‘Some prefer help in cash and kind over working locally’

A majority of the people waiting for handouts in Johor Baru city centre are not actually homeless, but those who lost their jobs in Singapore and were forced to return to Malaysia due to the pandemic, says a state executive councillor.

According to Johor investment, entrepreneur development, cooperatives and human resource committee chairman Datuk Mohd Izhar Ahmad (pic), some of the people who lost their jobs in Singapore had refused to work in the state because of the lower pay.

Although the border remained closed because of the pandemic, they still preferred to wait for a chance to work in Singapore because of the stronger currency, he noted.

He highlighted that there were more than 1,000 jobs available in various industries in Johor.

“I met with the management team of Tanjung Pelepas Port recently and they told me they were looking for about 200 people to fill their vacancies.

“About half of those on the streets are not actually homeless, they just do not want to take up local jobs. Others are drug addicts or have family problems.

“No company here can pay them the same amount as what they earned in Singapore and it is unfair for them to have such expectations towards local companies, ” he told StarMetro.

Mohd Izhar advised the unemployed not to be picky and to adapt by getting a job here, instead of taking handouts while waiting for the border to reopen.

He said it was not wrong for the public to hand out free food daily but their generosity had caused the number of people relying on these handouts to mushroom, tarnishing the image of the city centre.

He added that enforcement by local council was needed to prevent the situation from worsening.

A check on the Human Resources Ministry’s job listing site showed that there were 2,960 vacancies available throughout Johor as of Jan 18.

The vacancies included jobs in construction, food and beverage, information technology, manufacturing, logistics, administration, sales and engineering, with many only requiring primary and secondary school qualification.

Meanwhile, Johor women, family and community development committee chairman Zaiton Ismail said many of the “homeless” individuals in the city had a place to stay and would usually collect food packs from the known areas at certain times of the day to take home.

“Some of them even take the bus from Larkin and Pasir Gudang, which is some 23km away, just to wait for free food given out by NGOs daily, ” she said.

She stressed that the state government, through the Welfare Department, had helped to place 248 of these individuals at a temporary shelter in Kulai during the MCO.

“I have also proposed to Johor Baru City Council to build a homeless transit centre to help these individuals and keep them from loitering in the streets.

“The Welfare Department and Darul Ta’zim Family Development Foundation under my portfolio do not have special allocations for this purpose, ” she explained

She added that shelters in Kuala Lumpur and Penang were also under the purview of local councils.

Zaiton also urged NGOs to coordinate efforts with the Malaysian Red Crescent Society or National Welfare Foundation before handing out food packs to the needy in the city.

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