Rising prices erode Najib’s base 

Malaysia’s 1.6 million public servants have traditionally backed Prime Minister Najib Razak’s coalition, but rising living costs have eroded that support.

Civil servants make up around 15 per cent of all voters.

Prices have risen since Najib cut state subsidies and launched a national goods and services tax to fill a hole caused by falling oil and gas income.

“My wife earns some side income doing freelance work, but we just can’t save,” said Mohd Nizam, 28, who has supported Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (Umno) in the past.

“I don’t know how we’ll manage if we have a child,” said Nizam, who works in Putrajaya (pictured) earning 3,000 ringgit (US$687) a month as a government clerk.

Rising prices were seen as a principal reason why urban and non-ethnic-Malay voters abandoned Umno over the past two elections.

Umno held on to power largely with support in rural Malay-Muslim heartlands and the votes of low-ranking civil servants. Most state-sector employees are ethnic Malays due to positive discrimination policies that give them priority for government posts.

Ahead of next year’s election the opposition remains in disarray, meaning Najib might choose to call a surprise election.

In 2013 the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), lost the popular vote but won most seats in parliament.

Annual inflation hit an eight-year high of 5.1 per cent in March, among the highest in Asean.

From 2013 and 2017, the public sector wage has grown between 2 and 3 per cent, according to the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Service.

In brighter news for the Malaysian economy, the country was named the world’s best Muslim travel destination in the Global Muslim Travel Index for the third year in a row, outperforming the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Turkey.

The Mastercard and Crescent Rating index covers 130 countries.

Each country is given points based on criteria, such as air connectivity, airport facilities, visas, ease of communications, ease of access to prayer spaces and awareness Muslim travel needs.

Malaysia topped the index with 82.5 points, gaining 100 points for the ease of access to prayer halls and for its airport services.

The second place went to the UAE with 76.9 points and then Indonesia with 72.6 points.

The seat of Malaysian government, Putrajaya. Picture credit: Wikimedia