Govt courts teachers ahead of expected polls
KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 — The Barisan Nasional (BN) administration announced a pay rise for 7,000 senior educators and raised the pay ceiling for all teachers as it prepares to call a general election that is expected within the year.
The package for teachers, who make up a third of Malaysia’s 1.2 million civil servants, follows Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin admission this morning that subsidies will continue to be cut.
“The career path for teachers will be expanded to reach Grade 54,” Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in a pre-recorded video message for the national-level Teachers’ Day celebrations in Kuching today.
He also said that from the beginning of next year, all 1,228 secondary school principals in the country will be upgraded to Grade 52 which has a maximum monthly pay of RM6,904.20 and all 6,585 senior assistants nationwide will be moved up to Grade 48 (RM6,325.39).
The new ceiling grade will allow teachers to retire after 25 or more years of service at the new grade, instead of the previous Grade 48.
The ruling BN coalition will hold a dry run for federal polls after July, the clearest sign yet that Najib will dissolve Parliament soon.
Analysts and politicians believe that economic woes will be the biggest problem facing BN for the 13th General Election.
The 2010 Prices and Wages report by Swiss bank UBS AG showed that residents in Kuala Lumpur have only 33.8 per cent the purchasing power of their counterparts in New York, 42 per cent that of London, 33.7 per cent that of Sydney, 32.6 per cent that of Los Angeles and 31.6 per cent that of Zurich.
A check on salaries and prices in selected developed country cities by The Malaysian Insider showed that despite being touted as one of the world’s least expensive cities, KL residents pay as much or even more for chicken, broadband, cars and mobile phones as a percentage of their income.
Civil servants are a traditional vote bank for BN and last year the government paid bonuses of RM500 each to all civil servants and another 590,000 pensioners at a cost of RM296 million.
But this fell short of the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services’s (Cuepacs) demand for a two-month bonus.
It has continued to call for a minimum wage of RM900 for civil servants rather than the current RM647 and salary adjustments across the board.
Pakatan Rakyat has also attempted to court teachers by promising a RM500 monthly allowance if it takes power after the next election.
Despite government assurances that inflation is under control, Malaysians are becoming increasingly restive over the cost of living in relation to wages, especially those who are able to compare the corresponding price-to-wage ratios in developed economies.
According to a Bloomberg report last month, surging fuel prices and unhappiness over the implementation of race-based policies contributed to the ruling BN coalition losing control of five of Malaysia’s 13 states to Pakatan Rakyat in Election 2008, where it also ceded a record 82 out of 222 seats in Parliament.
Najib completed his second year as PM on April 3, after inheriting a contracting economy and a ruling coalition with the smallest majority in Parliament since independence in 1957.