Please consult more for less blundering!

As a former senior civil servant I am perplexed and politely ask – what has become of our national management of foreign workers and the consultation by and coordination in government, please. We obviously need to consult the public more to have less blundering!

We seem to be at sea, as so many foreign workers sail into our country so easily. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, firmly claims that there is “No Policy Flip Flops”, at the same time, his Deputy Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed boldly states that “No one knows the exact figures” of foreign workers in our country!

Thus, the majority of ordinary people like me are therefore naturally quite confused! We have been treated to several rapid shocks in this critical case of foreign workers that we can hardly cope with the uncertainty and recover from these shocks.

Firstly, there was the shock of the sudden raise in levy on foreign workers, which was fortunately suspended after a huge public outcry.
Secondly, we were shocked to be suddenly told that government plans to import 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers and then sub-shocked by the correction that all of them would not come from Bangladesh, but from all over the world!

Thirdly, shock waves re-emerged when it was announced that there would be the import freeze on foreign workers. This measure was then also put off – as we were all similarly put off too!

Fourthly, we were shocked to discover that there were almost no or insufficient consultations with the stakeholders on these major policy measures.

Fifthly, we get the shocking perception that there is also a serious lack coordination among concerned government ministries and agencies and between government and specific industries and indeed, the private sector as a whole!

Recommendations for a New Manpower Policy Plan

All these shocks have led to blundering in management of foreign and even for our local workers. Hence, we have had stop go, if not flip flop measures. Thus, most of us now ask – what is next?

The short answer is that we have to develop an updated New Manpower Policy Plan (NMPP) to identify our short term and longer term labour needs and the range and quality of our manpower requirements, domestically and from abroad as follows;

1) The NMPP short term goals should be inter alia to;

a) Initiate a quick and on going survey of foreign workers in our country – both legal and illegal.
b) Accelerate the Process for Re-hiring, from the present stock of foreign illegal workers, according to scrutinised industry needs.
c) Give preference to employers who can give well thought out employment plans to hire foreign workers.
d) Insist that employers have specific plans to retrain and recruit local workers, to substitute foreign workers over definite and reasonable periods of time.
e)Ensure that higher wages are paid to local workers, while higher levies could also be charged to foreign workers as a disincentive to employ the foreigners in gradual stages.
f) Adopt the proposal by the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, who I hope was consulted earlier. He has rightly suggested that the government should allow employers to hire their own foreign workers, instead of depending on appointed. government agents. These agents may be rent seekers and monopolists who have no clue of the real labour market and thus they could worsen the blundering.

2) The NMPP long term goals could be to;

a) Review and revise the short term NMPP above in the light of our rapidly transforming economic structure, in the context of globalisation and greater world competition.
b) Innovate more our weak education system, so as to prepare our graduates to be more suitable for employment and especially for self employment and entrepreneurship.
c) Enable the mass of students to learn more of the English Language, to not only make them better prepared for higher education but especially enabling them to perform more productively in their daily business dealings at home and abroad. Those who just choose only Bahasa can be allowed to be left behind as that would be their choice!
d) Ensure that despite the critics, more science and technology be taught, preferable in English as well to equip our youth to better meet the demands of the rapidly changing domestic and international employment market.
e) Educate our youths in the right and balanced values and not produce skewed graduates who are parochial in their thinking, racially and religiously bigoted, since no serious employer will view them seriously!
f) Provide more attractive tax incentives to move away from the current labour intensive employment and production to more capital intensive activities, like the use of industrial building systems in the construction industry. More mechanisation means less need for labour!

3) Conclusion

The above are but some of the basic public concerns that I have expressed concerning;

a) The need to prevent the over import foreign workers at the expense of our society.
b) The lack of consultation by government and the private sector.
c) The need for greater coordination within government and with the private sector.
d) The requirement for a NMMP

Unless we learn once again from our repeated mistakes, we will continue to make more blunders in national management and development, much to the detriment to our national aspirations to become a developed nation by 2020 – in just about 5 years time! Can we succeed? Can we avoid more blundering?

Yes, we can!

If we humbly learn and improve from our mistakes, the government would give Malaysians much higher hopes and the excitement of greater expectations, for the future of our posterity and our beloved Malaysia!

Article published in The Malaysian Insider.

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