KUALA LUMPUR: The nation's heavy dependence on foreign labour leads to lower wage rates and the inability to escape the labour-intensive economy trap. Finance economics expert Prof. Dr. Hoo Ke Ping said one could draw on Singapore as an example. "In 1977, Singapore decided it would no longer be a labour-intensive economy. As a result, this created an excess in jobless workers that required retraining," he said at a forum on Malaysia's economic outlook for the second half of 2015, Hoo said between 1977 to 1980, foreign investments in Singapore dropped. "But by 1981 or 1982, their economy picked up and took off," he said. "The annual RM50 billion remittance outflow by foreign workers means our own wages will never go up," said Hoo, referring to the findings by the National Professorial Council on the effects of foreign workers in Malaysia on Dec 15. "This also means we will be economically stuck with cheap labour for a long time. With six million labourers in Malaysia, this could take a good 20 years to get out of this trap," Hoo said. Hoo said it was unlikely the nation would reach the Vision 2020 target at this rate. "I estimate by then, 80% of wage rates nationwide would still be below RM4,000 monthly." He concluded by observing that the companies with the best productivity rates are not Malaysian but multinational ones. The forum was organised by the Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall and was held at Wisma MCA. Also present was assembly president Datuk Dr. Chai Kee Kan, and panellist Lee Teck Meng, adviser to the Secretarial for Advancement of Malaysian Entrepreneurs (SAME) in the Prime Minister's Department.