JANUARY 18 — The number one thing I would like not to see: the little roll of belly fat I acquired during the pandemic.

Making that happen is still a work in progress so in the meantime I have finally got around to making a (hopefully realistic) wishlist.

Besides my tummy pouch's absence, I would also like to see fewer cars on the road.

Grab fares have gone up so much, going home from 1 Utama is almost RM30 when it used to be, at most, RM20-ish.

Going there once cost less than RM10 but these days I have to expect to pay at least RM15. Living next to the LDP gives me firsthand experience that peak hour jams are now every-hour jams.

I'd like to see more flexi-work options across all industries ― the pandemic demonstrated that it's possible to still be operational when people aren't in the office. Full in-office attendance benefits no one but micromanagers and office real estate managers.

What I'd also like to see? Better aid distribution. While I agree cash aid should continue to be given, measures that were introduced such as the distribution of free rice should be continued. Few things are as practical to disburse and relatively easy to store as rice.

We also need to work on our food security ― helping our farmers adapt to the climate and treating them like the crucial members of society they are.

In Sabah for instance, Sabarica Coffee is working on helping farmers take advantage of the ideal climate to grow export quality coffee beans.

Not only is it more lucrative, the overhead is so much lower than vegetable farming, something that already has near non-existent profit margins.

My personal impression of the beans is they have a very distinct flavour ― the ones I sampled had a smokiness that reminded me of fresh tobacco minus the acrid taste.

If you're curious to taste the coffee, it's available in various roast types on Shopee from multiple sellers and no, I'm not being paid to promote them.

I am also very tired of the fatshaming rhetoric and the constant “Malaysians are lazy” spiel that even our own health ministry likes to use in health messaging.

Malaysians are too lazy.

Malaysians make bad food choices.

Malaysians who don't take care of themselves don't deserve to get their healthcare subsidised.

I wish I was exaggerating but I hear that coming from people I actually know.

It was disappointing to hear one fitness buff friend scoff at people “making excuses” to not be fitter.

If we want Malaysians to get moving, we should make it easy for everyone to do so. In Singapore it's just more practical to use public transport because it's just too expensive to have a car and a train or bus is always within the vicinity of housing or major commercial areas.

Over the weekend, some of my friends shared on social media the dangers and pitfalls of trying to be a pedestrian. Many live within walking distance to malls (as do I) but the simple fact of the matter is that trying to walk anywhere is a dangerous endeavour.

Walking to Paradigm Mall, for me, is on paper a very straightforward, one-directional walk. In reality it involves crossing dangerous roads that do not have pedestrian crosswalks, tiny or non-existent/damaged pavements and no shelter from the elements.

I risk either being run over by a car or motorcycle (been there, done that, not fun), getting heat stroke or rained on and more rarely now, possibly being mugged.

People are seen walking along the Bukit Bintang shopping area in Kuala Lumpur February 13, 2022. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
People are seen walking along the Bukit Bintang shopping area in Kuala Lumpur February 13, 2022. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

To sum it up I guess I would just like more effort to be made in raising the quality of life for everyone. Even with its pedestrian-unfriendly infrastructure I still prefer living in Selangor because it's just generally a better place to live with more amenities and a more efficient, though flawed, state government.

It shouldn't all just be in Selangor ― let's hope more economic opportunities and living choices open up in other states. We need more rail lines as a viable alternative to yet more highways.

I want to be able to just buy a ticket to Melaka instead of dealing with the messiness of bus terminals or the mind-numbing congested roads in the tiny state.

With real estate being generally unaffordable in the Klang Valley, make it viable for people to work from anywhere or easily commute between states so they can afford cheaper places to live.

Here's to making Malaysia a great place to live for everyone ― not just the monied, not just the expats and not just our citizens, but the foreign labour who deserve nothing less for the hellish experience we give them for doing necessary and important work.

Make Malaysia great again? I'd rather say make Malaysia great for all.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.