PETALING JAYA: Treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah has come in for criticism after saying that Malaysians who are poor are in that predicament because they aren’t making enough of an effort.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J Solomon described Irwan’s remarks as irresponsible, criticising him for making a sweeping statement.
On Thursday, Irwan had said that Malaysians should be more prosperous than the foreigners in the country, some of whom were conducting business.
“If we go to Chow Kit, half of them are Indonesians,” he said in his speech at the 1MET graduation ceremony.
According to Irwan, if there are poor Malaysians, it is because they are not making enough effort.
“If they have hands and legs and can walk, they can make a living in Malaysia,” Irwan had said.
Solomon said Irwan’s remarks will only fuel unnecessary dialogue which doesn’t address the hardships faced by the bottom 40% (B40) and middle 40% (M40) group of workers.
“The average Malaysian incurs a list of permanent expenses for unavoidable essentials that include a home loan, medical expenses, transport costs, children’s education, and obligatory expenses like the GST, others taxes and statutory payments.
“It must also be pointed out that the standard of living of migrant workers in the country is also in a deplorable state, so such remarks don’t hold water.”
Solomon also reminded Irwan that the nation’s working class is the backbone of the country’s economy and that it was unfair for Irwan to imply that poor Malaysians are lazy.
He also questioned whether Irwan was referring to any data in making his statement, particularly on the number of documented and undocumented foreigners who are employed or running businesses in the country and their respective monthly earnings.
Meanwhile, PKR’s Wong Chen said it was “very sad” that a senior civil servant like Irwan who was supposed to help the poor through policies, was so “out of touch” with their woes, and was instead berating them.
“He should know that thanks to his own administration, we have an estimated six million legal and undocumented foreign workers,” Wong said, adding that these foreign workers were a major contributor to suppressed wages for locals.
As for those who have become entrepreneurs, the Kelana Jaya MP said Irwan should know that many may be in breach of their work permits and are carrying out such activities without abiding by the same rules that bind locals.
“These fly by night operators are allowed to thrive due to lack of enforcement by his own government, thus giving them competitive advantages over locals businesses,” Wong said.