundamental living expenses is more than just an issue of an individual’s skills or competency, but has something to do as well with the government’s policies, economic environment, economic structure and goods prices, among others.

Low productivity and competency will not promise you good salaries, for sure. There are several factors contributing to the poor competitiveness of Malaysian workers, among them the quality of government education, comfortable environment and erratic social values.

Our school education will not provide the opportunity for students to upgrade, innovate and improve. As a result, our graduates don’t always meet the demands of private sector employers.

The plethora of subsidies and assistance offered by the government over the years — start-up capital, rent-free digital mall, re-education schemes, etc — have “spoiled” our youngsters. Too many windfalls and goodies, including the BR1M that single individuals are entitled to, have killed the enterprising spirit of our youngsters.

Very few want a 3D (dangerous, dirty and difficult) job, and few are serious about picking up an additional skill. Sooner or later they will find themselves even less competitive than the migrant workers, who have little choice to reject whatever is available to them, and some have even started their own businesses here.

Malaysians have been leading relatively comfortable lives. Many are not ambitious enough to boost their own employability, pick up a new skill or walk out of their comfort zone.

As the economy slides and the government is short of cash to subsidize, along with the GST and a depreciating ringgit, many begin to complain their salaries are not enough to cover their basic expenses.

But weirdly, the same people can go very crazy to get near to their idols. When the K-Pop group EXO put up a concert in town recently, thousands of young fans irrespective of race scrambled for the tickets which could go as high as RM688 each. If they have been grumbling about insufficient funds, they should have avoided such luxuries.

The government should not just encourage young people to supplement their incomes. It must also make adjustments to the whole education policy to allow young Malaysians to exploit their potentials.

The economy of a country that cherishes racial quota will never know how to adopt meritocracy to strengthen its economy. It is imperative that we emulate China’s recipe of success by liberating the creativity of its people in a bid to multiply their incomes.

Our current business environment is anything but encouraging, thanks to the government’s policy of collecting taxes from the people (GST alone is at a staggering RM40 billion) but seldom reciprocating to the society in the form of meaningful development.

The government keeps creating new hidden costs for the public as well as local businesses but has been clueless when it comes to arresting the decline of the ringgit.

The internal revenue department collected RM114 billion of taxes last year, RM2.8 billion less than in 2015. This shows that company profits are indeed shrinking. And since the companies are less profitable now, how do we expect them to remarkably increase the salaries of their employees? Life will be much tougher if they start laying off workers.

The government should take the lead in reversing the people’ attitude. If even the government itself is complacent, how is it going to lead by example so that the people will work hard with a stronger fighting spirit?

Our political leaders must come to the realization that things cannot go on this way forever. The lucrative remunerations of government officials have caused the operating expenditure to balloon, and if the government is unable to identify new sources of revenue, it has no choice but to tax the people further.

Our leaders must be able to go through the thick and thin with the rakyat, including cutting their own salaries, checking corruption and excessive wastage in order to lift the overall morale of the people to work together for the good of this country. Talking big alone will not do any good.