The minimum wage rate in the country should be increased to balance the people’s income with the current high cost of living, said Sabah Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) senior lecturer in Political Economy, Associate Prof Dr Firdausi Suffian.

He said the minimum wage rate should also be increased according to the country’s economic growth to boost economic activities, which will contribute to efforts to reduce the poverty rate in the country.

“This is important, (because) if the salary remains the same, the M40 and B40 groups will be left out of getting access to a good life,” he said when contacted by Bernama TV here today.

Regarding the government’s commitment to eliminate the hardcore poor in the country, Firdausi, who is also the Deputy Rector of the Academic Affairs Division of UiTM Sabah Branch, said he welcomed the government’s initiative to centralise several states that needed to be given focus.

He said Sabah, which has the highest poverty rate, at 25 percent, needed to be given focus and required the government’s intervention to reduce the income gap between the people in the state and in the peninsula.

According to Firdausi, the gap in income between the people in Sabah and the peninsula is becoming more significant with slow wage growth causing thousands of young people from the state to migrate to the peninsula to work.

“If we look at the ratio, 1:4 Sabahans are poor and because of that, there is still the phenomenon of underemployment in Sabah where even graduates with a Master’s Degree are willing to work as clerks because they want to get a job in the peninsula,” he said.

Touching on the issue of the hardcore poor in the country, Firdausi, who is also on the Youth and Sports Ministry’s Panel of Experts, said that the hardcore poor’s access to health facilities, balanced food and owning their own home should be given attention.

He said access to basic needs should be used as a guide in evaluating and determining the socioeconomic status of the people in the country and not based solely on their income.

“For example, if there are five children in a family staying in a three-room house, is the welfare of these children taken care of, do they have access to good education? Therefore, the house is also taken into account as a measure of poverty.

“The aspect of nutrition is also important, we can’t just look at the aspect of income. With proper nutrition, we get a healthy person. Also, how do the children go to school? Is the distance between the school and the house far? All these should be taken into account,” he added.

Meanwhile, Bukit Bintang Umno Division chief Datuk Tengku Azman Tengku Zainol Abidin, who concurred with Firdausi on the minimum wage rate, suggested that more job opportunities be created in the rural areas.

He said this would provide a balance of the rights and opportunities of rural residents who were forced to migrate to the cities to earn a living.

“The agricultural sector is a profitable sector, therefore, the cooperation between the federal and state governments is important to develop modern agriculture by optimising the use of abandoned land,” he said.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency