The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called on the government to deliver the hard facts on the struggles faced by the Malaysian people amid a weak economy and high unemployment rate due to Covid-19.
MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said that the Finance Minister’s claim that the economy has “rebounded strongly” based on June’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth reflected a clear disconnect with the reality on the ground.
“The government must stop going overboard in attempting to paint a rosy picture of the economy and the unemployment problem,” said Solomon in a statement, highlighting Bank Negara Malaysia’s report of a 17.1% contraction in GDP for the second quarter of 2020. “This is worse than neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.”
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul had stated that with every passing month, Malaysia has recorded an improvement in its GDP, with the negative growth rate reducing significantly from -28.6% from April to -3.2% in June. However, Solomon commented that this observation does not tally with official unemployment statistics, which he said continues to be alarming.
“If businesses were coming back strongly over the past months with GDP ‘improving’ as claimed by the minister, why is it that the official unemployment rate continues to be very high?” Solomon wanted to know. The official unemployment rate had lowered to 4.9% in June, but Solomon said that the actual rate may be higher as the human resources minister admitted that companies were terminating their workers without reporting to the Labour Department.
“The official unemployment figures also did not take into account those self-employed who were forced to close shop and have no source of income,” Solomon added. He said that the numbers supported the Malaysian Employers Federation’s (MEF) projections of up to 2 million people losing their jobs by next year, and warned that unemployment could be further compounded by fresh graduates joining the job market.
Overall, Solomon said that the Q2 GDP figures, loss of jobs, and unemployment rate should reflect the gravity of the situation and prod the government into taking action to ensure the livelihood of ordinary Malaysians. Meanwhile, Malaysian workers should not be deluded into thinking that the country is on a “quick fix mode” that will see the economy bouncing back in full in 2021.
“The bold predictions of a 5.5% to 8% growth for 2021 must not blur the present daily challenges of workers struggling to make ends meet nor those rendered unemployed and have no income to support their families,” said Solomon. “During these testing times, those in the B40 and M40 must be helped with direct cash assistance and other forms of aid by the government to mitigate the high costs of living and to ensure they have a roof over their heads and enough food on the table.”