University professor criticises Malaysians for spending on Dewa 19 concert tickets amid inflation woes

"For me, since they can afford the exorbitant tickets, the rising prices (in essential goods) can be considered still affordable to them and they should not be protesting"

A professor from University Kebangsaan Malaysia has reportedly told Malaysians who bought tickets to the recently announced Dewa 19 30th anniversary concerts in Kuala Lumpur that they shouldn’t “complain about prices going up” in the face of inflation woes.

The Malaysian Gazette has reported that Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong – a decorated scholar of Ethnolinguistics and Linguistic Anthropology among other fields – said Malaysians should be “prudent in spending” as inflation has raised the price of basic goods all over the country, alleging that some who bought tickets to the Dewa 19 concerts used money given as pandemic recovery aid by the government.

‎”If there is no priority in life, then this is what happens. It’s not wrong to still want entertainment if you have an overflow of money, life is easy,” he said of the sold-out concerts.

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‎”But if we are not from this group but are willing to spend money to participate, don’t complain about the increase in the price of goods; don’t be noisy because there’s no money and don’t point fingers at any party.”‎

The outlet also reported that the professor said Malaysia’s youth need to learn to be more independent and not become a generation that only points fingers when things go wrong.

Reception to the professor’s comments has been mixed. Some social media users have voiced that ticket buyers for the concert were more financially well-off and thus able to spend money on the tickets, which began at MYR148 for general admission tickets.

In a statement to NME, Professor Teo said he was “not sure how [the Malaysian Gazette article] was exactly written/reported as to what I really meant”.

“My point was that those who could afford to attend the concert (who made up less than 1.0% of the population as proposed by the critics) should not be complaining about rising prices,” he explained. “For me, since they can afford the exorbitant tickets, the rising prices (in essential goods) can be considered still affordable to them and they should not be protesting. I guess it was further deduced by the reporter to include those who could not afford luxury but still could manage the expensive tickets.”

“I elaborated my point further by saying those driving expensive cars should not complain when price the government decides to increase RON 95 petrol by reducing the subsidy for them. The argument is that since they can afford (very) costly vehicles, the increased petrol price is manageable to them.”

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Malaysia is currently undergoing a cost-of-living crisis as inflation has increased the cost of everyday goods and services. Malay Mail reported that the country has experienced a food inflation increase of 6.1 per cent, becoming the main contributor to rising inflation across multiple sectors.

The country has since announced a new task force to keep inflation at low rates. Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa, who chairs the task force, told Malay Mail that the government “will not let (inflation) rise”, with the task force currently focused at keeping the inflation rate at a level of three per cent, with leeway for five to six per cent inflation for food items.

Tickets for Dewa 19’s upcoming 30th anniversary concert in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on September 9 sold out within an hour of release, prompting the band to announce an additional concert set to be held the day after the original date. Tickets for the second show have also sold out.

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