Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s argument against salary increases for workers is regrettable, and we argue that it is predicated on flawed reasoning.
The prime minister stated, as reported by FMT, that increasing salaries would result in a rise in the cost of living. The prime minister’s argument would hold true if all other costs remained constant and only wages rose. That, however, is not the case in reality as wages lag behind all other increases.
If we were to look at things on a day-to-day basis, and in a very practical sense, how much has the price of roti canai and teh tarik, an ordinary person’s breakfast, increased over the past five years? Was this due to a rise in wages? Has the rise in wages in the general sense increased as much as the cost of living?
The fact of the matter is that wages are a laggard in the whole cost equation. It is only a factor, and that too considered very reluctantly, after prices of goods and services have increased due to various other factors. The factors which caused the increase in the prices of goods and services was the goods and services tax (GST) introduced by the previous government, the profit motive of businesses where prices are increased at every possible opportunity, monopolistic and oligopolistic conditions, as well as asset inflation. Though the GST has been withdrawn, prices have not gone down correspondingly.
The blame for low productivity, if it is a problem in the first place, has been laid on the shoulders of the workers, in particular the lower income group. This is both unreasonable and unfair. How much do the workers contribute to the productivity equation as a whole? We would argue that it is a small percentage, as other factors come into play. The cost of inefficiencies contributed by poor management, a lack of investment and failed government policies figure more heavily in the productivity equation.
Let’s look at what has happened in the management of our national carrier, Malaysia Airlines, over the years. How many times have the taxpayers bailed out the company? This was not due to the productivity of the common workers, who suffered through being terminated and also in having their salaries and allowances reduced.
The government should look at how workers in the country are faring in the real sense. It is pointless to try to look good through statistics like the gross domestic product, national income, etc, when the common people are not only failing to benefit from it but also sliding backwards in terms of their quality of life. A foreign investment climate cannot be built on the exploitation of the workers in the country.
The bloated civil service, according to Mahathir, was also caused by decades of failed policies and the politics of patronage. This cannot now be put on the workers of the country.
One of the main reasons, and probably the biggest one, which caused the fall of the Barisan Nasional government, was the rising cost of living where people were finding it more difficult than ever to live decent and respectable lives. This should not be lost on the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. The PH government should look at mechanisms that will allow for the growth of businesses and the quality of life of Malaysian workers. As difficult a task as this may be, this is what the government is there for.
Source : https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/12/03/workers-not-to-blame-for-productivity-woes/