Visiting Australian MPs; TPPA Caucus Meeting
This is an update of events in the last two days.
On Monday I was invited by Hannah Yeoh to the Speaker’s office in Shah Alam to help her meet and greet three visiting Australian MPs. YB Gan Pei Nei was also there to help out. Hannah chaired the meeting and briefed the visiting MPs of the work and reforms that she has introduced in Selangor in the last two years. I left the meeting sincerely impressed by her work and feeling very hopeful for the nation. Whilst most of us talk of reforms, Hannah has used her position of power to actually implement reforms. As long as we have sincere and hardworking leaders like her, Malaysia has a future.
With YB Hannah Yeoh, YB Gan Pei Nei and visiting Australian MPs from both the Labor and Liberal Parties
After that I went to Parliament for a special TPPA Caucus briefing by the MITI Minister Mustapha Mohamed. I have said many times that Mustapha is very capable minister. If half of the cabinet is of his calibre, Malaysia will be a much better country. We may argue over positions on the TPPA but most of us from the TPPA Caucus cannot deny that he is hardworking and receptive of ideas. This is probably the Caucus’s 8th or 9th meeting and over time MPs from both sides have gotten to know each other better. So this meeting was particularly lively with Charles Santiago, Michael Jayakumar and myself from the Opposition engaging BN MPs of Jasin, Putatan and Kota Tinggi on all matters economic. With the current economic crisis, both sides were able to calmly discuss the causes and what possible actions need to be taken. Again, the meeting somewhat energised me because it appears that in times of crisis, a bipartisan approach is still possible to save the country.
MITI Minister, Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed
On Tuesday, I was invited to a long lunch with bankers and senior economists. We discussed politics and economics. I raised an issue with a senior economist seated next to me, regarding the Filipino workers in my neigbourhood Japanese Udon place. The entire Filipino cooking crew of 7 persons are leaving to go back to Manila because the Ringgit has lost considerable grounds (around 30%) against the Peso.
At a policy level, we have been urging the BN government for years to slow down and reduce foreign labour inflow, especially for the urban jobs. The deep availability of foreign workers has been a hindrance to automation and up-scaling of our industrial capabilities. But as we all know, the vested interests of agents and politicians to keep the inflow of foreign workers trade alive are just too strong.
However since the sudden depreciation of the Ringgit has caused a sizeable Filipino workforce to contemplate leaving, Malaysia could potentially face a massive workers crunch in the coming months. Instead of having a planned policy to reduce foreign workers, the Ringgit has now delivered a crisis to our doorsteps. In other words, besides inflation caused by rising import costs, we have been caught unprepared by an additional unintended consequence of the falling Ringgit. I fear that this phenomenon will further negatively impact the Ringgit with capital flight (as Filipinos take out all their money and convert to Peso) and cause major disruptions in industrial and services output.