Share Informative, Mature Content, Avoid Misunderstanding
A recent infographic content showing monthly kitchen expenses simulation caused much more than it bargained for. The infographic depicts a household of four people is estimated to spend as much as RM99.45 per week or RM397.80 per month. As for individuals, the estimated kitchen expenses for a week is RM58.65 or RM234.60 per month.
Items included in the infographic are chicken, cooking oil, rice, eggs, white bread and cooking gas. The infographic also stated the estimated expenses are merely for simulation on some common subsidised and controlled items. However, this had rapidly caused hot debates among people, critics, leaders and it has been removed shortly after. Indeed, any issues on rising cost of living is highly sensitive and easily misunderstood nowadays.
Indeed, the increase in the cost of living is inevitable today since it does not happen only in Malaysia, but throughout the world. Extreme climate change affects agricultural products, especially for the producing countries; the crisis among the great power countries; high national indebtedness; and, declining value of the currency are among the reasons for the cost of living rocketing.
As far as Malaysia is concerned, the public is becoming more open in looking at such issues. With technological advancement at their fingertips, any information is easily accessible from numerous sources. Hence, the sharing of any public interest content to the society in the form of clear, informative and mature way is highly desirable and appreciated. In fact, the government might receive positive and helpful feedback from the public as in the preparation of the national budget every year.
From another perspective, any kitchen goods basket recommendations should also take into consideration items included in Malaysia’s Poverty Line Income (PLI). PLI is defined as the minimum income needed by a household to meet the basic needs of food and non-food for each of its members to enable them to have a healthy and comfortable life (Department of Statistics Malaysia, 2020). The component of PLI comprises two categories which are the Food PLI and the Non-food PLI.
In the Household Income and Basic Amenities Survey Report, 2019 by DOSM (2020), a group of experts from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and higher education institutions have studied and evaluated the optimal calorie requirements of food, based on the Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) 2017 and the Malaysian Diet Guidelines 2020. Individual calorie requirements are converted to number of servings based on the group of food items in Malaysia Diet Guidelines 2020. Next, the total servings are converted to weight or quantity and adjusted with price data from the Consumer Price Index (CPI). At the end, the Food PLI is valued to RM1,038 per month for a household of four.
Based on MOH recommendation, there are seven items recommended in the Food PLI: fish; poultry/meat/eggs; beans and legumes; rice, other cereals-based products preferably wholegrain and tubers; vegetables and fruits; milk and milk products; and, reduced intake of salt, sugar, fat and oil. The food items can be easily turned into healthy and balanced dishes by the household and seem to meet the minimum acceptance level by society.
The items in the Food PLI basket may neither cover the entire needs to operate a household kitchen, nor the value of it in Ringgit is attainable for kitchen expense purposes for a household. But, the Food PLI is still a good guideline in creating a minimum standard of healthy and balanced kitchen baskets by not only the policy maker or any NGOs, but also the households themselves.
Although it seems like a minor issue, the variety of healthy foods in the kitchen basket makes people experience a meaningful and dignified life. In other words, just because the individual is poor, it does not necessarily mean he or she is only allowed to eat just one type of food or has very limited food choices.
This is because, access to healthy food is a basic need for everyone today. It must be fulfilled by the authorities if the individual is unable to fulfil it himself or herself. In distributing aid to the asnaf (the needy) for example, zakat agencies do not simply meet the had al-kafaf–the lowest level of need for a person, if a person’s condition is below than the stipulated level, then he or she simply cannot live. But the agencies endeavour to ensure the asnaf to meet the had al-kifayah which is a minimum basic needs set based on the current cost of living.
In the living wage concept, the minimum income level is recommended not only to enable individuals to live along the current cost of living. The concept also aims to encourage individual to live a meaningful and dignified life, where they can socialise and have meaningful interactions within the community around without being isolated because of their economic level. Indeed, the rising cost of living is highly sensitive to the public. Therefore, any contents related to such an issue must be delivered in a manner with clarity, conciseness and maturity to the public.