Viewpoint: Government Must Control Influx Of Foreigners

This article was extracted from Datuk Zaid Ibrahim's blog.

With Merdeka in the offing, I wish to invite all caring Malaysians to reflect on and discuss a very important subject. For me to get your full attention, please forget about the usual sensational but inconsequential stuff: the Sodomy 2 trial, the Christian “conspiracy”, Muslim-Malay unity, MCA-Gerakan rivalry, Perkasa vs DAP, etc...

I just want you to focus on the impact of foreign workers (both legal and illegal) in our country.

We have been told for many years to dream, to believe that Malaysians can rule the world (Malaysia Boleh!) and that success can be manufactured and conjured very quickly. That’s why we have the Twin Towers and the advent of instant millionaires. The towers were built by foreign workers. Even the architects, designers and contractors were foreign. But never mind: the towers are our success. We also have a national car which we have spent billions of ringgit on, but which we are now struggling to keep it afloat. Which part of Proton is “national” is hard to say. But we claim that it too is a symbol of our success. Symbols are enough for us.

The physical development of the whole country – from the cities to the plantations,the domestic and services sectors, and the construction and manufacturing plants – is all built upon the toil of foreign workers. Malaysians have hardly played any part in the development of these industries except as capitalists, managers and commission agents. So we can hardly say that after all these years, Malaysians are now ready to play a significant and meaningful role in the development of the country. It stretches credulity to say that we are now self-reliant, that we are merdeka and can determine our own future. On the contrary, we remain dependent on foreigners, foreign workers and foreign capital. Yet every August, we only talk of the Malayan Union and loudly proclaim Merdeka.

Not only do we remain dependent, we have no policy to address the larger macroeconomic issues on how to keep wages high and how to keep Malaysians productive so they become the real workforce to build the country. It’s acceptable to have foreign workers to complement efforts to develop the country, but surely we cannot be dependent on them. It’s amazing how such an important issue has not attracted the attention of our policymakers. We would rather not address difficult issues, just popular ones. We see this with our habit of giving duit raya to please civil servants or FELDA workers instead of finding real measures to increase productivity and wages across the board.

Endemic corruption has now led to there being more illegal foreign workers inMalaysia than legal ones. As of last Friday, a registration exercise has revealed 2,088,358 foreign workers, over half of whom – or 1,135,499 – are illegal. The impact of the influx of foreigners of this magnitude is not difficult to comprehend. There will be a huge depletion of resources for housing, medical care and other facilities. Our social environment will change – has changed – for the worse. Our security and quality of life will be severely compromised. We could have used our depleting resources for Malaysians but now we will have to share with these foreigners. The cost of medical care, education, housing and transport will skyrocket. Poor Malaysians will suffer.

Yet these foreigners will continue to repatriate billions of ringgit out of the country every year. There will be a massive impact on crime, prostitution and drug use, not to mention a proliferation of human slave trade as more and more people want to come here and more agents will be required to process them. That will lead to even more corruption as the officers have to be taken care of to allow for these workers to remain. The cycle goes on and on.

So the prognosis is not good for Malaysia. We can only overcome the endemic problems of foreign workers if we have a Government that is committed to finding a long-term solution to the problem. That’s the real issue here: we seem incapable of seeing things with a long-term view. We seem more interested in instant success and instant gratification. Only the people of this country can change this outlook, by voting for leaders who care enough to identify the real problems facing the people and who are willing to prescribe the correct medicine for the country’s malaise.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Catholic Lawyers Society Kuala Lumpur. CLS makes no representation concerning, and does not guarantee the source, originality, accuracy, completeness or reliability of any statement, information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented.

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