Local workforce just as good, says Malay group

PETALING JAYA: The Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM) has defended the local workforce, saying China companies must develop smart partnerships with locals in Malaysia.

MTEM CEO Ahmad Yazid Othman said China couldn’t have its way as national interests needed to be considered.

He was responding to a report quoting Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) director Laurence Todd as saying China firms may not opt for local labour given their apparent lack of skills or capacity for large-scale projects.

He said local firms and workers were not suited to the practices and general working culture of China contractors, including their working hours and efficiency.

He also claimed local SMEs tend to be in a weaker financial position when compared with China companies, especially when it comes to construction projects.

Yazid said it could not be denied that China had more advantages in terms of financing and skills, adding that its work culture was a given.

He also said he understood the preference for China contractors or sub-contractors but that this should not be an excuse for them not to hire local companies or workers and only to hire China firms.

“There must be ways to convince and encourage them to have a partnership with the local workforce.

“Let’s learn from South Korea. During the early days, they were just starting to develop. They brought in foreign partners and from there developed their nation by learning from others.

“That is how we should also be learning from these China firms.”

Mokhtar Samad, president of the Malaysian Malay Contractors Association, also defended the skill sets of the local workforce, saying comparisons between an advanced economy like China and “a learner” like Malaysia would be unfair.

He claimed China was bullying Malaysia in its local mega projects as it was doing these “all by itself”.

“The least they can do is let us become suppliers and use our local workforce to work with them,” he said.

“It is disappointing when the China companies have an unfair advantage over us when it comes to their projects in Malaysia.

“Instead, China should consider being partners with us. This will allow us to gain useful experience.”

Mokhtar said China firms should not compare their workforce with Malaysians as work cultures differed from country to country.