KUCHING, Nov 5: Sarawak Bumiputera entrepreneurs have urged the government to consider issuing work permits to illegal immigrants to overcome the shortage of foreign workers in the construction industry.

Dewan Usahawan Bumiputera Sarawak (DUBS) president Abang Helmi Ikhwan said the construction and property development sectors were stifled by the lack of workers, as there were often delays in renewal of work permits and strict entry procedures into the state.

Since there were also reports of illegal workers at work sites, he said, the government should grant them work permits without the need of sending them home.

“We are aware that giving work permits to illegal workers may be sensitive, but at least this should be considered during this unprecedented economic crisis caused by the pandemic,” he told FMT.

Abang Helmi also urged the government to extend the economic stimulus package to the middle of next year to assist the cash flow of businesses.

He said the government should continue its aid packages and subsidies, and also increase allocations for Bumiputera SMEs.

“The government has been doing well in the fight against Covid-19 to protect the people’s health, but it also needs to be proactive to promote business activities.

“It should review the SOPs in certain sectors, where physical distancing can be relaxed, for example in restaurants and at food stalls and markets,” he said.

Abang Helmi said members of the chambers who had been badly affected by the epidemic included those in the tourism, and food and beverage industries, and operators of tuition centres and kindergartens.

Recently, Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg was reported to have said Sarawak was facing a shortage of 5,000 foreign workers in the construction sector, causing some major projects to be delayed by three to four months.

He said most of them had returned to their countries during the movement control order (MCO) period, and that many could not re-enter the state because of travel restrictions and entry procedures.


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