Corruption impedes the smooth process of manpower export to Malaysia from Bangladesh, said Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a leading economist of Malaysia and former assistant secretary general of the United Nations.
In an exclusive interview with the FE recently, Prof Jomo also discussed various issues relating to impact of high borrowing, current role of the United Nations (UN), state of the Malaysian economy and trade protectionism by global economic powers.
Mr Jomo is currently visiting fellow at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, USA and Adjunct Professor at International Islamic University, Malaysia.
He also taught at a number of reputed educational institutions including Harvard, Yale and Cornell universities.
When asked about manpower export to Malaysia from Bangladesh, he said Malaysia has demands for foreign labours but in recent years, widespread corruption was reported in this process.
"Recently, it was found that a minister of the previous government headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak awarded a manpower import contract to his brother violating rules that prompted the present government to halt manpower import from Bangladesh," he mentioned.
According to him, transparency should be ensured in exporting manpower to Malaysia from Bangladesh so that it would benefit both the countries.
"Otherwise, the people who have been sent to Malaysia would be the victim of abuse by the employers," he added.
For example, many Bangladeshis are employed in vegetable farms on highlands in Malaysia where their employers are producing vegetables through using harmful chemicals. This causes harm to both the Bangladeshi workers and the consumers, he explained.
"There are many jobs in which Malaysian people have no interest and we need manpower from abroad for these jobs."
Citing other limitations in the present day labour market in Malaysia, he said with shifting of a huge number of textile and garment industries from Malaysia to Vietnam and Cambodia, the demand for industrial jobs has declined.
Replying to a question, Prof Jomo said LDCs (least developed countries) were created to divide the poor countries.
Big powers wanted to divide the poor countries so that they can divide and rule, he observed.
The previous government made huge public expenditure through borrowing from outside which have created huge pressure on the Malaysian economy as it increases debt burden on the people of Malaysia.
Outwardly it was found that jobs were created but this borrowing imposed a heavy burden on the Malaysian people which is a major concern for incumbent Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Now he (Mahathir) is planning to restructure the economy through industrialisation, Mr Jomo added.
The role of the UN is becoming less effective in the present day world. Previously, poor countries got united and could raise an issue unitedly in the UN.
"Now unity of poor countries becomes fragile and they are also shying away from the UN system, making the UN weaker than anytime earlier," he said.
He thinks poor countries' unity is imperative to create a world where the poor can be truly benefited.
Foreign borrowing is good if it contributes to the development of infrastructure which is required to attain the development goals, he said, adding, "If such borrowing is meant to appease a certain quarter to woo political support, then it harms the economy."
Prof Jomo came to Bangladesh to deliver the keynote speech in anniversary lecture of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) held on September 08.
He lauded Bangladesh for achieving the growth required for its graduation from LDC and elevation to the middle income country.
Bangladesh has so many strengths. The number of educated people in Bangladesh is higher than that of other poor countries.
And Bangladesh is doing excellent in producing generic medicines which would pave the way for getting medicines at much lower cost.
"By exporting generic medicines to poor countries, Bangladesh can earn money and simultaneously people of those countries can save money," he opined.
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