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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Malaysia in uproar - Astro price increase in Malaysia

Malaysia is in uproar - but not because something serious goes on politically, a great corruption scandal, or that somebody siphoned off huge amount of taxpayers money or that a big project has failed to materialise. No, the local satellite provider Astro threatens to increase montly fees by RM5 (1US$ is RM3.80).

Malaysian blogs comment very negatively about it, the newspapers are full of complaining letters to editors and hey - I might be the exception here - I don't care. Okay, RM5 is quite a lot of money for many families in Malaysia, still, despite the growing economy. Overall, the RM5 is just about 4% of the whole pricing package of Astro, if one subscribes to the total package.

Let's just think what are the complaints about Astro, in the first place. It is said that it is a monopoly, and only monopolies would disregard customers for their own goals. But it is my choice to watch or not to watch. So let's talk about competition for Astro: Astro has competition, the local channels - but they are not necessarily up to standard, and full of advertisements, which hardly come in the movie package of Astro. Advertisements in local channel overpower the stories - imagine, a movie that lasts 90 minutes normally, is extended by 30 minutes - which bothers a lot. I cannot go that often to the restroom, get some water or a snack from the kitchen. The kitchen comes from elsewhere - I can read a book, listen to music, eat out and meet friends, play with my child, surf the net - but Malaysians don't read much, Internet penetration is mainly prevalent in the urban areas etc. But Malaysians like to meet up and eat, but problem is, that the TV is running in the background.

People complain about the many repetitions of the movies - true, there are many repetitions, but mostly, the movies are only shown ones on primetime. I would rather complain about the quality of the movies that are shown on Astro - many movies are third class.

It is also said that there are plenty of interruptions in the programs during thunderstorms - but hey - it is satellite TV - of course there are interruptions. But have you tried to reach Astro when the receiver is down, and how friendly those customer service attendants are, when they help you to get it back on track?

There are more complaints, like that Astro is a public company and that due to this they should have enough working capital to finance the operations - I don't see any relation to this.

There is one argument which I think is partially valid. Many Astro subscribers subscribed during Astro promotions to get a better price. They cannot get out of the subscription that easily, as this would be breach of contract. But then, in the subscription might be stated that Astro wouldn't increase the fees during a certain period - i am not sure about this, and if Astro can increase the fees during a specific time but a customer cannot get out of the package, than Astro doesn't create value.

My reasoning: What I would see as the cause of the price increase is the general trend in Malaysia currently which is called INFLATION. Fuel price goes up, food and beverage prices go up, prices for construction material go up, books appear to be more expensive, water prices are hiked, The Edge Malaysia indicated that lawyers also want to increase their fees, car prices increased after the import duties were reduced in the beginning of the year. The bigger picture behind this is the rapid economic growth, and, may I speculate, that the peg of the Ringgit to the US Dollar also has an influence - but I am not a currency expert. In addition, we have the high prices of oil in the world markets and China, whose growth let to shortages in steel supply in the world, and other products.

Everybody will say that the official inflation rate is only - what? 2 percent or so? But does this count for the Klang Valley as well? We might have no inflation in Kelantan and Pahan, but we might have heavy price increases in Johor, Penang, and especially Klang Valley.

Okay - I am rambling a lot. But I think there are plenty of more things to complain about in the world. A lot of saddening things. But Malaysians like to work hard, earn their money, eat a lot, go home and watch TV, and take care of their car. Nice people, but not critical enough in the right place.

I know that this posting might or might not generate a lot of positive feedback, but hey - this is my opinion.


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