Friday, May 9, 2008

Making estates provide housing by Azira

SHAH ALAM: All estate and plantation owners in Selangor must provide housing for their workers.The Selangor government is looking at this move as part of its effort to improve the welfare of the workers in the state which has 113 rubber and oil palm plantations.Selangor executive councillor for health, plantation workers, poverty and caring government Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar said the state government was in the midst of formulating regulations to help the lower-income group."Apart from that, the state government is also looking into introducing other measures so that the workers' welfare is being taken care of," he said.Xavier said the idea of making it mandatory for estate owners to provide housing to their workers was not new as it had been mooted before by the previous state government."It's a matter of coming up with the regulation and implementing it. In my opinion, it's high time to introduce it. Otherwise, the workers' socio-economic status and well-being will not improve," he said.Xavier said under the proposed regulation, plantation companies would have to either build workers' quarters or provide a plot of land within the estate for workers to build houses."This will help improve their living condition as they will have a roof over their heads and live together as a community," he said.Xavier said it may also be compulsory for plantation companies to offer their workers house ownership if the plantation companies want to develop the estate into residential projects."If the workers have that option, they will not have to run to the city and end up being squatters," he said.Although some companies are already providing workers with living quarters, Xavier said the state government felt it was necessary to make it mandatory to improve the workers' well-being."Moreover, companies should recognise the hard labour the workers put in over the years. Without the workers, the companies could not make money at all," he pointed out.Xavier said since the companies had been making profits because of the high prices of rubber and palm oil, they should reward their workers."It is a corporate social responsibility of sort for the companies by providing houses to their workers," he said. Xavier said the state government also planned to help educate the workers' children, and that Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim is interested in the matter."One of the plans is to enrol them in schools in urban areas. For this, we have to provide them hostels and financial support. We want to bring them out and turn them into useful citizens in the future," he said.Xavier added that the state government would also work with non-governmental organisations to help the children.

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