Coffee Break: Waiting for my high-income economy

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on November 27, 2017 - December 03, 2017.
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Do you know what a high-income economy looks like? I don’t. But we will soon find out because we could become one in a few months’ time.

That is what the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research says anyway. I’m calling them MIER for short. So they think we could become a high-income economy in the first quarter of 2018. Unless, of course, we don’t. But they sound confident. They even have data and all. Numbers don’t lie.

So, how would we know if we are a high-income economy yet? Easy. The World Bank says we need a gross national income (GNI) per capita of US$12,476 to be one. Last year we did US$10,722. It doesn’t sound very far to go.

Well then. It’s good news, right? It is like the heavens finally heard us — our gripes, err, prayers, about the cost of living. Those of us who live constitutionally by having religion, that is.

So we should be happy. I am, I think-lah.  A high-income economy probably means high-income jobs. I did not study economics in university, but what else could it mean?

Soon it’ll be goodbye to ringgit-stretching exercises  and hello, ka-ching. US$12,476 a year is like RM51,000, man. That is a big jump from what most people make now. I’ve got some official numbers below. Just keep reading.

So all you unemployed graduates, dust off your résumés and scrolls. In a few months you will be high-income employees somewhere. Numbers don’t lie.

Of course, you have to know where to look. So that is the problem now. For me, at least. How would I know where to find those high-income jobs? Good question. Scary question. Fear of missing out is kicking in.

What if we find that sweet spot and these jobs pop into existence where I wasn’t looking?

That won’t do. You only live once, they say. A nation only becomes a high-income economy once. Right? I must do this right. This is my big chance.

But maybe I am looking at this wrongly. So many people will want those high-income jobs. Do I really want so much competition? I need to rethink this.

Wait. What is that thing called again? Yes, Blue Ocean Strategy. The government has a whole institute dedicated to that.

So, the strategy means finding a niche without competitors. Hmm. Instead of chasing after these jobs myself, maybe I can help other people chase them — for a fee.

It’s the perfect plan. The potential market is huge. Think about it. I just looked up some official statistics from the Department of Statistics Malaysia. Numbers don’t lie.

The median salary for Malaysian employees in 2015 was RM1,600. That means half of working Malaysians earn only that much in salary (or less) every month. That is like US$388.54 a month, or RM19,200 a year, a third of RM51,000 a year (see above).

The median income for Malaysian households in 2016 was RM5,228. That means half of Malaysian households only earn that much in income (or less) every month. That’s like US$1,269.54 monthly.

Now hold that thought. Imagine living at these income levels now. Then think about the World Bank’s high-income economy definition. And then think about those incomes showing up in our economy. And then stop right there because you’ll be overthinking.

Saliva dripping yet?

See, no Malaysian would not want to chase these high-income jobs. The DoS says there were 10.15 million Malaysians receiving salaries in the 2015 survey. Half of that is just over five million.

You may ask why they would need my help here. Simple. Clearly, I can write good English, as you can read here. I can coach them for interviews, polish résumés, whatever they need. I can even help them Google anything, because I know internet.

What I need now is a plan. The first quarter of 2018 is not far away. In fact, it’s four months away, more or less.

If you don’t hear from me any-more a few months after reading this, know that I am sipping Shirley Temples on a yacht called Bigger Equanimity off the coast of Sardinia while lying on a bed made of used RM100 notes.

And that, dear readers, is my high-income dream. A pipe dream, you think?