How plummeting global oil prices affect Malaysia’s oil and gas cities

KUALA LUMPUR: The oil and gas industry has dominated Miri’s economy since Malaysia’s first oil rig was built there in 1910, and many young Miri-ans grow up expecting a career in the industry.

Sadly, many started losing their jobs after oil and gas companies were forced to downsize in light of plummeting global oil prices since 2014, and things are yet to recover in Miri.

Former oil and gas field operator Charles Zico, for example, now works in pest control, earning around a quarter of his old RM6,000 salary.

“People laugh at me these days,” said Zico, who was laid off along with around 100 other colleagues.

“They say I used to be a field operator for a big oil and gas company. Now look what I’m doing.”

Zico’s story is just one of many featured in the R.AGE documentary, titled Nembiak Negri Minyak (, which loosely translates to “The Boys of Oil City” in Bahasa Melayu Sarawak. The documentary was filmed mostly in the local dialect, with English subtitles.

McColin and his father, back when they were both in the oil and gas industry. As a young person, McColin was retrenched, but his father was able to keep his job.

Young people seem to be affected the most by the mass lay-offs, as they are often the first to be let go.

Mccolin Ferguson Philip, 22, followed his father into the industry, working as an offshore rigger. He lost his job, but his father didn’t.

But that doesn’t mean the older generation hasn’t been affected by the oil price crash.

“My father used to work offshore, but now he’s doing work like an office boy,” said Kamarul Arifin, 19.

“I was planning to go into oil and gas as well, but now I’m thinking about doing IT instead.”

Several university students interviewed in the documentary said they are considering other careers as well, even though some have already taken up oil and gas-related courses.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) said this was the danger of making cities like Miri too dependant on one industry.

“The Government has done well in reducing the dependency from contributing 40% to the national budget, to somewhere around 15% to 20%. Despite that, the country is still dependent, and this will have a huge impact on cities and towns that are dependant on the industry,” said Wan Saiful.

To read the full story, and to watch Nembiak Negri Minyak, go to