Tell Malaysians hard truth about economy, MTUC urges govt

The unemployment rate in Malaysia has continued continue to grow, says MTUC.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) wants the government to deliver the hard facts on the struggles the people are facing amid a weak economy and high unemployment rate due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Citing Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz’s claim yesterday that the economy has “rebounded strongly” based on June’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth, MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said there is clearly a disconnect between the minister’s claims and reality on the ground.

“The government must stop going overboard in attempting to paint a rosy picture of the economy and the unemployment problem, more so after Bank Negara Malaysia reported that the country’s GDP contracted 17.1% in the second quarter (Q2),” he said in a strongly- worded statement today.

Yesterday, Tengku Zafrul was reported as saying that Malaysia recorded an improvement in its GDP with every passing month, with the negative growth rates from April (-28.6%) having reduced significantly in June (-3.2) after the recovery movement control order was introduced.

“However, if businesses were coming back strongly over the past months with GDP ‘improving’ as claimed by the minister, why is it that the official unemployment rate continues to be very high?” Solomon asked, citing official numbers.

According to MTUC, official estimates showed 4.9% or 773,200 people being out of work in June, while the statistics department reported that private sector jobs decreased by 200,000, shrinking from 8.6 million to 8.4 million in the second quarter of 2020.

MTUC secretary-general J Solomon.

“We believe that the unemployment rate is well higher as Human Resources Minister M Saravanan has admitted that companies were terminating their workers without reporting to the labour department,” he said.

Solomon said the numbers supported the Malaysian Employers Federation’s (MEF) projections of up to two million people losing their jobs by next year.

“The official unemployment figures also do not take into account those self-employed who were forced to close shop and have no source of income.”

He also highlighted Malaysia’s Q2 showing, which he said forced BNM to reverse the 2020 economic growth to between -3.5% and -5.5%.

“This is worse than neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

“The Q2 GDP figures, the drop in the number of jobs in the private sector and the unemployment rate should reflect the gravity of the problem and prod the government in taking necessary action to ensure the livelihood and survival of ordinary Malaysians,” he said.

Solomon also warned of the scenario in which the unemployment rate will be further compounded with fresh graduates joining the job market.

“Malaysians, especially workers, must not be deluded into thinking we are on a quick fix mode that will see the economy bouncing back in full swing in 2021.

“The bold predictions of a 5.5% to 8% growth for 2021 must not blur the present daily challenges of workers struggling to make ends meet nor those rendered unemployed and have no income to support their families,” he said.

He appealed to the government to take more measures to help the people, especially those in the B40 and M40 groups.

“During these testing times, those in the B40 and M40 must be helped with direct cash assistance and other forms of aid by the government to mitigate the high costs of living and to ensure they have a roof over their heads and enough food on the table,” he said.

He said that until a Covid-19 vaccine is available in Malaysia and elsewhere in the world, the economy will need a lot of time and effort to be fully resuscitated.