THE government has been urged to bridge the economic gap between East Malaysia and Peninsular Malaysia before streamlining the minimum wage gap between the states.

The call was made by the Sabah Employers Association (SEA) president Yap Cheen Boon. He said if that happened, businesses in the state would suffer.

“Up to 70 per cent of employers in Sabah run businesses classified as either micro or small enterprises, with a key concern of simply staying afloat,” he said in a statement recently.

The latest economic figures in Sabah, he added, showed growth in certain sectors, but none were convincing enough.

“Yet, in spite of all these, Sabah’s employers have steadfastly held on to their responsibilities.”

Yap was responding to reports that the Human Resources Ministry would announce a new minimum wage next year to bridge the income gap between East Malaysia and Peninsular Malaysia

He explained that Sabah’s employers provided 12.7 per cent wage growth to employees last year, which was the third highest in the country, while retrenching an average 254 employees per year.

He stressed that the private sector could not afford to support the economy alone.

SEA urges emphasis on improving Sabah’s air, sea and road connectivity, and expediting its infrastructure developments.

“Bridging minimum wage gap should be in line with bridging macro-economic developmental gaps between East Malaysia and Peninsular Malaysia.

“Only when Sabah grows inclusively with the country can the economic pie be sustainably enjoyed by all,” stressed Yap.

Last week, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot Anak Jaem said the National Wage Consultative Council (MPGN) would study the feasibility of the new minimum wage to benefit all.

According to Richard, the salary difference was RM100 with the private sector workers in East Malaysia being paid RM800 while those in Peninsular Malaysia being paid RM900 based on the first review done last year.

“We then managed to bring the gap closer whereby the minimum wage in East Malaysia is RM920 while employees in Peninsular Malaysia are paid RM1,000.

“It is my hope to streamline the income gap whereby both East Malaysia and Peninsular Malaysia will have a standard income one day,” Richard was reported as saying.

The ministry had also appointed 25 new MPGN representatives, two of whom are from the Sabah and Sarawak State Secretary Offices, to represent people in both states when reviewing the minimum wage policy next year.

On this, SEA hoped there would also be a real private sector representation in the council.

“This omission has still not been addressed despite several years of protests from the majority of Sabah chambers and associations.

“The inclusion of State Secretary office’s representative into MGPN is a complimentary albeit delayed move, culminating in now having both union and governmental representatives for Sabah.

“The final piece of the puzzle now is to appoint Sabah’s private sector representative in the council, in the true spirit of tripartite discussion for the state.

“This is important to ensure that the collected views of almost 39,800 employers in the state be heard and taken into consideration,” expressed Yap.