Friday Jottings: The egg of reason

IT IS a chicken and egg story with a twist. This one is not about which came first, but which fared better.

The way the debate is panning out, the outcome is just as inconclusive.

But, this debate does prove one point, what goes around does come around.

For the uninitiated, the chicken and egg debate has existed globally since time immemorial. The “which fared better debate,” however is a more recent phenomenon that occurred in Malaysia.

The Malaysian chicken and egg story centres on former Umno Information chief Shahril Hamdan of the Keluar Sekejap podcast fame and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Shahril reminisced with viewers of the podcast, which he hosted with another former Umno stalwart Khairy Jamaluddin, on how he was dubbed the 20 sen adviser over the reduction of such amount in the price of chicken per kilogramme in 2022.

Shahril was then the economic director of the Barisan Nasional Government.

In the latest podcast episode, Shahril said it was better to be a 20 sen adviser than a three sen cybertrooper, taking a dig at a recent announcement made by Anwar on the reduction of three sen per egg.

Obviously to Shahril, the situation was nothing less than a comeuppance for PH supporters who, when they were in the Opposition, were critical of all and sundry.

Pro-Pakatan Harapan social media users or cybertroopers (cytros in political parlance), had been working overtime trying to portray the three sen reduction in egg price as a major move that benefitted the public.

Anwar’s announcement on the reduced egg price came on the back of the highly criticised withdrawal of diesel subsidy which saw the price floated at RM3.35 per litre from RM2.15 per litre prior.

Hence, the reduction of egg price is widely viewed by his critics, and they are numerous, as an attempt by Anwar and the Madani Government to salvage public affection, which they lost massively over the diesel price increase.

But it was a half-baked effort, or half-boiled if one prefers.

Scrambling to get the so-called good news out, Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil attempted to create some suspense by announcing that Anwar would be announcing good news about food items the following day.

No one actually waited with bated breath but, it may have been a case of bad communications, some 24 hours later there was no announcement. Only a statement from Anwar on the three sen reduction of egg price.

Almost immediately, his critics went to town, doing the maths of how many eggs needed to be eaten in reaction to the increase in diesel price.

A simple calculation put forth was one needed to consume up to 40 eggs to offset the RM1.20 per litre increase in diesel. While it is intended to be funny, it was also a reflection of how unimpressed the citizenry was over price power play.

In fact, it is not too far-fetched to state that the announcement of the reduction in the egg price and styled as major good news for consumers had irked them further, an insult to their intelligence.

It may be a comedy of errors on some part, but the crux of the matter that led to the widespread expressed anger and displeasure spawned from the fact that the reduction of fuel price was a staple in Anwar’s and PH’s campaigns until the very last polls in 2022.

These promises were made unconditionally, nary a word on it dependent on global oil prices or domestic economic conditions.

In fact, every time the previous governments reduced subsidies on fuel or there was a hike in fuel prices, trust Anwar and PH to be at the forefront to mount protests and demonstrations to question the necessity of the fuel hike.

There were times that Anwar and his ilk claimed that they had a formula for ensuring fuel price reduction while at the same time, managing the subsidy.

Attempts by the then government to justify the hike in fuel prices as a means to combat smuggling were summarily dismissed by Anwar and his backers as unacceptable in which reflected the Government’s inefficiency and irresponsibility.

To them, the Government, when incapable of stopping the smugglers took the easy way out, punishing the rest of the nation in the process.

But today, Anwar and his administration attempt to justify the increase in diesel prices by painting a picture of how much smuggling had dwindled since the increase in diesel price.

Forgotten is the part that it involved punishing the rest of the nation which was succinctly argued by Anwar and his supporters when they were the Opposition.

It is these sentiments that led to him being dubbed the three sen PM, a clear message that his attempt to win public support by reducing the price of eggs is not appreciated, trivialised, if not outrightly mocked.

That however does not mean that Malaysians, across the board are not fans of eggs – poached, scrambled, benedict, hard boiled or half-boiled.

Regardless, they still need to egg him on the face first.

  • Shamsul Akmar is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve.