The question that's being raised is who will actually benefit from the entry of this large number of workers.

KUALA LUMPUR: The entry of 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh is the talk of the town, noted a political analyst in his latest blog posting. “This is the largest ever number of foreigners allowed to enter the country at any one time by any Minister who headed the Home Ministry.”

“The question that’s being raised is who will actually benefit from the entry of this large number of workers over the next three years.”

At a modest RM1,000 per head, added Shahbudin Husin the analyst, the company organising and managing the entry of the 1.5 million Bangladeshis will rake in at least RM1.5 billion. “What’s this? Another billion ringgit situation!”

“Almost no one agrees with the decision by the government to allow in these foreign workers. No one is happy.”

Besides describing the decision as conveying the impression that the country was laying out the welcome mat for foreign workers, added the analyst, what’s even more worrying was the social problems likely to be created by the entry of such a large number of people from Bangladesh. “Things could get ugly with social tensions.”

Already, pointed out Shahbudin, there are more than five million foreign workers in the country. “Of these, less than half are in the country legally.”

“So, there are a large number of illegal immigrants in the country.”

When the 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh are all in the country at the end of three years, continued the analyst, the number of foreign workers would be over seven million i.e. more than the number of local workers. “Again, there seems to be no rational reason to allow in the 1.5 million workers. It would only compound existing problems in the country.”

Shahbudin was commenting on Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also deputy prime minister, defending the decision on the foreign workers. “He (Zahid) claimed that it was in fact not something the government wanted. He pointed the finger of blame at various sectors viz. factories, plantations, construction and the like.”

On Saturday, he said, Zahid claimed that the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) had complained that they didn’t have enough workers for their factories. “It seems the FMM proposed that foreign workers be allowed to enter the country to make up for the shortfall.”

“Ehhh…ehh…ehh, since when did the government decide that it must bow 100 per cent to what’s happening in the market and base its decisions on that?”

The analyst sees it as counterproductive if a government which claims to represent the people and has their support, eventually caves in and submits to capitalist interests. “The government should have a firm policy on the number of foreign workers allowed in any particular sector of the economy.”

“If a certain sector, industries for example, was allowed to take in foreign workers, it’s likely that local workers would be pushed out. Local workers would be marginalised and ignored by employers who would be more reliant on the foreigners.”

The analyst also does not rule out other foreign workers being marginalised and ignored as well with the focus being on the workers from Bangladesh. “All this comes back to the controversy generated by the fact that no Home Minister has ever agreed to allow in such a large number of foreign workers within a brief period.”

“Someone is benefitting from all this, and in the billions.”


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