The Appointment Of The 21st Chief Of Defence Forces

I would like to congratulate General Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Haji Affendi Buang on his appointment as the 21st Chief of the Defence Forces of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

The new appointment is undoubtedly historic given that he is the first son of Sarawak to hold this post and only the second Chief of Air Force to do so.

I would also like to thank the outgoing CDF, General Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Panglima Haji Zulkifli Zainal Abidin for his 41 years of service to the nation.

I am confident that the MAF will continue to go from strength to strength under its new leadership.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
Chair, Special Select Committee on Defence and Home Affairs
Setiawangsa Member of Parliament

The Government Should Look Into The Living Wage Recommended By Bank Negara

Yesterday I explained why the concerns of the employers who are not satisfied by the new RM1,200 minimum wage in the cities are baseless.

But the government should also consider the living wage that was proposed by Bank Negara in line with developed economies across the world.

I have raised this in Parliament before. The fact is that the minimum wage and living wage are different.

The minimum wage, which is the statutory minimum, of RM1,200 is far lower than the living wage. The living wage is not mandatory in nature, but can be introduced through incentives and encouragements.

According to the 2017 Bank Negara Annual Report, the living wage for an individual in Kuala Lumpur was RM2,700, while a household with two children would require RM 6,500.

The living wage goes beyond securing necessities such as food and shelter, but also affords social participation and financial security.

In 2016, nearly 50% of working adults in Kuala Lumpur earned less than RM2,500 per month, and up to 27% of households earned below the estimated living wage.

IDEAS Malaysia a think-tank known for its free market ideas that are frequently referred by major corporations, have also proposed a living wage policy through tax credits.

If IDEAS itself has proposed this, it is clear that the concept that Malaysians need higher wages should no longer be controversial, but accepted in order to drive our economy forward.

The government should look at the relevant sectors as well as incentives in order to introduce a living wage in stages through consultation with government agencies, employers and employees.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN Chief Organising Secretary
KEADILAN Central Leadership Council Member
Setiawangsa Member of Parliament

We Must Go Back To Our Manifesto And Stick To The May 2020 Transition

I would like to wish all Malaysians a very Happy New Year.

2019 was a challenging year for our country on many fronts. While Pakatan Harapan was able to bring about a number of remarkable achievements—including pro-rakyat economic policies, continued institutional reform and reducing the voting age to 18—the fact is that we ought to have done a better job especially in economic reforms.

Clearly, more work needs to be done in terms of not only creating more jobs and bringing the cost of living under control, but also future-proofing our economy, to ensure that our workers will be able to compete in the face of rapid technological change.

Urgent efforts must also be undertaken to reduce the growing inequality in our society, that is now, worryingly, manifesting itself within, as well as between, the different ethnic groups.

Doing this will undoubtedly blunt the rise of extreme identity politics of race and religion that we are unfortunately witnessing on our shores, as in a few countries throughout the world.

The fact is that Malaysia cannot be peaceful and progressive without socio-economic justice.

The iconic year of 2020 must hence be a year of reform for the rakyat.
Pakatan Harapan must continue the process of institutional reform and super-charge the modernisation of our economy.

We were greeted in the the New Year with the resignation of YB Dr Maszlee Malik as the Minister of Education.
I thank Dr Maszlee for his service to the nation. I am sure he will continue to serve his constituents in Simpang Renggam as well as the people of Malaysia generally.

The portfolio is not an easy one and while we differed on a few issues, the fact remains that Dr Maszlee was able to achieve concrete things despite a number of difficulties.

Like it or not, Pakatan Harapan must up its efforts to effectively communicate its agenda to ordinary Malaysians, as well as empowering them in government.

Moreover, we need to redouble our efforts to deliver on the pledges of our manifesto.
Among the things that the rakyat is demanding certainty is the transition as promised by the Pakatan Harapan

Consensus announced on 6 January 2018.

The Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council must clearly commit to a May 2020 transition from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the Seventh Prime Minister to Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the Eighth Prime Minister as announced earlier.

This is something that needs to be done for the sake of our country. Whether it is my constituents that I meet in the market, civil servants in Putrajaya or the business community – they want a clear answer on this matter.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN Chief Organising Secretary
KEADILAN Central Leadership Council Member
Setiawangsa Member of Parliament

The People Need The RM1,200 Minimum Wage In 57 Urban Areas

Recently there have been reports that employers are unhappy with the recent increase in the minimum wage to RM 1,200 per month in 57 urban areas across the country.

Increasing the minimum wage to RM 1,500 per month (gradually over a 5-year period) is one of the promises in Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto. Claims that this move will only benefit foreign workers are untrue, there are many Malaysians that earn a minimum wage.

In fact, retaining the minimum wage at the current wage makes it unattractive for Malaysians, and contributes to the flow of our ringgit overseas by foreign workers.

