By Adrian Chan and Joseph Kaos Jr
PETALING JAYA: It is unlikely that the hike in foreign worker levies will be deferred anytime soon because business groups have been told to propose acceptable fees for consideration.
No official decision was made with regards to the levy during a meeting between Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa and officials of the Home Ministry with representatives of 28 business associations yesterday.
The representatives of the associations argued against the hike, saying it was too large, too sudden and might have a negative impact on the economy.
Malaysia Wood Industries Association president Datuk Low Kian Chuan said that although the government side listened and understood the difficulties faced by industries, the Chief Secretary had said that he has a “mandate to disagree” with them.
Low said that as a means of alternate revenue, the groups also proposed that the Government review the process for the rehiring of illegal workers.
Master Builders Association president Matthew Tee said the groups were asked to propose how the Government could achieve its targeted revenue.
“The Chief Secretary told us to give a figure (for the revised levy). We have to come up with a consensus within 10 working days,” he said.
Tee said the Malaysian Employers Federation would set a date for the organisations to discuss and decide on the matter.
The amnesty programme should be made “transparent and less tedious”, he said.
“The number of illegal workers now easily numbers two million or more. If the Government wants money, this is a solution,” he said.
Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry deputy secretary-general Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok described the engagement as “extensive”, adding that organisation would hold another meeting with the Government early next month.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced a revision of levy rates for foreign workers when presenting the recalibration of Budget 2016 on Jan 28.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi later said the revision had been put on hold and that the Home Ministry would discuss with stakeholders before deciding.
Malaysian Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary-general Datuk Dr A.T. Kumararajah said the implementation of the new levy rates should not be rushed.
“The announcement to increase the levy was too sudden. We would prefer it if the Government sits down with us and discusses first. This is something that should not be implemented immediately,” he said.
Kumararajah suggested that the Government focus on the foreign worker rehiring programme before implementing the new levy rates.
“Through the rehiring programme, we are able to come up with the actual number of legal foreign workers in the country.
“Only then can we identify how many foreign workers we need,” he said.