Charles Santiago

Posted by : Unknown | Jumaat, 6 Ogos 2010 | Published in

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Charles Santiago

Minimum confidence in minimum wage

Posted: 06 Aug 2010 03:41 AM PDT

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Fri, 06 Aug 2010 16:16
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By Patrick Lee

PETALING JAYA: The government’s plan to implement a minimum wage policy has failed to convince opposition leaders, with DAP’s Charles Santiago calling it "wishful thinking".

"Malaysia sells itself as a low-wage, labour intensive economy. If Malaysia wants to become a high-income economy, then it has to have a clear policy (of getting there)," said Santiago.

However, the Klang MP was glad that the government was willing to have some discussion on the issue. "But whether the Cabinet will approve it is another matter," he told FMT.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arutchelvan was also pessimistic. He felt that the government lacked the political will to push the policy through.

“It’s more of a public relations exercise than anything else. The human resources minister (Dr S Subramaniam) has spoken about this before. They’re not in a hurry to implement it.

"They’ve raised this so many years ago, and they’ve already done all the studies. Why do they need to speak to more stakeholders?” he asked.

Arutchelvan pointed out that the ministry had wanted to implement minimum wage for security guards, but back-pedalled following pressure from employers.

He also accused the government of being pro-employers.

‘For political gain?’

PAS MP Khalid Samad commended the government for taking the initiative, but suggested that the minister’s recent announcement could be an attempt to shore up support ahead of the general election.

"There has to be proper discussion between the parties involved, the policy should not be rushed for the sake of political gain," he told FMT.

Khalid and Santiago also agreed that Malaysia’s heavy dependence on foreign labour was one of the causes for wage stagnation.

"Foreign labour was a solution that was used when our economy was expanding. But this is not the situation anymore. Now we have foreign workers being brought in even though we don’t have enough jobs for them," said the PAS leader.

Santiago noted that Malaysia had depended on cheap labour for too long. "It may have been an economic boon in the past, but now it’s more of a bane," he said.

Meanwhile, Research for Social Advancement (REFSA) director Richard Yeoh said the ministry’s plan to cut the country’s foreign labour force by 2.1 million was "unrealistic".

"Malaysia has one of the highest proportions of foreign workers in the world. How can you cut out so many workers in five years?"

"Our system is such that companies can maximise profits, so every time there is a demand for labour, thousands of workers are brought in," he said.

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