PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad has suggested an increase in wages across the board, not just minimum wage, to help the people cope with the cost of living.
“If you want to increase wages, it has to be across the board. This includes minimum wage and those who earn more than the minimum wage.
“They also have to earn more, so we have parity between positions like supervisors and those under them. The parity has to be kept.
“Those working as managers and directors will also need a pay raise,” he said in a Facebook Live session today.
The former prime minister cautioned however that if not handled properly, this could cause a further spike in the cost of living.
This was because raising wages would have an effect on the cost of supply, production and service of items before they reach the consumers.
“When wages rise, so will the cost of living. However, this can be overcome if our productivity rises as well, to the same tune as the rise of wages.”
Mahathir added that small businesses like food stalls might struggle to increase their workers’ wages.
“They might have to close their business,” he said. “This is why you have to be careful when you raise the minimum wage in the country.”
Mahathir, who led the country for 22 years, has traditionally been critical of increasing the minimum wage.
He has voiced concerns in the past that doing so would increase the cost of business and have a domino effect, possibly deterring domestic and foreign investors.
In the session today, he also emphasised the need to increase employment opportunities for Malaysians and to tackle the influx of foreign workers whom he said were taking up jobs meant for locals.
He said foreign investments were only meant to bring in the latest technology and set up factories, adding that the use of local labour must be prioritised.
He said it was because of this that the unemployment rate stood at “hundreds of thousands”.
Mahathir, who is PPBM chairman, also hit out at the government, claiming it had taken up more debts to pay off other debts.
“This is like taking money from one pocket and putting it in another. When you borrow money, you should be able to invest it well so you can pay it back with the profits.”
Other issues raised included the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), high cost of living among students and the reduction of scholarships.
The minimum wage currently stands at RM1,000 in Peninsular Malaysia and RM920 for Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan. A new scale is expected to be announced this year.
Prior to 2016, minimum wage in the peninsula was RM900, while in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, it was RM800.