1. The West i.e. the United States and Europe are deep in financial trouble.
2. Four European countries including United Kingdom and Italy have debts of more than 1 trillion dollars.
3. The Governor of the Bank of England has advised printing money to overcome Britain’s financial crisis. This is a great idea. When you lose money just print money to make up for the losses. The United States had printed 300 billion USD to bail out banks and overcome the crisis. Of course if Malaysia had printed Ringgits to pay off debts during the financial crisis we would be soundly condemned. No one would accept our Ringgit and we would be bankrupted. But rich countries apparently can print money to pay debts.
4. I was invited by Financial Times to comment on the European financial crisis. I wrote that their financial crisis is due to their living beyond their means.
5. Their wealth was not real because it is the result of gambling in the financial market. Believing that they were rich they paid themselves, including their workers very high salaries and bonuses.
6. But they did less and less work, limiting themselves to five days (35 hours) in a week. They enjoy long holidays. Working on holidays earns them double pay and quadruple for overtime.
7. They have unemployment benefits up to 90% of their previous pay.
8. Workers cannot be dismissed even if they don’t do any work.
9. Workers go on strike every now and then, or they work to rule.
10. Productivity is very low, which of course means their products are costly and cannot compete in the market.
11. The crisis they are facing today is the result of their living beyond their means.
12. Malaysia wishes to become a high-income economy. We are busy increasing wages and salaries. Already our labour cost is higher than all ASEAN countries except Singapore.
13. Growth comes from investments. When we are costly investors local or foreign will not invest.
14. But like the Europeans we are working less. We now work five days a week, adding 52 days to our national holidays numbering sixteen plus 52 Sundays.
15. We have now added more holidays including Wesak, Taipusam, Federal Territory Day, Awal Ramadhan, Nuzul Al Quran, Malaysia Day and numerous state holidays.
16. When the holiday falls on Sunday or Saturday we replace with Monday. This gives us three days holiday. We can take one day unrecorded leave on Friday and get four days holiday.
17. But sometimes two or three different holidays fall within one week. With a little arrangement one can extend it to one week or even nine days.
18. What it means is that we are working less days but our income (wages, pay) must be higher. The cost of producing goods or services is now higher. There is no evidence of increase in productivity. We are quickly falling into the trap into which the Europeans have fallen. And we are not even a developed country.
19. I may be wrong but I think we are headed for the kind of financial and economic crisis that the Europeans are in. Incidentally holidays bring death to thousands of travellers.
20. God save Malaysia.