The Malaysian Reserve

Nepal wants to reduce visa cost for workers coming to Malaysia

The visa-related cost is simply too high, says Kharel (Pic: TMRpic)

‘What used to cost 700 rupees just 5 years ago has now gone up to 18,000 rupees-19,000 rupees’

By HABHAJAN SINGH / Pic By TMR

Sometime in mid-May, Nepal slammed the brakes for its nationals planning to work in Malaysia, citing concerns of the exorbitant visa cost and the large number of complaints on how previous workers were treated.

Suddenly, manufacturers and security companies — two of the largest recipients of Nepali foreign workers in Malaysia — were dumb- founded as to how to get replacements for the workers who were returning. Things were just not moving at the Nepal end.

“I’m stuck. I have to replace at least half a dozen of my guards who have returned. We are unable to get the clearance from the Nepal side,” an owner of a Kuala Lumpur-based security firm told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

After a gridlock of a few months, there are signs that the flow is set to return to normal, provided both sides sign a long-pending memorandum of understanding (MoU) on how to manage these workers.

In mid-August, the Malaysian side indicated that they were making progress on that front.

“What used to cost 700 Nepalese rupees (RM25.66) just five years ago has now gone up to 18,000 rupees-19,000 rupees. The visa-related cost is simply too high.

“We need to reduce the exorbitant visa fees, and revoke or review the arrangement of the many out- sourced companies involved in the process,” Nepal chargé d’affaires/ deputy mission chief Kumar Raj Kharel (picture) told TMR in a recent interview.

The changes taking place in Nepal are tied to the emergence of the new government following the December 2017 polls.

It saw Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, a veteran communist leader, being sworn in as the 41st prime minister (PM) on Feb 15, 2018.

Oli, a 65-year-old communist leader who spent 14 years in jail for his advocacy of democracy, was elected as the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), or known as CPN-UML, in 2014.

In 2015, soon after Nepal’s Constituent Assembly promulgated the country’s new constitution, Oli became PM for 10 months, but was displaced when his governing coalition dissolved, reported The Diplomat.

In his second stint, the report said Oli is regarded as the most powerful PM in Nepal’s recent history as the Left Alliance, dominated by Oli’s CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), is going to dominate all of the country’s power centres.

“This new government has listened to the many complaints regarding recruitment of workers by manpower agencies, particularly in the case of Malaysia.

“They have promised, and they have the mandate. It cannot continue like before,” said Kharel.

After 2013, he said a number of private outsourcing companies were appointed by the Malaysian side to provide visa-related services.

“These included immigration security clearance, health checks, processing applications and processing data.

“These companies didn’t come all at once. They were introduced one after another,” he said.

Things are set to change on this front. The matter was deliberated by a high-powered Special Committee on Foreign Worker Scenario and Management in Malaysia, chaired by PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

At a press conference on Aug 13, Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran said an MoU — already approved by the Nepali government in principle — is in the pipeline.

That would be music to the ears of executives who have been struggling with their manpower needs since Nepal slammed the door for new worker renewals to Malaysia.

Some 500,000 Nepalis are estimated to be in Malaysia, both documented and undocumented, making Malaysia the top nation in terms of Nepali workers abroad.

The official figures, obtained by the embassy from the Malaysian immigration authorities last month, stood at 387,000, said Kharel.

“When it comes to foreign workers in Malaysia, we are second after Indonesia. Our numbers here are close to that of Bangladesh,” he said.

Nepali security guards are what most Malaysians see daily as they take up visible positions at guard posts of condominiums, residential areas and other buildings.

But there are actually more Nepalis working in the Malaysian manufacturing sector.

“The majority of them work in the big factories. One large manufacturing factory, for example, employs close to 4,000 workers from Nepal.

“The electronics industry in Malaysia is a major employer for Nepali workers,” he said.