KUALA LUMPUR: The freeze on the intake of foreign workers since mid-February has resulted in businesses losing some RM24bil, said Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pic).
The Deputy Prime Minister acknowledged that the ongoing freeze is not only hurting business in several sectors but also the Government's pockets.
"It is true that the lack of foreign labour in some sectors due to the freeze had resulted in losses.
"For example, in the plantation sector, the lack of foreign workers had resulted in RM2bil in losses due to fruits left unharvested," he said when answering a question by Senator Datuk Kadzim M. Yahya in Dewan Negara on Thursday.
Ahmad Zahid said the lack of foreign workers is causing adverse economic implications resulting in losses of RM24bil in business transactions.
"This is turn is resulting in the Government losing revenue from taxes," he added.
Owing to this, he said that flexibility was given to several sub-sectors where foreign workers intake was allowed, adding that 24 furniture manufacturers in Muar closed down because of a lack of foreign workers.
"Following appeals by the association there, we allowed them to hire foreign workers and are not subjected to the freeze," he said.
Ahmad Zahid also acknowledged that infrastructure projects in Klang Valley, namely for transportation, were also affected by the freeze.
"The matter was taken up in the Cabinet and a decision was made to exempt the infrastructure construction sector from the freeze," he said.
He said the Cabinet had approved for the setting up of a National Clearing House that will look at the immediate needs for the affected sectors.
He added the Human Resources Ministry, Economic Planning Unit (EPU) and several agencies are carrying out a study to determine the actual need for foreign workers according to their sectors.
"The findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Special Cabinet Committee On Foreign Workers which will decide on what best to do," he said.
To a supplementary question from Datuk Yahaya Mat Ghani, Ahmad Zahid said a total of 5,622 operations were carried out to weed out illegal foreign workers.
He said of the 91,075 workers checked, 27,369 were found to be without documents or abusing their work permits.
He added that a total of 32,803 illegal workers have since been deported.
He said that 662 employers were charged for hiring illegal workers while authorities had crippled seven syndicates involved in supply illegal foreign workers.
He said that 124,279 illegals workers were rehired under a rehiring programme as of June 13.