KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the implementation of a higher minimum wage would be done gradually.
He said any increase in minimum wage would also lead to an increase in the salaries of those earning more.
Dr Mahathir said now was also not the right time to discuss wage increase for the civil service because the country need to work on settling its debts first.
He said the government was not having an easy time raising funds and at the same time paying and servicing its debts.
"We only established the principle, but it cannot be done immediately due to financial restrictions," he said when asked to comment on the implementation of minimum wage.
Dr Mahathir said the government had already committed in principle to raising the minimum wage.
However, he said it could not be done rapidly as it will also affect the government.
“This cannot be done immediately because of our finances...we are the biggest employer of 1.6 million people,” he said at a press conference last night.
Dr Mahathir said any increase in income should be followed by an increase in productivity.
“We have to make sure productivity follows the increase in salary as we do not want to have a high cost of living,” he said.
Pakatan Harapan had in its election manifesto pledged to gradually increase the minimum wage to RM1,500 within five years.
The current minimum wage in the Peninsular is RM1,000, while in East Malaysia, it is set at RM920.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulagesaran told the Dewan Rakyat last month that the minimum wage order for workers was expected to be gazetted within two months.
He said the National Wage Consultative Council (MPGN) had concluded its study on the matter and would submit its findings to the government soon.
“If there is no hindrance, the new minimum wage order will be gazetted in one or two months,” he was quoted as saying in reply to a question by Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun (BN-UMNO Beaufort).
Kulasegaran said the minimum wage of RM1,500 would be standardised nationwide in line with the government’s 100 days’ 10 promises.
He said the minimum wage would be reviewed every two years.
He hoped that the implementation of the new rate, which would be carried out in stages, would reach the targeted RM1,500 by the end of Pakatan Harapan’s first administration term.