Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Khairy: Move Up Value-Chain to Ensure Higher Wages

MP for Rembau Khairy Jamaluddin when discussing on the matter of a State-imposed minimum wage, called for a sustained effort to move industries up the value chain. Khairy said this when appearing on RTM’s “Lintas Langsung Dari Parlimen” alongside MP for Kota Melaka Wong Nai Chee.

Arguing that a minimum wage would dampen inflow of foreign investment into the country, Khairy said that finding the balance between labour welfare and economic competitiveness was a challenge for Malaysia’s government moving forward – and the optimal solution was wages to rise along with labour productivity.

Lamenting Malaysia’s “addiction to foreign labour”, he opined this value-enhancement strategy also promises to make jobs more attractive to locals. In the short term however, he called for a wages-negotiating council comprised of employers and the Government to be set up in order for a reasonable and fair system of wages to be agreed upon – although he made it clear that such agreements should never be legally binding.

Such centrist positioning is sure to be welcomed by investors and enterprises alike; an imposition of a blanket minimum wage – no matter how low it starts at – can prove a slippery slope. Displaying a grasp of the Marginal Productivity Theory of Wages, Khairy was able to relate to empirical economic relationships between long term productivity and welfare.

Khairy’s calculated self was again apparent when he called for genuine cooperation between Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera enterprises to further decouple economic activity from race. Only with such partnerships can the Ali Baba phenomenon – that limits real Bumiputera advancement –be stopped. Khairy was meticulous to remind that Chinese enterprises themselves should not seek nominal partnerships with Bumiputera individuals merely to be able to gain government contracts.

At a time when Malaysia’s economy is undergoing a testy period, a measured approach as recommended and defended by Khairy is doubly important as there is great temptation to subscribe to populist politics. Although the Opposition has been at the forefront of economic populism, Barisan voices to intelligently rebut their proposals have been few and far between. As such, Khairy’s value to the party of government should not be understated.

Today’s brief session on RTM was another stellar performance by Khairy. One hopes that the UMNO delegates for the party elections in March are able to see the gulf of quality that exists between him and his contenders for the post of Ketua Pemuda UMNO Malaysia.


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