Many Malaysians are struggling to make ends meet.
Malaysian Institute of Economic Research data reportedly shows that, in 2010, 34 per cent of private sector workers earn less than RM800 per month and 43 per cent less than RM900. Not long ago, Human Resources Minister S Subramaniam said that 33 per cent of Malaysian workers earn a monthly salary of less than RM700 per month. Those are poverty line or sub-poverty line wages by any standards.
At the other end of the spectrum, The Edge on 11 June reported that companies controlled by five tycoons have in their coffers today a combined cash pile of RM65bn.
That is just an illustration of the large gap between the rich and the poor in the country.
Further, first generation independent power producers have earned huge profits for their owners – at the expense of government-linked Tenaga, which has had to pay large capacity payments to the IPPs for electricity it does not need.
Incidentally, this disparity is not something peculiar to Malaysia. In the United States, for instance, while American workers struggle, Fortune 500 companies earned a record US$824bn in combined earnings in 2011 (16 per cent higher than in 2010).
The Huffington Post reports:
The larger economic picture hasn’t been so rosy of course. Twelve and a half million people are still out of work. Many of the new jobs that have been created lately are low-paying food service gigs. A record 46 million Americans are in poverty, and millions more are only just clinging onto financial stability — one emergency is all it would take to tip them into disaster.
But much like the too-big-to-fail banks — whose assets now exceed half the size of the U.S. economy, and which have made more profits since the financial crisis than they did in the eight years prior — corporations don’t seem bothered by the bleak weather on Main Street. They just keep growing.
In fact, many have benefitted on the backs of workers that in some cases are underpaid or at risk of losing their jobs. Among the largest companies on Fortune’s list is Walmart, at number two, which was recently hit with a $4.8 million fine from the government for allegedly failing to pay its workers overtime; General Electric, at number six, which may have paid an average federal tax rate of just 2.3 percent over the past decade, according to the group Citizens for Tax Justice; and General Motors, at number five, which amassed $9.1 billion in profits last year and recently froze pay for its work staff of 26,000.