Reopening Malaysian labour market  

Published: August 30, 2018 22:12:34 | Updated: September 01, 2018 22:10:19

The announcement of the closure of Malaysian labour market for Bangladeshi workers with effect from September 01 is indeed a disquieting development. As claimed by the Malaysian government, this has been done mainly because of unethical business practices resorted to by an organised syndicate. But as is well-known, any threat can also be turned into an opportunity, provided necessary groundwork is done. This setback can similarly be utilised as an opportunity by the government of Bangladesh for freeing the manpower export sector from the grips of unholy syndicates by undertaking necessary reforms. 

It is difficult to ignore the logic put forward by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, a tested friend of Bangladesh, for the suspension of manpower import from Bangladesh. Experiences show that whenever there is monopoly control, the propensity for committing corruption and irregularities rises. Besides, if the measure has been taken with the objective of making the existing process more transparent and accountable, then there is still room for hope in the foreseeable future.

The Mahathir government found lack of transparency in the manner manpower was imported from Bangladesh by the previous Malaysian government via 10 specific agencies. Mahathir himself has said that he wanted to open up the business to all agencies of Bangladesh. He has also announced the constitution of a commission led by a former chief justice or a retired principal secretary to devise a uniform procedure for importing workers from Bangladesh and Nepal. The observers therefore feel that an opportunity exists for sending overseas Bangladeshi workers once again through effective and participatory discussions. But the whole sector would have to be freed from syndicates if this embargo is to be turned into an opportunity. It may be noted that among the 15 countries of origin for importing manpower, the previous Malaysian government had patronised such a syndicate only in case of Bangladesh. It is therefore natural for a new administration in Malaysia to become suspicious about such an arrangement. Besides, government insiders in Bangladesh have indicated that the syndicate arrangement did not yield satisfactory results. There are allegations that this coterie has usurped over Taka 45 billion from the job-seekers during the past one and a half year alone. 

Now the question is, would these culprits remain outside the purview of law? Is it impossible to hold them accountable for their misdeeds? An example would have been created if the answers were in the affirmative. But both the governments should now realise that a huge number of expatriate Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia have by now become 'illegal' due to the non-cooperation of agents and owners. Therefore, the question of their legality should also be sorted out as soon as possible. On the other hand, if manpower export to Malaysia is opened up for all agents, it should be ensured that the innocent workers are not defrauded in any way by them. It is the responsibility of Bangladesh government to find out ways and means for ensuring risk-free employment of migrant workers. The Bangladesh government should now take an initiative to immediately hold talks with its Malaysian counterpart for restarting manpower export by freeing the overseas workers' recruitment process from the clutch of syndicates. The procedure should be made open, transparent and competitive, and the expenses should be justified and acceptable. Otherwise, no-entry to this huge manpower market for an indefinite period would cast a dark shadow on the domestic employment-cum-remittance of the country.

Share if you like