Paying the price of crime

  • Community
  • Sunday, 23 Oct 2011

There needs to be seriousness in moving away from being a low-wage country, and employment laws have to be restructured to create decent and productive jobs.

I AM VERY concerned about the huge number of house break-ins and other crimes against properties, like motor vehicle theft, cable theft, water meter theft and snatch theft.

Even manhole covers and construction materials are not spared. The situation is getting very alarming with armed robberies now happening, not just break-ins.

Apparently, no one is safe, including the VIPs, who have state-of-the-art alarm systems, security guards and heavily-fortified homes.

It is very easy to blame the police for all this, but we must have a hard look at the underlying cause of all these crimes. It is no coincidence that the crime rate has increased in tandem with the influx of foreign workers, both legal and illegal.

It has also increased with the increase in the cost of living, which is not matched by increases in wages.

I would say that the underlying motivation for commercial crime is financial reward.

Financial reward is either driven by greed or economic necessity.

But for a large number of property crimes, the main motivation is economic necessity.

If people are to risk their lives to cut through live electric cables to sell them for RM1 a kg, then it is reasonable to argue that it is economic necessity that drives them to resort to such crime, just like stealing a mobile phone to sell for RM30 or a motorbike for RM300.

The real culprits are the buyers of the stolen goods. I dare say that without buyers, the motivation for the thieves will be gone.

After all what is a thief going to do with a manhole cover, metal scaffolding, water meters and electric cables?

Set up another Sesco? Is it mere coincidence that there is a proliferation of scrap-metal dealers?

Mobile phones are snatched every day because there is a market for second-hand mobile phones.

We are all to be blamed, we readily buy cheaper products, including whiskey and beer, knowing they are smuggled. Malaysia is one of the top five countries for fake and adulterated liquor. Imagine, your yam seng is fake.

The long-term solution is to ensure that Malaysians have decent jobs with reasonable pay. We note that the government now wants to do away with foreign workers as their numbers, both legal and illegal, have reached three million.

The government must realise that employers hire foreign workers not because Malaysians shun such jobs but because the employers, through their economic might, have managed to (in the dubious excuse of having to be competitive) suppress wages and make huge profits.

How else can you explain their million dollar homes and cars?

As a result, locals either leave Sarawak for jobs elsewhere, or turn to crime, hence opening the door for RM18-a-day foreign workers or RM300-a-month maids, but having to pay RM8,000 in agent fees plus the first six months’ salary for the workers.

The poor maid gets only RM300 x 18 months = RM5,400 while the agents pockets RM9,800.

Now, every Malaysian is paying the price in terms of the high crime rate. Of course, the rich will be protected in their heavily-fortified mansions or holiday homes overseas.

The United Nations office of Drugs and Crime has recently reported that its study established a clear link between crime and development.

Countries with wide income disparities are four times more likely to be afflicted by violent crimes than more equitable societies.

Crime prevention policies should be combined with economic and social development and democratic governance based on rule of law.

To its credit, the government is embarking on a move towards being a high-income nation.

The government must be serious and change our policy of being a low-wage country and restructure employment laws to create decent and productive jobs.

It is good that a minimum wage is on the cards.

We must remember that employers will not invest in productivity improvement simply because it will be cheaper for them to continue to pay RM12 a day for foreign labour rather than invest in modern equipment, production processes and better human resources management.

Countries with the highest worker productivity are most competitive nations and are all high-wage nations with a much more equitable society.

As an example, a student working in Reject Shop in Perth, Australia, earns A$24 (RM78.35) an hour while the cost of a burger there is A$7.99 (RM26.10).

In Kuching, the salary is RM3.80 an hour and the cost of burger is RM5.80.

Do the math.

Budget 2012 has some promising proposals. Sure, I am disappointed that the Budget did not really address the cost of living issue, especially for private-sector workers.

The 1Malaysia shops will have limited coverage. A cost-of-living allowance for private sector workers could have been easily enacted in the Employment Act and Sarawak Labour Ordinance .

On the other hand, I am pleasantly surprised by the increase in EPF contribution for salaries of up to RM5,000. This will increase retirement savings.

I also welcome the proposal to increase the retirement age to 60 years, the top of my wish list. It will pave the way for the mandatory minimum retirement age for the private sector to at least 60 years as well. I don’t quite agree to the one-off payment of RM500 for households earning below RM3,000 a month.

Apart from implementation issues, to me it is a handout and this perpetuates the subsidy mentality.

Instead of giving a man a fish, we should be empowering him to fish by creating an economic environment with decent jobs for Malaysians, not for three million foreign workers.

What is alarming is that a high percentage (53%) of Malaysian households earn less than RM3,000 a month and qualify for this payment.

I also support the proposal to increase the allowance of our MPs and Aduns.

Their current allowance is a pittance and makes it extremely difficult for sincere MPs to focus on their duties, instead of worrying about getting contracts to support their families and constituencies.

I am very disappointed with the Opposition for rejecting the proposal.

We must also increase the salaries of our ministers and chief ministers.

We cannot let our chief ministers earn less than even some senior bank executives. We must enable them to provide a comfortable, not extravagant, lifestyle for themselves and their families.

We need them to concentrate on improving the lives of Malaysians.

They can’t do it if they are constantly worried about finding money to put their children in universities and feed their families.

Of course, in line with the principle of performance pay, they must be accountable, and if they do not perform, we should sack them.

Only then we can move towards a transparent and equitable society with less crime.

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