Pre-CNY – 8 Simple Signs That Economy Really Sucks

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Jan 26 2016
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With less than 2-week to go before people abandon capital Kuala Lumpur and rush back for the Chinese Lunar New Year (CNY) festival, mega sales are everywhere in town. Pre-CNY has always been an interesting point to gauge the domestic economy, especially the Malaysian ethnic-Chinese. After all, the government always accuses the Chinese of dominating the country’s economy.


Before we could even start, the unusual number of mega-sales is already an indicator that economy is not as rosy as Auntie Rosy. Hypermarkets and megamalls are struggling and fighting tooth and nail for sales. But why only discriminate on the Chinese and not the ethnic-Malay or ethnic-Indian? What about sales during Hari Raya or Eid al-Fitr festival?

Liow Tiong Lai - Najib Razak - Rosmah Mansor - Chinese New Year Huat Ahh Greetings

Like it or not, the spending habit of ethnic-Malay can’t be used as an effective measurement of domestic economy. That’s because roughly 80% of more than 1.4 million civil servants were Malay – under the government’s payroll. Job security, education scholarship, annual bonuses and whatnot make ethnic-Malay continuous spenders without a trend.


However, it’s a different animal with the ethnic-Chinese who were mostly in the private sector. They were the pulse of the economy hence their spending habit would normally reflect the economy for the rest of the year, in most cases. They were sensitive to demand and supply and normally the first tier to suffer in time of hardship.

Chinese New Year Decoration

Of course, the reverse is true thus when the economy is good the ethnic-Chinese would prosper and their spending pattern would be obvious. So, what are the signs that the country’s economy really sucks, at least to the ethnic-Chinese before the coming festival? These signs may sound petty but they’re the lowest in the economy supply chain.


{ 1 } Ang Pow / Ang Pao

Also known as the “red packets” filled with money, to which the ethnic-Malay has adopted and customized with their own version of “green packets”, this Chinese culture is one of many indicators to tell if time is “good” or “bad”. While it is 2-week too early to tell if the cash inside the red packets would shrink this year, commercial banks aren’t very pleased with the economy.

Chinese New Year - Ang Pow or Ang Pao

If you like visiting banks for red packets every year, you probably realize that while Public Bank gives away the ugliest red packets ever designed by humankind, another Chinese-based bank – OCBC Bank – has one of the loveliest red packets, if not the best. Previously, OCBC Bank was generous but not this year. Every customer is entitled to 2-pack of OCBC red packets as part of their cost-cutting attempt.



{ 2 } Mamak Stalls

If you’re a frequent visitor of a mamak stall (not the fancy restaurant type), did you notice the increase in ethnic-Chinese patrons for breakfast, especially during the weekend? Sure, mamak attracts not only ethic-Malay and ethnic-Indian but also the ethnic-Chinese and other races. However, majority of the Chinese do not normally visit a mamak stall for breakfast especially during weekend.

Mamak Stalls - Example

A family of four could easily save 50% at a mamak stall for a simple breakfast of “nasi lemak” or “roti kosong” and “teh tarik”. If their average spending were RM7 per head at a normal “kopitiam”, they could now save about RM14 at a mamak stall table on every visit. The amount of saving could be laughably petty but if they have started such cost-cutting, time must be really bad.



{ 3 } Hypermarket Queues

It’s a simple proof of supply and demand. The longer the queues at hypermarket such as Tesco, Aeon, Aeon Big (formerly Carrefour), Giant, EconSave, Isetan or Sogo goes to show the strength of consumers’ purchasing power. Traditionally, queues would be insane at check-out counters.

Shoppers Queuing at Tesco

Heck, if you’re lucky there could be “free shows” of men punching or women pulling each others hair (*grin*) as customers fight for trolleys. Even if they didn’t fight for trolleys, they would definitely display fist or steering-lock just to secure a parking lot. But this year, those entertainments haven’t happened yet.



{ 4 } Unfilled Trolley

During the good time, the Chinese would normally fill their trolleys to the brim at hypermarkets with Chinese New Year goodies. It doesn’t matter if they couldn’t finish 10-carton of Mandarin Oranges, 5-carton of Carlsberg, 5-carton of Coke and tons of chips, peanuts or any junk food they could get their hands on. Their mission: to fill their trolley with anything.

Shoppers Pushing Unfilled Trolleys

However, selective purchase is the formula of the year. Gone were the sight of oranges, beer, carbonated drink, canned food, seafood and cookies as tall as KLCC in their trolley. There’s little doubt that their bad habit would return eventually but for the time being, they’ve to shop humbly because the bad time could get worse.



{ 5 } Hunting For Sales

The lesser queues and compact trolleys at hypermarkets could be due to lesser disposable money to “buy more and early” before the Chinese New Year. But the slowdown in economy is also forcing shoppers to become smart consumers, in a way. Like it or not they have no choice but to hunt for sales. Cheaper petrol price also makes the hunting worthwhile.

Aeon 2016 Chinese New Year Promotion Brochure

Previously, the same shoppers wouldn’t care about sales that could save them RM5 a carton of Coke. But this year, hypermarket which could offer the cheapest price for the day would win the sales. And you can see goods offered by such hypermarket being snapped up while its competitors were deserted like a ghost town, literally speaking.



{ 6 } Bonus Sucks

You should know by now, thanks to office rumours, how much your boss would give away the bonus or “ang pow”. Chances are high it wouldn’t be better than last year. Consider yourself lucky if your company could match last year’s bonus though. Get ready for the boring speech from your boss – that the economy is bad therefore the company can’t afford a better bonus.

Employee Tear Off Bonus

Clearly, last year’s bonus was good because everybody tried to conclude sales before the 6% GST implementation. This year’s bonus is based on last year’s sales. Post-GST, if your company’s sales were excellent last year, which is unlikely, you then have every reason to cheer. But hey, stop bitching about bonus or salary increment because it’s the “retrenchment” that you should worry.



{ 7 } Pasar Malam (Night Market)

Again, you can’t measure the pulse of economy by surveying fancy restaurants or shopping malls. Pasar malam or night market is where all the boom and doom is. After all, the 1% who controls the wealth can’t move the economy the same way 99% can. Pre-Chinese New Year sales at “pasar malam” is a good indicator whether the low and middle-income people could spend.

Pasar Malam - Night Market

If you care to ask the night market traders, almost all of them would tell you that time is bad. If you are a regular visitor to a particular night market, you would notice the shrinking crowd as compared to during the booming economy. That’s because goods and produce at night market are no longer cheap as it used to be.



{ 8 } Firecracker

There are virtually no traders selling firecracker, unlike the previous years, and it’s quite disturbing. Firecracker is one of the best commodities part-timers would push at night markets before Chinese New Year for fast bucks. It can’t be enforcement issues because local authorities couldn’t care less about illegal firecracker as long as money changes hands.

Firecracker Stall - Chinese New Year

It seems that during economic slowdown firecracker is considered luxury items many couldn’t afford. Burning firecracker is no different from burning money. You could easily spend hundreds of ringgit on firecracker. Perhaps traders find it not profitable this year because authorities demanded higher “commission” due to skyrocketing cost of living on top of horrible economy.


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we are toast.. confidence all time low.
Just wait for the GFC Mark2 to rear its head by the mid of 2016


2016 – year of the starving monkeys, dead duck Najis.
Lang Yau Kah Boey Si
Najeeb Khai Kah Boey Si
Apandi Jilat Sampai Hati
Bolek Najeeb Sampai Mati
2016, the year of the Starving Monkeys
The end of the road for Dead Duck Najis

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