It is learnt on good authority that since his assumption of office in Malaysia on May 9,2018, prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad has expressed concern over methods of recruitment to the Malaysian labour market. He made a particular mention of Bangladesh saying that an organised circle (an euphemism for 'racket') has made it a monopoly business for themselves. As part of exploitative strangulation of the poor job-seekers, the exorbitant fees charged from them over the prescribed rates forced them into a debt-trap. In worse case scenario, even making them fall in a perpetual state of vulnerability and dependency!
Given this backdrop, the tougher step lately announced by the Malaysian special committee headed by Mahathir to the effect that recruitment from Bangladesh will be stopped from September 01, 2018, may not have come as a bolt from the blue.
But the unilateral nature of the announcement has been baffling; even though hints may have been dropped of the shape of things to come, a longer notice than a fast approaching September 01, would have been better appreciated. As far as we can understand, the operative word is not 'ban' or 'closure', but 'suspension' of the manpower import from Bangladesh until such time as the methods will have been recast. Let's recognise the fact that we have a common stake in reforming and streamlining a potentially mutually beneficial sector to maximise the benefits to the host and sending countries. So, from here on, we believe a consultative process would be pursued inter-governmentally as well as between private sectors to avoid unnecessary hiccups.
Having regard to the importance Malaysia holds for Bangladesh along with Saudi Arabia and some Middle-East countries as the top manpower export destinations, we want a speedy and sustainable solution to the issues of recruitment, payment, work environment and job and personal security.
It is worthwhile to note that from January to July this year i.e. in seven months of the ongoing year, 451,536 Bangladeshis went overseas for work. Of them, 159,577 went to Saudi Arabia while Malaysia received 109,562 employees.
An upswing was being observed in outflow from Bangladesh to Malaysia: In the years 2017, 2016 and 2015 the figures were 99, 787, 40, 126 and 30, 483 respectively. With Malaysia the trend hasn't been consistent with on-going off-going suspension and resumption. Yet, what makes one sit up and take note is the clamping of the fetter when the going was very good---crossing 109,000 mark till July of the current fiscal. In the remainder five months we need to pull up our socks and persuade the Malaysian counterparts to continue with the business on the basis of mutually agreed reforms.
Mahathir's reasoning behind the so-called 'closure' as detailed in the Malaysian daily "New Straits Times is worth going over in order to find a recipe for the impasse. He told newsmen, "The issues of unilateral break with manpower import and reducing the costs of sending workers are under discussion with Bangladesh government. Now only ten agents in Bangladesh can send workers to Malaysia-- this is a monopolistic process (we need to discard)."
The Malaysian prime minister elaborating on the point further said, "We should dismantle monopoly-we want to open the business to all Bangladeshi agents. Thereby competition will increase in the business and the export cost will be reduced."
Such a uniform recruitment policy has been proposed by the Malaysian Premier for Nepal and Bangladesh. Is the bracketing because of preponderance of unskilled or semi-skilled labour?
In an interesting postscript, may I add, that the ten-agent formula was introduced in 2016, and before that any recruitment agent in Bangladesh was free to send employees overseas.
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