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Put people first when drawing up new policies

01 Jul 2020 / 09:34 H.

THE people should always come first when the government draws up any programmes or policies. What is of utmost importance is their welfare especially when lives and livelihoods are at stake.

As we enter the recovery phase of an economy ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, a social protection system has to be put in place to ensure the well-being of the people.

With one million Malaysians at risk of losing their jobs in the next few months, there is an urgent need to draw up a strategic plan to tackle the impending mass unemployment issues and other ensuing concerns going forward.

Despite the rolling out of the wage subsidy programme, jobs are still threatened and salaries are being slashed.

The Social Security Organisation approved 293,033 applications under the programme with an allocation of RM4.03 billion where eligible employers received a subsidy of RM600 per employee.

It was projected to have saved 2.4 million jobs but not all employers applied for the subsidy as it came with eligibility requirements and terms. Among the terms is that employers have to ensure they do not fire their employees, ask employees to take unpaid leave or slash the salaries of existing employees while the employers are receiving the wage subsidy for three months, and another three months following this period.

Government intervention is needed in such extraordinary times to secure employment and ensure living wages for the masses.

As rightly suggested by Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, there is a need for a high-powered national task force with representation from the government, unions, employers and non-governmental organisations to address these concerns.

If and when this proposed task force is formed, it would need to look at the needs of employees as well as employers. This is crucial as jobs are very much dependent on the commercial viability of businesses.

Employers must also be able to justify the necessity of their cost-saving measures for business continuity. On the other hand, employees should support their companies’ cost-saving measures to help them ride out this rough patch to avoid retrenchment.

When policies and programmes are drawn up, we can do without grand-sounding slogans, buzzwords, jargon and empty rhetoric. Just deliver a workable plan.

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