The question of whether a segregated Malaysia has cheap labour despite high cost of living needs to be addressed seeing as to how there is an obvious mix of messages when it comes to both migrant workers and even the segregated local workforce.
First off, there is no denying that merit is not the basis of hiring employees in the executive sector.
There is already a research paper proving that not only Chinese companies, but also government-link corporations (GLCs) are looking at hiring more Chinese Malaysians even if others have the same academic proficiency.
It was published by Universiti Malaya, by Mohamed Khaled and Lee Hwok Aun, and is available for anyone who is not lazy enough to perform a Google search, to find and peruse. It is not enough in saying that we ourselves don’t practice it as an employer, while others do.
The solution to this is simple – have a diversity measure in all listed corporations to see just how racially integrated they are. Stop getting politicians to talk about it, just show it in your annual reports and it can be over and done with.
The same, of course, applies to the civil service. They should show just how diverse they really are especially in want to promote their 1Malaysia brand.
Our largest employer in this country remains the government, who is now looking at reforming the pension system for failure to have actually budgeted how much they can compensate and for how long. This recent announcement by the government to create a more private sector-based pension scheme is a sign of a larger issue – the public sector is bloated over their maximum capacity.
And then there is the issue of cost of living. Allow me to do a comparison on how this differs from the UK.
Is anyone even bothering to comprehend the fact that even with the exorbitant taxes in the West, a dollar or sterling to ringgit one-on-one comparison inclusive of the cost of living will show that our wages are low and our ringgit has very low purchasing power?
Even if you wish to convert the currencies, what you can buy for £10 or roughly RM53 right now is a huge difference.
This is what you can get for less than £10 in a local UK supermarket – six quarter pound burger patties, a pack of sliced cheddar cheese, the burger buns to go along with it, ready-to-serve coleslaw, and even a tub of one litre ice cream for dessert. On top of this, go ahead and get a pack of strawberries weighing 500 grams as well and you will probably spend £9 plus change.
Do a cost comparison, and you will note you won’t be able to get the same for RM60, let alone RM10. Trust me, I tried.
But at the same time, cost of transport in the UK is not as cheap as you would think. A two and a half hour journey on a train will set you back £75. A trip to Ipoh on the ETS for two persons is much less, converted or directly compared.
At the same time, tickets for a ride on the Tube or London Underground isn’t cheap. However, the system has capped the cost of daily travel – perhaps something Prasarana is doing as well.
But reliability is yet another issue when it comes to such a comparison. A London bus network is not delayed in traffic for hours on end because a large number of people don’t drive. Unfortunately for us Malaysians, we have encouraged driving for the past three decades and more – only now to discover that it is not feasible.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi believes that the urbanite Malay vote has left Umno. But the truth is, Umno has for far too long forgotten to focus on making urban living affordable for all, including the low median income Malaysians of all races.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s era saw Malaysia dealing with wanting to establish corporations and hire as many as possible – which included building skyscrapers, new townships, even a new government city in the form of Putrajaya – all of which were railroaded and done at all costs.
The issue at hand now is how to make sure the people are as prosperous as the grand buildings we built.