LIKE other entrepreneurs in this country, those involved in the fishing industry are also facing challenging times. During a dialogue with fishermen associations in Perak organised by the Association for Community and Dialogue (ACID) that was also attended by the Human Resources Minister and officials from the Immigration Department, the fishermen pointed out that hiring of foreign workers was one of the main problems they encountered. They said that registering their foreign workers with the Home Ministry instead of the Fisheries Department, which was the previous practice, was taking a longer time as it involved health screenings and more documentation. They said it only took one day to register their foreign workers with the Fisheries Department.
The lag in the time taken to register foreign workers leads to loss of manpower which affects their income because it is based on their harvest of fish. Most locals do not want to work on fishing boats so their harvest would be reduced if they do not hire foreign workers, they said.
There is also a tendency for foreign workers to run away, so the high cost of hiring replacements has further weakened the industry.
It is vital for the government to resolve these issues. While it is understandable that immigration rules for foreign workers, especially pertaining to health and security, should be standardised, the authorities should also take into consideration the peculiarity of a particular industry.
Any delays in addressing the bureaucratic bottlenecks would affect the prices and affordability of fishery products for Malaysians. The presence of the middle man in the industry is already inflating the cost of fishery products in the market.
It would be appropriate for the relevant ministries and authorities (Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Human Resources and Home Affairs) to establish a joint committee to address the problems in the recruitment of foreign workers for the fishing sector.
Imbalance in development objectives where focus is on rapid urbanization, which has made professions such as fishing unattractive to the younger generation, was also discussed during the dialogue.
It is hoped that the Pakatan Harapan Government would look into addressing the imbalance in the economic development between urban and rural areas to motivate young Malaysians to participate in the fishing industry and other rural-based economic activities.
Association for Community and Dialogue