Can Malaysia economic progress translate into better pay for workers? Do you feel more better off?

Thursday April 5, 2012

Can progress translate into better pay for workers?

Making a Point – By Jagdev Singh Sidhu

THE report cards on the progress of theEconomic Transformation Programme (ETP)and the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) have been issued. Those voluminous documents detail the progress being made on both fronts and the general view has been positive.

What’s there not to appreciate? It’s a good thing anytime improvements are being made to how government works. No one can expect instant improvement across the board but the urgency in trying to get things moving by cutting red tape and helping the people and businesses is always appreciated.

The same with the ETP. Investments from both foreign and local sources have once again flowed more freely into Malaysia, creating jobs and in the process raising the gross national income (GNI). In short, the indicators for such are on the up.

Another by-product of all of this is also morphing itself into a different indicator. For me, that’s more an intangible reading of the economy the gut feel.

It’s the kind of optimistic feeling you get when you see things unfolding around you. Having come back to Kuala Lumpur in the early 1990s after studying abroad, I could feel the palpable changes that were taking place at that time.

There was a certain buzz about Malaysia. Cranes were sitting atop buildings in progress, the stock market was at a high, the property market was active, foreign investments were flooding into Malaysia which was seen as a darling of the global business community, jobs were aplenty and so forth.

A lot of those factors are again repeating itself today, albeit at a lesser magnitude than during the go-go early 1990s. Some businessmen I speak with say, however, there is more energy in the economy than a few years ago. It answers an often-asked question in the past “Does the economy feel like it’s growing by the percentage the official numbers indicate?”

GNI has gone up by quite a bit and for those people wondering what does it mean to them, they have a point because salaries have not kept pace.

That’s why it’s important for the Government to be firm in pushing through the minimum wage without diluting its originally intended effect.

But employees can also benefit from the 313,000 new jobs created and increased economic activity will mean vacancies for people to fill, increasing employment prospects hopefully at a higher pay.

For sure, the situation today is also different than back in the early 1990s. Politically, the situation is more dynamic than before and the main difference between then and now is that the economic outlook in the early 1990s was a lot better then today.

Concerns over the health of the global economy persists and that will play on the perception of people. But it’s a nagging feeling the world dealt with for most of last year and until the cracks start becoming a lot more visible, caution will remain just that.

People are also uncomfortable with the level of debt by the Government and households, on both counts are pretty high and they do wonder what will all of this translate to should growth in spending start to slow.

Such issues and that on how the implementation of the ETP and GTP will unfold this year bears watching, but for now, at least appreciate the little uplift in mood that has been missing for years.

Deputy news editor Jagdev Singh Sidhu wonders what will it take for the mood-sapping dark clouds over Liverpool Football Club to disappear?

Source: TheStar

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