SMEs up­set with levy hike on tem­po­rary work per­mit

The Star Malaysia - - Nation - By ZAZALI MUSA zaza@thes­

JO­HOR BARU: The small and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs) say the in­crease in levy for the ex­ten­sion of tem­po­rary for­eign worker per­mit (PLKS) is an added bur­den.

How­ever, an­other busi­ness group here lauds any move to re­duce for­eign labour in the coun­try.

The found­ing pres­i­dent and im­me­di­ate past pres­i­dent of SME As­so­ci­a­tion of Malaysia, Teh Kee Sin, said the tim­ing of the in­crease was not right, given that SMEs were al­ready op­er­at­ing in a dif­fi­cult busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment.

“It’s like rub­bing salt into the wound as we have to deal with the weak­en­ing ring­git and un­favourable eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion,” he said yes­ter­day.

He was com­ment­ing on the gov- ern­ment’s move to in­crease the an­nual PLKS levy of RM1,850 to RM10,000 a year for those ex­tend­ing it for the next three years.

Last Wed­nes­day, the Hu­man Re­sources Min­istry said the ex­ten­sion for PLKS hold­ers would be­gin on Oct 1 but only for up to three years and the passes have to be re­newed ev­ery year.

The rule only ap­plies to for­eign work­ers in for­mal sec­tors such as man­u­fac­tur­ing, con­struc­tion, plan­ta­tion, ser­vices, agri­cul­ture, min­ing and quar­ries.

Teh also ques­tioned the ra­tio­nale be­hind the big jump in the PLKS as the for­eign work­ers were hired for 3D (dif­fi­cult, dirty and dan­ger­ous) jobs.

Teh urged the gov­ern­ment to en­gage with the SMEs when mak­ing de­ci­sions or poli­cies con­cern­ing SMEs.

“Given a choice, most of us will want to send our for­eign work­ers back af­ter three or five years, but can the gov­ern­ment guar­an­tee new for­eign work­ers for us?” he asked.

SMEs, he added, had to wait for months be­fore their ap­pli­ca­tions for new for­eign work­ers were ap­proved, adding that the wait­ing pe­ri­ods dis­rupted op­er­a­tions.

Mean­while, Jo­hor Indian Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent P. Si­vaku­mar said any mea­sure to re­duce the coun­try’s de­pen­dency on for­eign work­ers would be good.

He said the move should be on­go­ing as for­eign work­ers were de­priv­ing lo­cals of job op­por­tu­ni­ties as some em­ploy­ers pre­ferred to hire for­eign­ers.

“We have seen so many cases of for­eign work­ers be­ing abused by their em­ploy­ers, in­clud­ing long work­ing hours with low pay.

“This has to stop as work­ers should be treated equally, whether they are lo­cals are for­eign­ers,” he said.

The gov­ern­ment, said Si­vaku­mar, should con­tinue to give tax re­liefs and in­cen­tives to lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers to in­vest in au­to­ma­tion in their op­er­a­tions.

“Au­to­ma­tion is the only way for­ward for man­u­fac­tur­ers if they want to re­duce their de­pen­dency on for­eign work­ers,” he said.

He said the move could re­sult in bet­ter-pay­ing jobs for lo­cals, even­tu­ally re­duc­ing the out­flow of bil­lions of ring­git to mi­grant work­ers’ coun­tries.

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