By Priscilla Rajan
In the last 12 months, talks of the elections have underlined almost all interactions in the country. Prior to the dissolution of Parliament, concern, excitement and anticipation filled the public consciousness, lacing many a teh tarik conversation at the corner kopitiam. With nominations now over and polling set for less than two weeks, there seems to be a buzz in the air, which has not only influenced the usual banter with the fishmonger and hairdresser, but one that has found its way into business dealings and consumer appetite.
“First, it was a case of wait and see,” says one real estate businessman about his dealings with potential buyers, “but now the phrase I hear is ‘after elections-lah’. It has not really affected my business, but I find that people who are undecided on a purchase use the elections as an excuse not to be decisive.”
Across the same laminated table with a kopi-o at hand, another real estate agent chimes in: “Elections create uncertainty. Most big-ticket buyers and foreign consumers are waiting to see what will happen. For sure, consumption patterns will be altered once the elections are over, depending on the next phase of building projects undertaken by whichever government is formed next.”
For event planner K. Pavanathan, where there was uncertainty for some time in the months leading up to May 5, the speed of his business transactions has now picked up as companies are able to schedule their events. “For almost a year now, since the rumours of potential election dates started, even government-linked companies were not spared, but now I don’t see why the elections should alter consumer behaviour, as long as the elections are carried out properly.”
There, however, seems to be a slight lull in the automotive industry, because of the promise from opposition parties to cut car duties. Given the speculation that such cuts, should they materialise, could make cars more affordable; wannabe-car owners are prepared to wait it out to see if there is discount in their near future.
Big businesses that rely on government contracts are also giving the impression of a slowdown. According to public relations consultant Nadia Asmar, a couple of her clients – public-listed companies – have seen a reduction in tendering. However, businesses that have wider sources are not as affected as those relying solely on the government as their sole business source.
Consumption behaviour for certain businesses – printers, event contractors, caterers and Tetrapack drink suppliers – have seen a sharp incline in the last few months, with the last few weeks being particularly manic.
As official campaigning begins banners, pamphlets, makeshift stages, canopies, chairs, and portable sound systems are required almost everywhere. In fact, one printer had the good luck of being referred to an ‘emergency’ customer, who had found himself listed for nomination and, therefore, in need of urgent printing. Is this a stroke of luck for this printer or the peak of the business cycle?
Elections or the anticipation of it could alter people’s spending habits. But the general consensus is that perhaps the politics of it do not matter as much as deciding on a date to reduce speculation and rumours that could put a damper on dealings.
Malaysia does not have a pre-determined date like the United States presidential election nor is it our ‘style’ to do ‘a Julia Gillard’ and give the nation eight months to prepare for polls. But it could be in the best interest of the in-coming government to do so, more so in a world fuelled by social media, where hours of the work day can be spent blogging, re-tweeting and analysing every move of the prime minister and then talking about it even more at every business meeting and social activity.
Anticipation is after all the ‘juiciest’ part.
Photo credit: Marketingmanager.nu ,flickr