It is puzzling that over the years, ministries in charge of human resources, environment and water have not been seen as strategically critical agencies.
Even the Ministry of Health has only been seen as critical currently due to the Covid crisis.
The human resources and environmental portfolios have become critical to the nation since the government embraced efforts toward the UN sustainable development goals.
Goal number 8 promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work that stresses the importance of participation of the labour force while goal number 11 is to make cities inclusive, resilient and sustainable, which requires a green strategic vision.
If Malaysia is to take current economic trends seriously, it needs to give both the ministries of human resources and the environment strategic importance. This requires ministerial candidates who are highly knowledgeable and competent.
We are facing international censure currently on allegations of forced labour due to the poor foresight of human resources ministers over the decades. They have often failed to act against errant employers who mistreat their migrant workers and make them live in congested homes.
The Ministry of Home Affairs was given the final say on the recruitment of foreign workers. This saw low wages for workers and a lack of initiative among small and medium industries to move up the value chain since they have been comfortable with the abundance of cheap labour.
We have yet to rectify the basic International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 on freedom of association. Our industrial relations system seems to be broken down since the Covid pandemic, where labour issues have seemingly been placed in the periphery.
Meanwhile, the ministry responsible for the environment and water needs to collaborate with the ministry responsible for trade and industry on a transition strategy towards green energy and a circular economy. We need more companies to produce environmentally friendly products. Pollution and climate change in the country should be addressed comprehensively.
The government and NGOs have launched several awareness campaigns and have, for example, a goal of moving towards zero-use plastics during the period 2018-2030. The question is, has this awareness reach the communities in their living areas? Do we have compulsory nationwide containers in all residential areas to store used products and materials for recycling?
Therefore, the Association for Community and Dialogue urges the prime minister to strategise and upgrade the two ministries to give them more prominent roles in contributing towards achieving the targets for the nation’s sustainable development goals. – New Straits Times