PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has criticised Barisan Nasional’s Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB) as a plan that will not guarantee results because it fails to address fundamental issues.
Speaking to FMT, he said the most glaring omissions were specific strategies to reduce income inequality and overcome weaknesses in the labour market.
The MIB is a 10-year plan covering basic needs, education, housing, employment, entrepreneurship and social inclusiveness. It will be implemented by a special unit in the Prime Minister’s Department.
Santiago said a Pakatan Rakyat government would do better for the Indians by way of “radical government intervention”.
He said Indians were lagging behind other communities even within the B40 group, which refers to Malaysian households earning RM3,900 a month or less.
“The B40 only earns 16.8% of the total income in the country,” he pointed out. “The rest are earned by the top 20% (T20) and middle 40% (M40) groups.
“Wages haven’t been keeping up with the times. So we must implement higher wages.”
He noted the MIB’s reference to the encouragement of entrepreneurship and the upgrading of skills as ways to help Indians earn more, but he said there was no guarantee that such programmes would translate into better wages to directly benefit the B40 group.
Speaking of a weakness in the labour market, he said the prevalence of illegal foreign workers had resulted in the depression of wages for the last 15 years and this had particularly affected the B40 group.
“As long as the government doesn’t root out the estimated two million undocumented migrant workers from the work force, employers will continue to hire them at lower cost, affecting wages.”
He added that the presence of undocumented workers not only depressed wages but also took jobs away from Malaysians.
Santiago, who is a member of DAP, is developing Pakatan Harapan’s own long-term plan for the Indian community.
Together with PKR vice-president Xavier Jayakumar, he is embarking on town hall sessions with various Indian NGOs and community leaders.
He acknowledged that the MIB had noble objectives. “But making it happen is another thing altogether,” he said.
“What is needed are policies that must be enforced, and this is what a PH government will do.
“Radical government intervention is needed. The Umno-led government did this for the Malays after the May 13, 1969, racial riots. If we can do this for the Malays, we can also do this for the Indians.”