(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The Government should review and abandon the plan to create a RM360 million annual monopoly for the medical examinations of foreign workers by "privatisation" to Fomema Sdn. Bhd.
Such monopoly creation through the "privatisation" process, leading to increases in the cost of goods and services, is highly objectionable as a matter of principle and most inappropriate at this stage when the country is faced with an economic crisis with the government exhorting the people to tighten belts.
It is most shocking that once again, the public interest had been sacrificed by the creation of a monopoly for the medical examinations of foreign workers, which had been carried out completely without public knowledge and transparency.
The Malaysian public as well as the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), the employers and foreign worker agents were completely in the dark until the announcement by the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, last month that the government had signed a 15-year contract with Fomema to examine and monitor the health of foreign workers in the country.
Why couldn’t the whole question as to whether it is in the public interest to create a monopoly for the medical examination of foreign workers be submitted to public debate before a final decision is taken by the government, with Malaysians being allowed to give their views as to the pros and cons of such a move?
Fomema would charge RM220 per female worker and RM205 for each male employee, which are well above the current market rates ranging from RM130 to RM180 per worker, or even lower. Fomema’s managing director Dr. Haniffa Abdulla had said that the fee structure was fixed by the Government and the firm was not empowered to make any changes.
Why should the Cabinet fix a fee structure well above the existing market rates, when Cabinet Ministers should know that presently, private practitioners are charging much lower rates?
If there is any justification for the creation of a monopoly for the medical examination of foreign workers, it is to provide a fee structure well below existing market rates.
However, the Fomema will become the first "privatisation" of its kind which will replace existing services at much lower costs with a private monopoly which will impose higher fees and charges.
The profits Fomema stand to gain are not puny. Based on the estimated 1.7 million foreign workers in the country, this would mean an annual turnover of RM360 million of business.
The Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng said yesterday that the date for Foreign Workers Examination and Monitoring Agency (Fomema) Sdn. Bhd. to begin operations will depend on a report by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU).
Chua has failed to answer the first public interest question. Why should the medical examination of foreign workers be "privatised" by creating a monopoly, resulting in higher costs for goods and services. This is in fact an abuse of the privatisation process, which should lead to cheaper and better services through competition, but the reverse taking place here.
What we are seeing is not privatisation at all, but the blatant creation of private monopolies.
I call on Chua Jui Meng to present a White Paper to justify the public interest considerations for the creation of the Fomema monopoly for the medical examination of foreign workers’ and to put the whole issue to a vote by Parliament. I am sure there are MPs from the Barisan Nasional who must see that the creation of the Fomema monopoly is a retrograde step at a time when the country is going through an economic crisis.