MALAYSIA - A Government-to-Government (G2G) initiative is the best way to control the escalating costs of recruiting foreign help, says Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Malaysia has already signed a memorandum of agreement (MoU) with Bangladesh for direct recruitment of workers which has cut labour costs considerably and this may be expanded to other countries, he shares.
"We are looking at G2G initiatives to bring in foreign labour from other countries as a means to control the high fees currently charged (by agencies)," he says in a recent interview with Sunday Star.
He cites the Bangladesh G2G as an example, saying it has slashed the processing fees charged by agents per Bangladeshi worker from US$4,000 (S$5,064) to US$400.
"Malaysians will pay less for foreign maids if a similar G2G initiative kicks off," he opines.
Currently, some 1,000 Bangladeshi workers have been brought into Malaysia mainly for the plantation sector through the G2G initiative.
If the Bangladeshi model is successful, Malaysia plans to expand it to other source countries and sectors, including for domestic work, says Dr Ahmad Zahid.
On whether maid agencies will be made redundant by such initiatives, Dr Ahmad Zahid says they will still be needed to train and bring the foreign helpers into the country.
On the lifting of the ban on Cambodian maids, he explains that the MoU is still being finalised by the Cabinet and the Cambodian government.
"The MoU is with us but we cannot sign it without the Cabinet's go-ahead," he says, adding that the arrival of the first batch of Cambodian maids to Malaysia will depend on Cabinet approval.
In October, he announced that some 1,000 maids from Cambodia were expected to be available every month once the MoU between Malaysia and Cambodia on the matter was signed.
The ban was imposed by the Cambodian government in October 2011 following reports of abuse by employers.
There were about 30,000 Cambodian maids in the country before the ban was imposed, each receiving a minimum salary of RM600 per month.
Dr Ahmad Zahid says the MoU must be presented to the Foreign Workers and Illegal Immigrants Cabinet Committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
"We have to study it first although the Cambodian Government is ready to assist us.
"At the same time, we need to coordinate the resources we currently have and vet (the workers)," he adds.