When my late father was Prime Minister, I remember thinking how difficult it must be for him to have the worries and burden of the Rakyat weigh constantly on his mind. For the past two years, I have lived through the experience myself. The environment today and challenges it poses are certainly different from my late father’s time, as are the available tools and solutions. Yet, the duties of the Prime Minister have not changed much: it is always People First.
I am well aware of the increasing burden of cost faced by many Malaysians, particularly among those of you who live in urban areas. I have received updates from on the ground and I have seen your comments on Facebook as well as Twitter addressed to me personally. This subject frequently pops up during my walkabouts and face-to-face interactions with the Rakyat. While I may not have the capacity to individually improve your financial circumstances, believe me that I am doing as much as I can for as many as I can.
Last month, I was delighted to launch the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia, an public-private initiative to lessen the financial burden of the Rakyat. In this shop, essential items are priced up to 40% lower than regular retail price. Beginning with one outlet, the Kedai Rakyat will eventually expand to cover other strategic locations.
At a separate event last month, I shared some development to the My First Home Scheme, which was announced last March. The scheme provides 100% financing for the purchase of homes priced in the region of RM220,000. Acknowledging that very few housing developments are available at such prices, I stated that a scheme will be launched to build affordable homes, priced below market rate, specifically for the My First Home Scheme target group. The Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia scheme (PR1MA), which I will launch this Monday, will be another public-private partnership that hopes to ease the financial burden of owning a home, and allow more Malaysians to become homeowners.
Another crucial milestone was reached at the end of the most recent Parliament session, when the National Wages Consultative Council Bill was passed. Only days before this milestone, I talked about why the Council was a necessity. I believe that no Malaysian should be living below the poverty line. When I discovered that our postmen were being paid below the poverty line, I did what was needed to raise their wages. I also did the same for security guards. More recently, plantation workers will now earn more, after I had persuaded Sime Darby to increase their workers’ pay by RM200 a month. More plantation companies are following suit.
Furthermore, I believe that we have been undervaluing the skills of Malaysians, and this is a large reason that Malaysians feel compelled to seek job opportunities overseas. With this National Wages Council, a tripartite of employees, employers and the Government will sit down together to determine a fair rate for the employees and employers. We do not want to lose our skilled Malaysians, and we believe that this is a step in the right direction. With a better pay scale, as well as a more competitive and productive work culture, I am sure Malaysians will feel more assured of their economic security in this country.
It is my responsibility and the responsibility of the Government I lead to be sensitive to the needs of the Rakyat. Pressing needs such as education, healthcare, and housing are what matter most to all Malaysians. My utmost priority is to ensure that we do our best to meet these needs.