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Date [ 2013-12-02, 05:21 ]

Once again the state switches to a weekday/weekend off.


(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) by Ramani Rathir = Johor’s weekend will no longer be Saturday and Sunday, but more of the Islamic observation of Friday and Saturday. These rest days will come into effect from next year, and thus ending two decades of having weekends as its British colonial masters had.

The decision by Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Sultan Iskandar, when announced did not cause much surprise. A document from a state government meeting leaked out to the Internet recently, had information on the weekend change. .

The new weekend in Johor, Malaysia's third most industrialised state after Selangor and Penang, will start on Jan 3, 2014... "The decision was made following feedback from various quarters to allow Muslims to perform their religious obligation on Friday in a more peaceful manner," Sultan Ibrahim announced in a speech to celebrate his 55th birthday.

However, Johor Menteri Besar, Mohamed Khaled Nordin declared the private sector had the option of following the state government  to continue to observe Saturday and Sunday as rest days. "I don't think with current rapid technological development, a switch in weekends will have a huge effect on the state's economy," he maintained.

Only three of Malaysia's 13 states - Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah, which have Malay majorities - now, observe Friday and Saturday as rest days. Nearly 60 per cent of Johor's 3.4 million people are Muslims and so it has acceded to the majority’s request. They had back-ups as Parti Islam SeMalaysia, which approved a motion at its Congress to support the Sultan of Johor's move.

Before 1994, the state's weekend followed the Muslim calendar, with work days from Sunday to Thursday. But the policy was changed by then Menteri Besar, Muhyiddin Yassin, now and the Deputy Prime Minister, to make the business environment move in tandem with international business circles and be more attractive to foreign investors.

Some opposition state assemblymen have voiced concern, saying the move would dampen business, especially in the new massive Iskandar economic zone which is aimed at attracting foreign investments from many countries, including Singapore. Johor took in RM6.6 billion (S$2.6 billion) of a total of RM18.8 billion of foreign investment for Malaysia from January to August this year, the most for any state.

It is unclear if banks based in Johor and international school students in Iskandar will be affected by the move.

In Singapore, Esther Koh, 57, an assistant teacher, expressed concern about the impact on travel to Johor, where she goes once a month to shop. "If I go on Fridays, there's already a big jam at immigration and service is very slow."

 The change could also affect Keith Toh, 28, a Malaysian engineer who commutes to work in Singapore from Monday to Friday. "My wife works as a vet at a clinic in Johor Baru, so if she has to work on Sundays then it may be difficult for us to enjoy a full weekend off together," he explained.

But Masdor Ramli, 41, a taxi driver from Batu Pahat, welcomed the change."This is good news as everyone won't have to rush around on Friday... Under the present system, rhey have to go to the office, then run to the mosque, have a quick lunch and then go back to the office."

Legoland is rather upbeat about the weekend implementation. A spokesperson emphasized,” The new weekend will draw more visitors from Johor  on Friday and when they return, others, especially the Singapore crowd will fill in the gap. In effect our weekend has been extended by another two for a total of four days.”

But on the flip side, Singapore feels the switch could lead to higher manpower costs, which could in turn lead to higher prices for consumers.

The Singapore Fruits and Vegetable Importers and Exporters Association feels  goods from Johor Bahru may end up costing slightly more..This is because workers will still need to work on Fridays to meet demand in Singapore, and so they would ask for overtime pay.

The same concerns are also expressed by logistics companies, “Drivers will now have to be recalled on their rest days,” a haulier  declared. .He felt the challenge would be in coordinating work times and logistics, as the new rule kicks in just a month before the Lunar New Year and when the Chinese take a long break. Some up to 15 days, leading up to the festival of Chap Goh Mey.

Dave Ng, chairman of Singapore Transport Association, said: "We are already used to working five and a half days. Now we have to convince people to complete a  full week of work.. One alternative is to get different colleagues to come in for the first six months and see how these things go, Hopefully we will be able to adjust fast and make sure service is not affected."

abc@koreanpress.net

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