Prioritising Malaysian workers with a RM 1,100 monthly minimum wage as a step towards achieving our target of a minimum household income of RM4,000 in 5 years

As workers throughout Malaysia celebrate Labour Day 2013, our country badly needs to change in order to address the mounting debt problem faced by every Malaysian family.

According to Bank Negara’s Annual Report 2012, Malaysia’s household debt stood at RM 755 billion or 81% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product),making us one of the most indebted nations in Asia. In fact, the estimated rate of growth of household loans in Malaysia stands at 11%, which is higher than our country’s estimated nominal GDP growth of 7.8%.

In addition, Malaysian household debt service ratio nears 50%, which means that on average, half of all household income goes to repaying debts. This means that after paying off its loans, Malaysian families have very little left over to spend on food, transport, education and other necessities.

Pakatan Rakyat‘s minimum wage of RM1,100 a month, including allowances and cost of living but excluding overtime is necessary to enable all Malaysians to escape from poverty. DAP can not understand why BN has set the minimum monthly wage of only RM 900 a month, which is lower than the Poverty Line Indicator of RM763 for Peninsular Malaysia, RM1,048 for Sabah and RM912 for Sarawak. A RM1,100 minimum monthly wage will enable Malaysians not only to escape poverty but live with dignity.

PR’s minimum wage policy will not favour foreigners over locals, as our minimum wage of RM 1,100 a month will initially be applicable only to local workers only. This will ensure that Malaysians are prioritised, while at the same time not unduly burden local SMEs. This approach is different from the BN approach of extending their RM900 minimum monthly wage to all foreign workers as PR believes that we should put Malaysian workers first.

At the same time, minimum wage cannot be implemented in isolation. This is why PR proposes that the minimum wage policy be implemented together with other measures such as a RM2 billion minimum wage facilitation fund, financial grants for upskilling of workers as well as automation incentives for SMEs. In addition, there should also be structural reform in the economy in order to create higher productivity jobs and increase the participation of women in the workforce.

In other words, the drive towards a high income economy must be holistic and inclusive of efforts to build and cultivate our human talent. Only then can we achieve our targeted average minimum household income of RM4,000 after 5 years at the end of PR first term.

The choice facing Malaysians in this 13th General Election is now clear. We can either choose to continue in our downward spiral of debt and risk becoming a bankrupt nation, or we can vote for change for a Pakatan Rakyat government which will prioritise local workers above foreigners with a minimum wage policy of RM1,100 as a step towards achieving our targeted minimum household income of RM4,000 in the first 5 years of a PR Federal government.

Lim Guan Eng DAP Secretary General