Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s remarks about subsidies when addressing delegates at the recent Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) conference demand serious examination.
He said that foreigners who work in Malaysia are also benefiting from government subsidies meant for locals.
The country is under attack from economic forces. We are backed into a tight corner. The government is now finding its coffers depleted so much that financing subsidies to provide relief to the people has become an enormous challenge.
The prime minister’s statement – that foreigners are benefiting from government subsidies – reveals two truths.
One, the population of foreign workers (documented or otherwise) in the country is so large that even subsidies are being put on the line.
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Two, from a human rights and humanitarian perspective, it is heinous to now marginalise the very foreigners who slogged to build the Malaysian economy on dirt-cheap wages and dehumanising living and working conditions over the last four decades.
Despite the PM’s admission, one of his cabinet member was out on a canvassing trip overseas to secure even more cheap labour.
And so the uncontrolled dependency on cheap, exploitable imported labour continues. The claim is that Malaysians shun so-called “3D jobs” (dirty, difficult and dangerous) and that the private enterprise will collapse if not for cheap labour.
In reality, such imported labour has fattened the purses of certain party and individual leaders. It has also enabled many well-connected businesses to get listed in record time or to reap multi-billion-ringgit profits.
We celebrated all these with the laurels of a ‘progressive Malaysia’. But the truth is our nation’s leadership over the years has failed. It has gone so awry that in the face of global challenges, the country is buckling.
Why and how? The words are on everyone’s lips. It is widespread corruption fuelled by unbridled greed. Greed for power. Greed for overwhelming control. Greed for short-term, quick and ugly profiteering.
We have deviated from the fundamentals of good and clean governance for far too long.
Today faced with global supply chain disruptions, war, geopolitical manoeuvring and pandemics, many weak and corrupt governments are collapsing – victims of their own doing.
In contrast, cleaner, more equitable nations are operating as in the expression “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
If people do not wake up to truth but remain hooked to failed policies and grand corruption, it could lead us to long-lasting paralysis.
The coffers are drying up so fast that Ismail is worrying about how to stretch the subsidies – and even conveniently blaming migrant workers for swallowing a chunk of them.
If this is not an imploding disaster, what is?