KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Nearly half of Malaysians surveyed felt that the country is moving in the wrong direction after fractious elections in May, the latest study by independent pollster Merdeka Center released today showed.
In addition, its public opinion survey this month showed that over half of the 1,005 respondents did not trust Putrajaya’s claim about the country’s economic performance following a series of price hikes.
The survey showed that 13 per cent of respondents felt strongly that Malaysia is heading in the wrong direction, bringing the total of those swaying towards the wrong direction to 49 per cent.
They edged out the 9 per cent of respondents who felt strongly that Malaysia is heading in the right direction instead, which made up the 41 per cent who swayed towards the right direction.
A total of 30 per cent from those who felt Malaysia is going the wrong way cited a series of price hikes, inflation or rising cost of living as the reason, with an additional 15 per cent blaming unfavourable economic condition in general.
In contrast, the numbers of those who felt that Malaysia is on the right path stayed high at 54 per cent between June and July, just after the May polls.
Since then, the numbers had taken a tumble following Putrajaya’s decision to cut fuel subsidies leading to a price hike at the pumps for the widely used RON95 grade of petrol; the announcement of a Goods and Services Tax (GST); and a revision to the electricity tariff rate that will take effect from January.
The survey noted that over half of respondents, or 54 per cent, said they did not believe statements made by government leaders about the state of the economy, with 21 per cent strongly disbelieving them.
In contrast, 35 per cent said they trusted Putrajaya’s word on the country’s economic performance.
Putrajaya’s economic policies over the past few months appear to have also played a major role, resulting in 39 per cent of Malaysians polled saying they are dissatisfied with the government.
However, an additional 8 per cent said that they were angry with Putrajaya.
The number of Malaysians happy with the government has also taken a beating with only 38 per cent of respondents saying so compared to 50 per cent polled in August.
Malaysia embarked on a series of subsidy cuts in September, starting with raising the pump price of RON95 petrol and diesel by RM0.20/L starting September 3, to RM2.10 and RM2.00 per litre respectively.
Postponed prior to Election 2013, the so-called subsidy rationalisation programmed was resumed after ratings firm Fitch slashed Malaysia’s sovereign debt outlook from “Stable” to “Negative” in July.
In Budget 2014, Putrajaya finally confirmed the 2015 rollout of the GST and said it would stop subsidising sugar by the current 34 sen per kg, in a move that may cause cascading price hikes.
Starting next year, the electricity tariff in the peninsula will also increase by 14.9 per cent or 4.99 sen to 38.53 sen for every kilowatt per hour (kWh), and 5 sen for Sabah and Labuan.
The series of painful measures to trim Malaysia’s chronic budget deficit has hit Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s popularity hard, with the Merdeka Center survey showing his approval sliding to a new low of 52 per cent in December.