The prospect of reopening Malaysian job market for Bangladeshi workers this year has become uncertain following the postponement of a meeting of the joint working group.
The meeting was scheduled for November 24-25.
There were high hopes among the government high-ups and stakeholders that the meeting would have led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries on the reopening of the labour market, which remained closed since September 2018.
"We are yet to get any information about a new date for the working group meeting. We hope that the meeting will be held soon," Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed told the FE on Sunday.
According to official sources, the Malaysian government is yet to approve the draft of the MoU. Besides, there are other complications such as present political situation in Malaysia. There is a rumour of a cabinet reshuffle in that country.
"And there might be a change in the human resources ministry, the custodian of the Malaysian job market. So, we cannot say anything about the developments right now," said a senior official who declined to be named.
After his visit to Malaysia last Month, Mr Imran said he was hopeful that the Malaysian government would take a positive decision after the joint working group meeting.
Referring to his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Human Resource Minister M Kulasegaran, the Bangladesh minister said the Malaysian government agreed to reopen the country's labour market for Bangladeshis at the earliest possible time.
In July last, after a meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah in Dhaka, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said he was optimistic that manpower export to Malaysia would resume in August 2019, as Kuala Lumpur is working on a "comprehensive understanding" to recruit Bangladeshi workers afresh.
But Amir bin Omar, secretary general of Malaysia's Human Resources Ministry, recently told the media that the tentative plan to sign a deal was postponed because the details of the deal had yet to be settled.
He said the ministry has also decided that it wants the full Malaysian cabinet to approve the deal before the two countries meet, rather than after, but still expects that it will be signed by early December, according to a report of the Voice of America.
"We are talking about who has to [pay], the employer or the employee, how much; that is the thing we need to discuss in detail," Omar added.
He said migrant workers would very likely still have to cover some of the costs, such as their travel. But he added that Malaysia was intent on taking most of the financial burden off their backs and to open up the recruitment process to more agencies.
"We want to leave it open to the market, but that is subject to our discussions with Bangladesh," Omar said.
Malaysia stopped allowing Bangladeshi migrant workers into the country last year in the face of huge criticism that a syndicate of 10 recruitment agencies were allowed to send workers from Bangladesh to Malaysia.
It was alleged by the rights groups that the migration cost shot up to nearly Tk 500,000 for a Bangladeshi worker due to the syndication while the actual cost was not more than Tk 200,000.
The syndicate was accused of making reckless profit through bribing a section of officials of the previous government of Malaysia led by then prime minister Najib Razzak.
Last month, officials of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) met the Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment minister and urged him to ensure that the labour market remains open to all its 1,200 members.
Many BAIRA leaders told this correspondent that the syndicate has again launched its efforts to create a monopoly market for them.
"The United States banned imports from Malaysian rubber gloves maker WRP Asia Pacific in October over suspicion that its factories were using forced labour, and other factories in the country were at risk of similar sanctions," according to a recent VoA report.
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