It is a very cool morning. Just off-ed the rain. It has a minute and some seconds left before the morning officially becomes noon.

I have been dilly-dallying putting paper to pen (or is it pen to paper), finger to keyboard pad to get an article going. Well, now it is moving. See, words are coming out on the screen. Is it time for a break?

Everyone is super-excited about what is to come in a few hours. Picture the finance minister, skipping and hopping all over the place I know, I know. The anti-hopping law has been passed. That is for the record only. Not gazetted yet. So…skippity hop. He has been advertising his budget-to-come over radio and perhaps other forms of media… shadowed by more of himself, really.

Was there any cost involved in creating this media blitz? Did heee paaayy for this media blitz from his own pocket? Logical question, yes? I mean as finance minister; he has to record everything in his buku tiga lima. he learnt from the sayur man uncle (1) of the 1970s.

The sayur man uncle used to come around our housing area in his partially wooden Morris Minor station wagon, bringing the freshest vegetables to the neighbourhood. Not sure if the vegetables he brought were from the lively hills, not the Sound of Music…no not those hills but from Cameron Highlands. He always wore a safari-type hat.

The sayur man uncle used this type of vehicle to go round selling his vegetables. Same colour, too. The Morris partially wooden station wagon.

The familiar dash – meter in the centre between two parcel shelves.

The safari-type hat similar to this, but without the strap.

The sayur man uncle had a mini library of Buku Tiga Lima, one for each of his customers. In this book; he would record the “Utang” (I.O.U.) amounts each customer purchased. So, this uncle was like a banker but better – he did not charge interest. He was his own economy, ran it wearing many hats (besides his safari hat) – Minister of trade, finance, transport, hospitality…

There was a lot of hype over the past couple of weeks asking people what they wanted to see in the upcoming budget. Most people talked about having allocated amounts going to their cause. Radio shows in the mornings and evenings each day had people interviewed on what they expected the budget would provide. I think all that is well and good.

Without having to pour cold water over “make-beliefs” when the budget has already been prepared and is only waiting to be presented, I think it has been a waste of time. if you multiply time used on this make-beliefs per person x number of persons x number of days; it amounts to a big number of hours translated to $ and cents (or Ringgit and “seen” [as pronounced over radio]). Unless it was considered purely entertainment. Then, it is just that.

The biggest missing piece of this whole budget charade (maybe), is that there is hardly any pronounced talk of rebuilding the nation’s financial coffers, to help the nation become debt- free. Yes, there will be talk of narrowing the budget deficit. But what about the nation becoming a net-income saver instead of the current spender?

I think let’s rally behind our finance minister to help steer the nation to becoming a net-income saver. Possibilities.

Chef Jeannie Atkinson teaching me (modern day sayur man uncle) how to chilli fry char kuey teow. In these pictures; the kuey teow has not been added in yet.

1. We knew the man that came round our area selling vegetables as the “sayur man”; not veegetable seller. Mentioned “sayur man uncle” and everyone knew.

2 thoughts on “BUDGET 2023 AND THE SAYUR MAN UNCLE

  1. Lovely write-up, Alan. I remember the sayur-man uncle too…makes me wonder if we were taman neighbours in the 60’s and 70’s too ?
    Our relatively newly minted ‘budget minister’ wasn’t born then, hence he uses different new tools and solutions to solve the old problems created by his colleagues. We are still far away from any balanced budget any time soon.


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