Ghost Festival not spared from inflation
By:News Desk
KCH-ghost 2-1108-al&nj-3

By Alexandra Lorna & Natasha Jee

KUCHING: The Ullambana Festival or commonly known as the Ghost Festival is finally able to be observed today on Aug 12 after a two-year hiatus.

Before this, it was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which prevented huge gatherings of people at one time to prevent the spread of the virus.

But this year, the event is allowed, however those observing it are faced with another crisis – inflation.

The world is currently experiencing inflation, which sees the increase in prices of goods, and the sales of religious goods are also affected.

Religious goods such as joss stick and joss paper to be burned as offerings for the deceased during the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar are not spared from the inflation.

It seems like not only the living are experiencing inflation, the deceased could also be impacted by the inflation.

Of course the living first would have to bear the cost caused by the increase in goods.

Increase in prices of joss paper

At the 83-year-old shop – Tai Moh Enterprise sees its prices of religious goods such as paper offering and joss sticks increased by 10 per cent.

Its owner Sim Hoon Park, 85, said that this was because import cost from West Malaysia had increased.

Datuk Seri Tay Chin Kin

“In order to reduce the cost, we try to minimise imports and only get supplies for local suppliers here,” he said.

Sim, who is a second generation businessman, said his business had dropped by 30 per cent when Covid-19 hit, and since then business had been relatively slow.

“But, after two years of Covid-19, with the economic activities all allowed to open and religious events are also permitted to be held on a big scale, I do hope my business will pick up fast.”

He said people would normally visit his shop and buy religious goods during the Chinese New Year, Qing Ming, and the Ghost Festival.

“On days where there is no big celebration, I will just depend on customers who will go to the temple to pray and they will buy joss sticks and other religious goods.”

At another religious supply shop called 688 Hot Market, the new stock of the religious goods had increased between 10 and 30 per cent.

According to its director KK Teo, the prices of its religious goods also increased due to transportation fees of the goods from China.

“The prices for the new stocks that came this year were affected not only due to the transportation fee but secondly, it was also due to the increase in prices of the raw materials.

“Third, it is due to inflation in which our Malaysian Ringgit is getting weaker. The exchange rate for US dollar is currently at RM4.40 for USD1.

“Previously it was around RM4 to RM4.10. So, for our new stock, the increase rate is between 10 and 30 per cent,” he said.

For the old stock, he said he did not increase the price at his shop but only for the new stock.

Prices of lamp oil also go up

Teo also said there was a drastic increase in the prices of oil used for praying.

“The price of oil has increased a lot. Previously it was slightly more than RM10 but now it is closer to RM20.

“So, in terms of the price of the item that increased a lot would be the oil for praying. For the rest of it, it’s not that much. For the candles, yes it has increased quite a bit since it needs the oil from palm oil to produce it,” he explained.

Nevertheless, he said the Ghost Festival was allowed to be held this time, the business of purchasing religious goods would probably be better compared to the last two years.

“It wasn’t celebrated during the last two years, since it’s the third year now, I’ve started to see more and more people start to buy the joss papers and other items for offering.

“The purchase of the joss paper does not require a lot of money so most people would still follow the tradition of purchasing the joss paper and burn it as an offering.”

Teo added that usually people would buy joss paper in the form of clothes, shoes, paper money and candles to be burned.

“The ones who want to openly burn a huge amount would usually go to the temple. But, most people would do it on the roadside, even outside of their houses.

“They will put the food on the roadside and this is for the ‘good brothers’ (spirits). For ‘prosper’ and ‘luck’.”

Infographic on the common offerings during the Ghost Festival. (Infographic by Emma)

Buddhist temples are also affected by inflation

Not only sellers of religious goods but temples are also facing difficulties.

According to Malaysia Buddhist Association Sarawak Branch president Datuk Seri Tay Chin Kin, the current standard of living is getting higher and higher.

“This not only directly or indirectly affects the life of individuals, Buddhist organisations or temples are also facing difficulties.

“Under the economic downturn, we receive relatively less money and material donations, and we can only integrate resources on our own,” he said.

Thus, he said people are expected to buy less this year especially when inflation has the biggest impacts on the B40 and M40 household, this indirectly leads to a decline in purchasing power.

“Naturally, the purchase of offering supplies is relatively reduced,” said Tay.

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