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THE flooding of the job market with foreign workers has suppressed wages to the point where it is impossible to survive with current minimum wages. Using plantations as an excuse, foreign workers will continue to come in, eventually working in every sector. It is unfair to pay market price for fuel and food when the current wage is unintentionally suppressed. Fuel and groceries (basic necessities) are generally only slightly more expensive in developed countries while wages in the lower income group are only less than a fifth the minimum wage for workers in developed countries. The taxes for cars are also very high compared with developed countries. Unfortunately, we seem to be paying more for cars while earning less.

Raising minimum wages, increasing affordable housing projects and reducing car taxes will help the lower income group cope with basic needs. By raising minimum wage, the lower income group can do away with 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M), fuel and food subsidy. There is also a need to revise and enforce laws to ensure workers in this category are not abused or taken advantage of by their employers. There must be a limit to the amount of overtime a person is allowed legally. Unlimited overtime may be a reason for low productivity.

Raising minimum wage is also probably the best method to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor.

Additionally, banks can also play a role by capping the loan periods to a shorter period to ensure the prices of cars and houses remain competitive.

The government should also come up with rules where developers are not allowed to hold large land banks unnecessarily. Any land released by the state should be developed within a certain time frame.

BR1M, on the other hand, is like opium that will slowly encourage the culture of dependence.

It would be better if cash handouts are given only to senior citizens above 55.

It is far better to use this money to provide free tools and machines to earn money through skill development centres.

The money saved from fuel subsidy can be used to upgrade schools and improve medical services in low-income areas to include more high-tech medical equipment available to the people for free while interest-free loans can be provided through major banks for those interested in small business.

Additionally, encourage the public to cultivate unused state land for food production, without giving away the land unnecessarily, especially in prime areas. Give farmers free access to modern agricultural machinery and technical expertise to increase production and reduce labour cost.

Entrepreneurs should have access to one-stop centres to develop and sell their products. The government can also come up with more creative ways to reach out to jobless youths and enrol them in skill development courses.

We should have an environment where anyone who is willing to work will gain employment with minimum effort.

While working reasonable hours, he should be able to afford shelter and food for the family.

In the long term, there will be less crime, social problems and unhappiness among the people. Raising the minimum wage will also force people to be more innovative and productive. Higher wages will force companies to be innovative to survive.

BR1M can be changed to a physical centre rather than a virtual handout where assistance can be rendered.

This can be a one-stop centre for poor people to go to and a centre where the government can make available education assistance, skill development programmes, housing, medical and entrepreneurship technical, and financial assistance as well as jobs.

This will help them get back on their feet and break the poverty chain.

Prem Mydin, Petaling Jaya, Selangor

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