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Embracing 2016 – a student’s perspective

Cartoon by Zunar/Malaysiakini

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With financial aid only sufficient to cover their tuition fees and some basic needs, university students often have little option but to cut down on their other needs, writes Dharishaan Vengadesan.

Ushering in New Year used to be a joyous celebration, which invariably invoked a sense of euphoria among tens of thousands of people hoping to begin a fresh chapter in life.

But, apparently, the atmosphere in ushering in 2016, the Year of the mischievous Monkey, did not appear to be as invigorating as before, at least not in the Malaysian context

It is a no-brainer: Malaysia stands to lose RM30bn next year with the slump in global oil prices. Adding salt to injury, oil prices are projected to remain at epic lows in 2016. Subsidies are likely be slashed even further and Budget 2016 may need to be revised.

What a ‘great’ way to start the New Year, right? The conundrum doesn’t end here.

With frustrated citizens venting their anger and ranting about the rising cost of living, a major concern, I intend to highlight the economic turmoil from a student’s perspective.

In a situation where the nation’s revenue has shrunk mainly because of the fall in oil prices, it goes without saying that both the public and private sectors will not be able to sustain their current level of employment.

What then is the fate of fresh graduates? When securing employment is such a grave concern, surviving and leading a debt-free life remains a fantasy for many.

But wait, grim employment prospects are trivial concerns, it would appear, as we are urged to follow in the footsteps of Malaysian leaders and take up #2Jobs to cope with the rising cost of living.

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As for those undergraduates still studying, I was deeply disturbed and disheartened upon reading an article by a university student leader who said that students are going hungry and having only one meal a day as they reel from the higher cost of living.

With financial aid only sufficient to cover their tuition fees and some basic needs, students often have little option but to cut down on their other needs. This phenomenon reminds me of the Matthew effect in sociology, where “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. The victims are inevitably from the lower and middle-income group.

Klang Valley students have another reason to crack their heads at the dawn of 2016 as LRT and KTMB fares are projected to rise by 100%. Though the government has assured students they will be entitled to discount cards for their travel, effective enforcement remains a major shortcoming in our system of governance.

Even as the shift towards public transport gains momentum steadily, the fare hikes have come as a blow to many, especially students. Once again, what a great way to kick off 2016.

The million-ringgit question here is, will the ever increasing cost of living grind to a halt before the wide chasm between the ‘have-a-lot’ and the ‘have-a-little’ segments brews into a nasty scenario while erroneously exacerbating ethnic relations and fuelling communal anger?

Will Malaysians ever get a taste again of their ringgit stretching as far as it used to? And will things get any better for students?

The coming year should provide some answers to these critical questions.

Dharishaan Vengadesan is an undergraduate at a local university who juggles his time between his chemical engineering course and youth leadership activities. An ardent and keen observer of Malaysian politics, he feels that the views and opinions of the public need to be channelled through the right medium.

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