Penang listed as “cheap island” by Forbes


Penang is well-known to locals as a haven of food and attractions that out-of-towners often make a trip up north for. So it’s not hard to believe that word of the state’s best highlights has been spreading far and wide globally.

However, netizens have been less than happy about seeing Penang mentioned in a Forbes article on 30th April 2021 as one of “15 Places So Cheap You Might Not Have To Work” – suggesting to the US magazine’s readers that couples are able to give up their day jobs and live a luxurious life on as little as USD1,500/month (~RM6,176).


Penang comes in at 3rd, as most affordable, retirement island


The Forbes article is based on a news report from International Living, a fellow US magazine and website. They listed a total of 15 cheap islands for expats to realise their “island life dreams”, which is usually reserved for the wealthy.

The locations on the list are sorted according to their affordability for readers to make easy picks. 

Penang came in at third, just after Phu Quoc, Vietnam and Isla Colon, Panama. Also listed are other well-known destinations near Malaysia such as Bali, Indonesia and Koh Samui, Thailand.

Penang listed as cheap island by Forbes - Penang
Image credit:
@_may.loves

According to the article, living in Penang is an attractive option because expats only need a monthly budget of USD1,500 to live lavishly here. This monthly budget estimation, however, is only for couples.

If a single person were to retire here, International Living calculates that they would only need a “quarter to a third less” of USD1,500/month – or around USd1,000/month – which converts to about RM4,118.

Among Penang’s other charms that make it worth retiring at are its rich food culture and close proximity to other popular Southeast Asian locales such as Bali and Thailand.

On its website, International Living also cited the cost of living in Malaysia to be four times cheaper than in the US. 


Netizens not happy with islands listed as “cheap”


The list from Forbes garnered attention from netizens, particularly on Twitter, where many came out to call out the article for promoting neo-colonialism and gentrification of the islands. This netizen, for example, tweeted, “Modern day colonialism on another level”.

Penang listed as cheap island by Forbes - comment
Image credit:
Twitter

Others were also concerned about how this affected islanders, with this Malaysian’s tweet, which went viral with over 40K likes, aptly summing it up, “Please stop publishing articles like this. It exploits locals who earn a comparatively low wage to their foreign counterparts, and drives up the cost of living for people who actually live there.”

Penang listed as cheap island by Forbes - comment
Image credit: Twitter

Many also cited a recent example of a US influencer in Bali, who encouraged people to move there during the pandemic because of the relatively low cost of living for expats on the island.

A Twitter user commented, “It’s the Bali case all over again. [Has] the lesson not stuck yet? Stop doing this.”

Penang listed as cheap island by Forbes - comment
Image credit: Twitter


Penang among Forbes’ list of cheap, retirement islands


Malaysians take pride in what our country have to offer, be it food or locales. This is why we are always welcoming of tourists wanting to check out the sights in our backyard too. But it’s up for debate whether Penang Island is actually a “cheap” place to retire in, and how an influx of retiring expats will affect local communities. 

Read more here:


Cover image adapted from: Unsplash / Wan San Yip

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Follow The Smart Local Malaysia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram for more stories like this. If you have a story to share, email us at pressmy@thesmartlocal.com.