I found this really sad:
An Indian man, who had life-saving brain surgery at the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), has gone missing, it was revealed yesterday.
The guy most probably needs further medical attention but because his stay in Bahrain has become illegal and he obviously continues to want to live and work here (maybe doesn’t have a choice but to do so) and as he knew that the hospital administration is required to hand over illegal aliens to the authorities, he chose to escape, even in his condition.
This is just sad and demonstrates the desperation that migrant workers get to in this country. Look at the current vehemently opposed law which requires outdoors workers to down tools for several hours at mid-day, although the construction barons oppose this law because they are looking after their bottom lines, it appears that some of the workers themselves are against this law because they will lose on the opportunity to earn some overtime pay.
These labourers generally cost contractors around BD1 (US$2.65) per day – this includes their pay, accommodation, sustenance, clothing and even end of service annuities and travel back to their countries. A large contractor I know – who employes some 6,000 of these labourers (the figure above was from him) – suggested that the forced siesta in July and August translates into additional costs which would lead to “huge losses for the country”. I think that statement is a gross over-exageration, but I agree with his suggestion that the forced break should have been based on the apparent temperatures rather than specific months in the year; otherwise, he argues, that all outdoors workers should have been included in the ban, including the police, drivers, etc.
That is just one example of the migrant workers’ suffering. The government has stepped in to protect them and naturally it found some resistance. I am not sure whether the government also considered the lost earning opportunities to the very people they are trying to protect, though.
On the positive side, this situation actually sets a long needed precedent, inadvertently – I grant you, but a good precedent – in that if laws were left to the business owners, they generally will take care of themselves first and foremost and some will do whatever is required to ensure a fatter bottom line at the expense of his or her employees. Therefore, standards must be set by governments which should encourage businesses to rise to a new level, then move the bar still higher and get them to catch up once again. This, if managed correctly, can improve our country’s competitive and efficiency standards which will be good for everyone.
What pushes government to put up these standards is either the community or a requirement to abide by international treaties and external pressures. Evidence of this is present aplenty, especially in the last few years. Look at the public outcry in the various environmental and political issues it have faced, in each one of those situations the government has had to respond by generally bending to the pressure and making good moves to respond to the demands.
The government now should continue to raise the bar and encourage businesses and the community to rise to the challenge. How it does that must be through complete transparency and accountability and the insurance that it will only select contractors based on non-traditional metrics like employee care, environmental and social responsibility. This will of course mean that the government itself will cease to base its contract award decisions on the lowest bidder principle and will accept that the cost of its contracts will necessarily be increased. That increase will only be justified (and encouraged!) if the company invests some of its profits back into its employees benefit programs as well as within the community.
The knock on effect of these programs are manifold; one of their benefits is situations like Mr. Arumugam’s would start to disappear.