MELAKA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A single person needs RM2,700 (S$855) a month to survive in the city while a couple needs RM4,700, Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said, citing survey findings.
"Those with children have to factor in another RM50 to RM600 per child per month," he said at a 2050 National Transformation (TN50) dialogue with Chinese new village residents from all over the country in Machap on Saturday (Aug 12).
Dr Wee said the high cost of living and the hectic lifestyle in the city saw some parents sending their young children to stay with the grandparents in new villages.
"Many new villages have two distinct age groups, below 15 and above 65," he said, attributing this to young people moving to cities for jobs and business opportunities.
But this was changing, he said, with young people now starting to return to the new villages.
There are 613 such villages in the country, including 452 set up during the Emergency, between 1948 and 1960. The current new village population is estimated at two million.
He said a lack of business and job opportunities saw an exodus of young people to the cities in the 1980s, but the economic environment has evolved, favouring new villages nowadays.
He said agriculture, tourism and e-commerce were major sectors people in new villages could get into without having to move to the cities.
"There are people, especially the young, engaged in e-commerce businesses from their village homes and doing well," he said.
On tourism, Dr Wee said the new village portfolio, which comes under him in the Prime Minister's Department, is promoting 20 new villages as tourist spots, and that's just for a start.
Dr Wee said that many foreign tourists were drawn to the rustic charm of the new villages.
New villagers who have cooking skills would be a good fit in the tourism business, he added.
As for agriculture, Dr Wee said it was an enviable business these days when one finds the right product and market.
"A farmer told me he can get between RM600 and RM700 selling just three Musang King durians.
"And soursop is in big demand after news of its health benefits," he said.
Dr Wee, who is MCA deputy president, encouraged new villagers to band together and go big into agriculture.
On the shortage of land, he said this could be resolved. He cited applying to the Government for the use of reserve land for a reasonable period of time, as an example.