I AM quite relieved that the government has waived the visa fee, not visa requirement, for visitors from China.
Some quarters have clamoured for the government to waive the visa requirement for tourists from China. They claim that an estimated 98.19 million Chinese spend their holidays overseas and Malaysia is ranked 10th most popular destination amongst them.
Not surprisingly, these are tour operators and tourism players. So they stand to gain the most from any waiver of visa requirement.
While I generally welcome tourist dollars, we must strike a balance. In our desire for money, let us not compromise security and our values. Tourism may create jobs, but for whom, Malaysians or foreigners? It will be the greatest irony for Malaysia to waive the visa requirement to attract foreign tourists to create jobs for foreign workers.
I have no qualms about China tourists, but I am concerned about China dolls and masseurs on tourist passes. In Kuching the local blind masseurs are up in arms as their sole means of income and subsistence is threatened by the explosion of massage and health centres that employ foreign masseurs.
Real tourists do not simply decide to travel to a foreign country on the spur of the moment. It will take a few weeks of family budgeting and planning. There is more than enough time to apply for a visa. Of course, we must make the process as simple and convenient as possible. We must implement online applications so that there is no need to apply in person at the Malaysian embassy.
The most sustainable way to attract tourists is to provide a wholesome experience and enjoyable holiday with typical Malaysian hospitality, offer good value and most important of all, safety.
Our country is already at breaking point with six million foreign workers, and I shiver to think whether we can accommodate 98 million Chinese tourists.
Apart from the visa fee waiver, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak also announced several measures in a measured response to the global economic uncertainty.
I welcome the move to suspend the National Service training. I have never been convinced with the effectiveness of the programme.
Apart from providing contracts to the training centre operators, the half-baked programme is only for those selected, has no follow-up training and nobody knows what happens to the trainees after they leave camp.
We should abolish it and replace it with a compulsory real national service like Singapore and South Korea. I think there is a strong correlation between the national service and the economic and national development of these two countries. They were at the same level with us in the 1980s, now they are high-income and developed countries. Incidentally Taiwan, another Asia Tiger, also has compulsory national service.
This real national service is a very strong unifying factor and would also address the racial disparity in our Armed Forces, not to mention bring about much-needed discipline.
I am also happy that the government is seeking to reduce RM5.5bil in operating expenditure. When Budget 2015 was first announced in Parliament I lamented that more than 80% is spent on operating expenditure.
Here I am not bemused by Cuepacs’ call on the government not to let the cuts affect overtime claims by civil servants,
Overtime is work over normal hours. If there is no additional work to be done, then there should not be overtime claims. With 1.4 million civil servants, I don’t see much need for overtime work, apart from a few critical agencies, and if manpower resources are better utilised.
I am in agreement with Cuepacs that we should integrate certain government agencies and ministries to avoid overlapping of tasks to save more money. In fact, we must go further and start reducing the number of ministers and ministries.
We just have too many ministries that actually hamper efforts to make the civil service more efficient. We even have more ministers than India with its 1.25 billion population.
We should merge the following 10 ministries into five – Transport with Works; Communications and Multimedia with Science, Technology and Innovation; Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government with Federal Territories; Plantation Industries and Commodities with Agriculture and Agro-based Industries; and, Energy, Green Technology and Water with Natural Resources and Environment.
I earnestly hope that the proposed review of the levy on foreign workers is aimed at reducing foreign workers, not increasing them.
Foreigners were involved in more than 9,000 criminal cases in the country between January and August last year, including more than 160 murder cases, according to Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi.
The 167 murder cases involving foreigners represented 49% of the 338 cases.
Of the 9,000-odd criminal cases, more than 2,300 were serious crimes and more than 7,000 involved property. Foreigners also contributed to the bulk of armed robbery cases. The threat is real.
To promote efficient governance and in view of the serious issues of foreign workers, security and corruption, the Prime Minister should not be the Finance Minister but the Home Minister, as in the tenures of our first two prime ministers.