Govt determined to close rich-poor gap, says Dr M

Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks to reporters after chairing a special Cabinet meeting on the ‘Shared Prosperity Vision’ for PH’s second year in power at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya today. (Bernama pic.)

PUTRAJAYA: The government today pledged to look into reducing the disaparities between the rich and the poor, as part of the Pakatan Harapan’s “Shared Prosperity Vision” theme for its second year in power.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there were disparities between those living in the cities and rural areas and in “very rich” and “very poor” states.

Speaking to reporters after chairing a special Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office here, Mahathir said the government would give attention to these poor states to increase their income.

He identified the poor states as Kedah, Kelantan and Perlis.

“Terengganu has oil. We don’t have oil.

“The other difference is between cities and rural areas. Cities are usually richer than rural areas. So a programme must be initiated to increase the income of rural areas,” he said after the three-hour meeting.

He clarified that this did not mean that there were no poor people in the cities.

Mahathir announced the Shared Prosperity Vision concept when he tabled the 11th Malaysia Plan midterm review in Parliament on Oct 18 last year.

Today, he said that there was a significant gap between the rich and the poor. He gave the example of company executives earning RM2 million a year while their own staff earned “peanuts” in comparison.

“We need to increase their income but not by just increasing their salaries. We need to increase the abilities of our workers so they can be more productive.

“Or we can give training to them so they are equipped with better skills and are more efficient.”

Citing another example, he said Malaysia had ventured into the aerospace industry with engine parts now being made in the country.

“Those who can do this kind of work have specific skills but those who do not possess the skills be given training to enable them to do the job,” he said.

He said this was why technical and vocational education and training, which emphasised skills, was a good option for workers, which the government wanted to prioritise now.

He said this would see a strain on the national budget on areas that were not listed as high priority.

Mahathir said the government was looking at opportunties rather than results, unlike what was done previously, which saw wastage and did not achieve the desired objectives.

He said contracts were given to people who did not have the expertise because the previous administration wanted to give a lot of opportunities to a specific group, “who just sold it off”.

“Now we will not allow government contracts, licences or approved permits to be sold to anyone. On the contrary, we will determine who is qualified to get these,” he said.