PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has criticised veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin for saying that the minimum wage policy has been a factor in the devastation of the Malaysian economy.
Speaking to FMT, Santiago welcomed Kadir’s observation that mismanagement of the economy had caused misery among Malaysians, but he said the former newspaper editor was wrong in saying that the enforcement of the minimum wage policy was part of the blunder.
Santiago was referring to a blog posting in which Kadir said Prime Minister Najib Razak’s policies, such as the minimum wage policy, had caused untold damage to the economy and misery to the people.
In fact, said the MP, the minimum wage of RM1,000 a month was still too low and that RM1,500 would be more appropriate.
“Wages in the country have been low for a long time, causing poverty in the country,” he said.
He recalled that when the policy was introduced, the government was urged to set up a RM1 billion support facility to help small and medium industries cope with the rise in wages. This suggestion has not been taken up.
He said companies needed to innovate to improve their performance but were not doing so because they would rather pay low wages.
S Arutchelvan, a member of Parti Socialis Malaysia’s central committee, agreed with Santiago. He said Kadir was “talking nonsense”.
He said Malaysia needed a minimum wage policy because businesses had been suppressing wages.
“Employers will always find an excuse against paying better wages,” he said. “This is why the government has enforced the law.”
He agreed that the current minimum wage was low, pointing out that the World Bank had recommended RM1,100 per month. He said PSM was pushing for RM1,500 per month.
In his blog post, Kadir cited news reports saying that most childcare centres were set to close because the minimum wage policy had put a strain on their operational costs. Referring to this, Arutchelvan said all workplaces should provide child care centres.