Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Of maids and illegals : Malaysia's goodwill...again?

The point is simple - there are Malaysians who are now getting less than what the foreign maids are getting. If this is allowed to continue, then the income disparity will widen more. It is time for a strong political will to resolve the issue and bring up the standards of our own Malaysian citizens. Give them training, provide assistance and chances. Nobody wants to remain poor... no one wants to bring home a take home pay of RM 33 per month, do you?

One marinates meat not issues. A week has passed us by but this writer did not see any posting on Indonesian maid issue. Did Sibu P212 by-election result eclipsed this small but important issue? Or has Malaysians become complacent and take it as a non-issue?

1MPM6 Najib, fresh from BN's defeat in P212 met with Indonesia's SBY on 18th May 2010 and later witnessed the signing of LOI on new terms of Indonesians maids. Amongst others, it is said that :-

  1. Indonesian maids will get a day off a week;
  2. If the maid decided to forgo her off days, she will be compensated in lieu of it;
  3. The maids will be allowed to keep their passports if the employers agree;
  4. There are suggestions that the maids salary be increased up to 80 % of the present value of between RM 450 ~ RM 550 monthly;
  5. There are currently 400,000 foreign maids in Malaysia, out of which 300,000 comes from Indonesia;
  6. There are an estimated 2.5 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia;

Let's not argue about the figures provided by the MSMs. Instead, let's look inward and capture the predicaments faced in our own backyard :-
  1. How many of us read about a plantation worker whose April's take home pay is RM 33?. His gross salary was approximately RM 364.96;
  2. What about Kampung Kandang Lembu, Hulu Selangor which received such prominence during Hulu Selangor by-election? One person interviewed there survived on RM 150 monthly income to feed her grandchildren. Where is Kamalanathan, now that he won the parliamentary seat? What is he going to do about it? Where is Rozali of Syabas who promised to provide piped water to the folks in Hulu Selangor? Has he decided to by-pass the village?
  3. Under current agreement, plantation labourers are ensured a minimum monthly wage of RM 350 which is 22 % lower than the Indonesian maids;
  4. Only 5 % of the plantation owners implement housing scheme for estate workers although it has been introduced since 1973 or 37 years ago under Tun Razak House ownership scheme. Now, his son (1MPM6 Najib) has taken over the reins and yet, the plantation workers are still a neglected lot;
  5. A restaurant worker in Sibu survived on RM 400 monthly wage which is 11 % lower than what the Indonesian maids are currently getting;
Now, where are we heading? This writer would be happier if there are concerted efforts to upgrade these poor and neglected Malaysians. It seems that the powers-to-be are prone to "Kera dihutan disusukan, anak dirumah mati kelaparan" attitude. Will it not be better if :-
  1. The relevant ministries train our own domestic helpers and cater our own needs? This move will improve the livelihood of our own poor and at the same time increase their income;
  2. The move to train our own domestic helper will reduce currency outflow where the Indonesians maids transferred their income back to their country. This will reduce currency exchange and outflow;
  3. By introducing Malaysia's own domestic helpers, it may accelerate mutual understanding between our cross cultures and religions;
  4. 300,000 Indonesian maids means that we are paying RM 150M monthly wages to these maids which adds up to RM 1.8B annually. Malaysia can keep this money to circulate our own economy. Is there any need to "allow" RM 1.8B economy to be generated in other countries?;
  5. Having a day off weekly will also invite more social problems. What are the social problems? You and I are all adults and a simple 2 + 2 = 4. Do I need to say more? Is Malaysia ready to face these additional social problems created by foreign maids? As is, Malaysia has more than enough problems to cope, why do we need these additional problems?;
Those are few preliminary suggestions and can be expanded further if needed. Why are the authorities in such a goodwill and generous mood?

Just the other day,DPM Muhyiddin announced the third amnesty program involving illegal foreigners who work in Malaysia. The first two amnesty took place in 2002 and 2004. But that is not all. Muhyiddin mentioned :-
  1. The government will soon offer amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal foreign workers to return home without facing action;
  2. Levies will be increased from 2011 based on sectors and workers' skills;
  3. Integrated biometric identification system would have to be in place before the programme could be implemented;
  4. Introduction of new regulations to curb problem of illegal workers;
  5. Government will act against those who harbour illegal workers without permit;
  6. Foreign illegal workers work mainly in plantations, construction sites, factories, restaurants and domestic maid sector;
Malaysia is truly generous. After two previous amnesty, we are still dishing out the third amnesty. Why? Is it necessary? What has our Ministry of Human Resources got to say on this matter? Is Malaysia really short of workers are are the employers practising selective employing to the advantage of the illegal foreign workers?

Talk about plantation workers, we have seen how our own domestic plantation workers receive measly take home pay, far lower than Indonesian maids. Talk about construction sites, we read about low cost flats going to the rich. Do Malaysia still needs massive construction works? Have we not reached the saturation state yet?

