Friday 02 Jun 2023
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on January 16, 2023 - January 22, 2023

Last Tuesday (Jan 10), Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution declared that approvals to hire foreign workers from 15 countries “based on current needs and abilities of employers” would be given within three days.

On Jan 5, Saifuddin announced that his ministry would be the “main custodian” in managing foreign workers in Malaysia, taking over the job from the Ministry of Human Resources, which will continue to handle a portion of the process, including compliance with labour policies.

Saifuddin also promised that Putrajaya would reduce the time needed to bring in foreign workers to under 30 days to ease labour shortages and bolster economic growth.

Having battled a labour crunch in the past three years, employers and leaders of industries are understandably apprehensive about the prospect of having to deal with two ministries now instead of one for their foreign labour needs. What they want is simple: cheap and speedy approvals for foreign labour to bring operations back on track fast.

If approval takes, say, two months under one ministry but less than a month under two ministries — and at a cheaper cost to employers — concerns that the new arrangement could lead to further delays should be put to rest.

The recalibration of the foreign labour recruitment process must once and for all cut out third-party middlemen and rent seekers who jack up the cost of doing business which, at the end of the day, would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices of goods and services. The latter would be a bigger headache for Putrajaya. Execution must not disappoint.

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