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All malaysians affected by higher living costs

It was reported recently that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak argued in Parliament that Malaysians with higher academic qualifications are unlikely to struggle with higher living costs.

He allegedly claimed that Malaysians with lower education levels are unable to obtain better-paying jobs and that the government is seeking to increase the number of Malaysians who have qualifications beyond the SPM.

The latter reassurance is of course always welcome but one finds the Prime Minister’s other comments perplexing on a number of levels.
On the one hand, members of the government have in the past claimed that Malaysia has one of the best education systems in the world.

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister’s comment that Malaysians still have low education levels seems to fly in the face of this.

How can we be one of the best, after all, if many of our people only have basic qualifications?

Second, his comments also seem to not reflect the reality of extensive media reporting recently over the struggles that many young working Malaysians are facing in making ends meet and securing a living wage—many of whom are university students or fresh graduates.

Indeed, the again, well-reported financial difficulties that young Malaysian graduates have—including in paying back their educational loans, as well as rising transportation and housing costs—highlights that people with higher qualifications are not necessarily better off.

At the same time, the recent government decision to sharply reduce its education budget as well as the overall number of tertiary scholarships available for students gels very strangely with the Prime Minister’s desire to increase the number of Malaysians with higher educational qualifications.

The Prime Minister must hence clarify exactly what he meant and how this matches with his government’s seemingly contradictory actions as of late.

Malaysia, rather, needs holistic educational and economic reform to ensure that we are not only producing the best human capital but also ensuring that these workers are paid fairly.