Unlike many other economies, the ratio of corporate profit to GDP in Malaysia is still high. For every RM1 generated in 2016, 35.3 sen was paid to the employee and 59.5 sen went to corporate earnings, while 5 sen was given to the government in the form of taxes.

In the past few years, our economic growth was driven by consumer spending but this was largely funded by debt. Our total household debt has reached a staggering RM1.18 trillion at a rate of 82.2% of GDP.

We are past the days of economic growth being driven from low wages. If we are to evolve into a high-income nation, economic growth cannot only come from increased profit .

Increasing wages will increase productivity, and has a bigger multiplier effect on the country’s GDP. Workers earning minimum wages tend to spend most of their earnings that will benefit the economy as a whole.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN Chief Organising Secretary
KEADILAN Central Leadership Council Member
Setiawangsa Member of Parliament

ASB Needs Improvements To Return To Its Original Aims

Yesterday I described the politicising of the distribution of ASB income as both malicious and ignorant.

But the Government too needs to consider a few improvements to ASB as per its original aims to increase the economic wealth of the Bumiputera community and contribute to national growth and prosperity for the benefit of all Malaysians. The need to improve has existed for quite some time, and did not just come about during New Malaysia.

There are a few facts regarding ASB that needs us to refocus on the poor and middle-class Malays, not the few rich elites.

Nearly 80 percent (7.4 million) of ASB unitholders have units worth less RM5,000 in 2018. A small 0.24 percent has RM500,001 and above.

The B40 and M40 of ASB unit holders have only RM4.1 billion whereas the top 9.15 percent has RM127.5 billion in the unit trust fund.

Thus while nationally our Gini coefficient (the measure of inequality) has improved from 0.513 in 1970 to 0.399 in 2016, but the Gini coefficient in ASB is a staggering 0.84 or highly unequal.

There is a need to consider capping dividend pay out to the maximum allowable investment (rather than basing it on the actual account balance, even when it exceeds the maximum allowable investment of RM200,000). The former benefits everyone, but makes it insanely tough for PNB to properly mark the investments to market, and the latter benefits the richest 10 percent of depositors, who account for something like 60 to 70 percent, if not more, of the ASB fund pool.

One move that could be considered in the medium term is for ASB dividends to be tiered, with unitholders classified as socio-economically in the B40 and M40 groups be given higher dividends than their T20 counterparts. The Singapore Central Provident Fund operates on a similar basis.

This move should not be considered as an attempt to “penalise” or “punish” T20 Bumiputeras, especially if they have been willing and able to save their money as well as support the ASB.

Rather, it is, as noted, to ensure that the ASB becomes an efficient engine to uplift B40 Bumiputeras and give the M40s an added boost when they need it.

The fact is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, wealth disparity is multi dimensional: including between the ethnic groups, but also within each ethnic group— Bumiputeras included.

There is hence no point in having high ASB dividends if it simply makes the T20 Bumiputeras richer while the B40s and M40s cannot catch up.

Loan schemes by banks for Bumiputeras to borrow and invest in ASB should also be reconsidered as there is a concern that it will exacerbate the situation if the global and local market take a further turn to the worse. Banks should not benefit from the losses of the common rakyat.

There’s no use creating or obtaining wealth for the Bumiputera if it is concentrated in the T20, or if such wealth is distributed in a way that dilutes its effectiveness.

Changes are needed to ensure that the wealth that PNB generates will be impactfully and visibly applied, i.e. by moving the B40s and M40s forward.

It also goes without saying that any change will need careful study with careful engagement and communication. More often than not, New Malaysia has not been effective in this regards. This is even more so in such sensitive and emotive issues such as ASB and the Bumiputera economy.

I hope that the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Yayasan Pelaburan Bumiputera and PNB will give this matter careful consideration as we move into the year 2020.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Politicising ASB’s Income Distribution Is Malicious & Ignorant

PNB has recently announced a 5.00 sen per unit ASB income distribution for the year 2019, as well as a 0.50 sen per unit bonus.

Certain irresponsible parties have, as predicted, attempted to politicise this development and have tried to blame it on the Federal Government.

However, this willfully ignores the fact that the global economy has faced significant setbacks this year and the many initiatives to boost good corporate governance that PNB has undertaken.

PNB’s Asset Under Management is also over RM300 billion, with about 90 percent being invested in Malaysia. Any major movement by PNB will have a huge impact on the Malaysian stock market. ASB is not a magic fund operating in a vacuum.

In this light, the 5.5% dividend, while perhaps disappointing for some, is still an achievement of some magnitude by PNB. RM9.0 billion is distributed to 10 million unit holders. It speaks volumes on the hard work of the PNB team including the new leadership.

Like it or not, as a trading economy Malaysia is plugged into the global economy and we will never be able to completely insulate ourselves from its currents. Making the people addicted to unsustainable dividends is simply irresponsible.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT