PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has defended the review of the national minimum wage by RM50, saying that the country at this juncture cannot afford to increase more expenditure.
He explained that the Government could not afford to further increase expenditure as it was servicing debts with high interest.
"Some believe that the minimum wage should be set between RM1,500 and RM1,800.
"However, we are currently in a difficult time and most of our money is used to service huge debt," he told reporters after chairing a meeting with the Pakatan Harapan leadership council on Friday (Sept 7).
The Prime Minister's Office had said in a statement on Wednesday (Sept 5) that Malaysia would have a uniformed minimum wage of RM1,050 per month or RM5.05 per hour beginning Jan 1, 2019.
It said the decision was made following recommendations by the National Wage Consultative Council.
The small increase of the minimum wages has drawn flak from the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and Pakatan lawmakers, with some saying that it was an insult to the 14 million strong workforce who had supported Pakatan in the last general election.
The Prime Minister said Malaysia will also stand to lose its competitive edge among other countries in the region, if the minimum wages was increase too high.
"We also have to remember we are competing with other countries, and if the cost is too high, we might lose our competitive edge," he said.
On the rumours that the Government was mulling to restructure media ownership by limiting the shareholding of political parties and other entities including private companies to 10%, he said the Government has yet to decide implement it.
"This is one way to avoid the media from being manipulated by certain parties.
"We understand that everywhere there will be vested parties who want to control the media for their self-interest.
"That is why we are looking to reduce the control but we have yet to implement it," he said.
On the affidavit alleging two cheques worth RM9.5mil were issued by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Dr Mahathir said "there are many charges against Najib and we have to choose which one to manage first."
"The investigation will take a long time, simply because we don't get the full cooperation from the people who know the facts.
"And sometimes, it is difficult to get documents to back the allegations made," he added.
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