Talk about factories, how do we explain why Vietnam seems to offer better perks and incentives to investors? How do we compete with Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia when our labour and living cost is much higher than those countries?

Talk about restaurants and the first picture that flashes through are the mamaks in Kayu, Pelita restaurants taking orders. I am sure we have enough work force to do that but why do these restaurants offer the vacancies to their own kind? A monopoly of sorts?

Domestic maid? Would it not be better to train our own domestic maid?

Briefly on this amnesty programme conjured by Muhyiddin. Is it really necessary? Shouldn't it be time for Malaysians to take tougher stand on this issue? We have been softies in dealing with the issue. Is it because of the hidden hands behind the illegals? Twice in 2002 and 2004 and we are going for the third amnesty. Will it be fourth, fifth, sixth? Looks more like star wars installations than government policy....

Saudi Arabia tackle their illegals hard. Those caught harbouring, either knowingly or unknowingly illegals will have the said properties confiscated and fined heavily. Although it is seen to be harsh but that move works in Saudi Arabia. Why can't Malaysia follow the model?

The point is simple - there are Malaysians who are now getting less than what the foreign maids are getting. If this is allowed to continue, then the income disparity will widen more. It is time for a strong political will to resolve the issue and bring up the standards of our own Malaysian citizens. Give them training, provide assistance and chances. Nobody wants to remain poor... no one wants to bring home a take home pay of RM 33 per month, do you?

Oh...before this one slips my mind...all are invited to give their feedback on removing subsidies. There will be an open day to get feedbacks on removing subsidies (fuel, sugar, toll, medication, healthcare, food etc). Mark this :-

Date : 27th May 2010 (Thursday)
Venue : Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (Hall 4 & 5)
Time : 0900 - 1400 (That's 9 am to 2 pm)

Till then...G'nite M'sia...wherever u are...


ahoo said...

When the country is helm by the wrong group of people, the country suffers and will eventually bleeds to death. Those rich ones who had have ride on the wagon of prosperity by being just a rent-seekers won't blink an eye of the poor and needy.

There is no problem as far as they are concern. For they have APS for luxurious cars, bungalows, jstting around the world for sales of branded perfumes, shoes, clothings etc. While, you have rightly pointed out the disparity between our own plantation workers versus the maid in our home.

It is really such a bad taste for the ruling govt to spent billions on the defence ministry. Beefing up their weapons and waiting to defend ourselves against imaginary enemies. The worst part is that the local company awarded with the billions contract has yet to build a prototype to prove that it can work. What a sham way of throwing money to its crony and leak it out in another way to someone's pocket.

While, we have family that are burden with cashflow and feeding from hand to mouth monthly with no prospect of seeing light even after 50 years. Cannot agree with you more that we must have our own inhouse training centre for maid. The human resource dept that collected contributions from companies need to set aside certain percentage for this task. The faster we have it done the better for our economy.

As for the amnesty programs, surely there is prawn behind the rock as the Malay proverb says. The entry and exit of illegal Indonesians are well known amongst the workers. All they needed are "legal tender notes" and that's their permit. Ask any of them w/o formal permit and they will tell you their story.

Until we have the will to right what is wrong in this nation full of corruption from so many sectors, this nation will have to bleeds till the cow comes home. hopefully by then, we still have enough resources for the poor to lead a decent life of three meals a day without borrowing from loan shark. Thanks for your earnest desire to blog that which concerns so many of the nation wrongs.

nightcaller said...


Then, can we last until 2019? Or will Malaysia bankcrupt before then?

Wenger J. Khairy said...


I have my own economic simulation and had instructed some of my boys to forward you a copy of some of our notes.

Some points :

Malaysia will NOT go bankrupt and this is why.
When the Debt hits a critical figure like RM 600 billion, a crisis will trigger because the market expects the debt to hit RM 1 trillion. This will force the Govt of the day, whether its BN or Pakatan to step into an austerity drive. Furthermore, this number will coincide with the results of any recently concluded GE (expect this number slightly after 2012).

The Govt of the day will start to sell of huge chunks of the GLC holdings as well as trim the budget. The debt will return to something like RM 400 billion (which is 2010) status as well as a higher income and company income tax.

Further austerity drives will make this number fluctuate around the mean level until the next wave of maddening spending takes hold.

This system of lurching from austerity to madness is well predicted by a feller called Minsky under the Minsky hypothesis. You should read the paper (its only 10 pages) but it is so well written with the exception of the parts where the quotations attributed to John Maynard Keynes uses the double negative.(like the phrase "people are not uncomfortable with")

As to the poor and the social agenda of the poor. Well essentially by and large most Malaysians will view it as a race issue. To a certain extent they are correct, after all increasing the wages without an increase in mentality results in the marginal ringgit being spent away.

But can the poor be taught?
Absolutely. Requires dedication and patience.

How a country treats those who are at the weakest segment differentiates between a "good" and "bad" country. Its down society - its not down to Government.

Remember - the people get the Government they deserve. And with that comes the ramifications