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MTEM: The Recovery Plan: Crucial Next 2 months

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I would like to applaud the Government for having a roadmap via Pelan Pemulihan Negara. We have heard many comments on this plan. Some are positive but many are negative due to the lack of details. But one must appreciate some details of the plan are being explained via different Ministries and MKN announcements, in the last few days. It is demotivating to read from The Economist Normalcy index that Malaysia is projected to be the last to recover from the pandemic among the 50 largest economies. We hope that the list will be updated in August when our daily vaccination rates are optimized, as announced by YB Khairy Jamaluddin, the Minister in charge of Vaccinations.

Nevertheless, having a road map certainly helps. It’ll provide us with a good basis to visualize the scenario on the intensity of lockdowns forthcoming, and the socio-economic impact implied.

More importantly, the roadmap will help us identify areas where boosting of additional resources in critical tasks and intensifying mitigation measures are needed – to correctly give insight, modify or compress the whole recovery duration – particularly phase 1 and phase 2.

The roadmap also highlights the clockwork nature of the strategy to squash the COVID-19 threat decisively. It requires military precision. In other words, the possibility of miss-step or margin of errors is extremely high. Time is not on our side. If they somehow happen it’ll be disastrous and will cost us months maybe even years to recover, to get back on track – as it may result in a 4th major and possibly a runaway spike, God forbid.

The economies of Europe and the US are recovering and currently only a few months ahead of us – maybe only two months. We must not panic to concede to all the demands of the export industries. The fear of the industries losing a few supply contracts does not warrant going overboard. The fact is the delta variant and now the Lambda Variant is also causing complication in these economies while they are opening up.

The recent lobby for the supply chain of MITI-approved industries and companies to be allowed to operate – imply the opening of probably 80% of the economy. This is insane and will only defeat the purpose of the lockdown. We just received news that more industries in the EMCO areas will now be allowed to open! News that will anger everyone else complying with the lockdown.

We invite the public to implore the Government to bite the bullet and go for a lockdown whenever necessary but make it count. It must be supported with targeted tracing and testing, while we push for an intense vaccination campaign within the next two months especially in the PKPD areas.

It is imperative for the sake of national health and economy that all factories, big or small, comply with the 446 Act which guides the basic minimum standards of workers housing is fully implemented/enforced.

Factories cannot and must not be allowed to operate until they comply with the 446 requirements fully. Failure of which will render all those who have sacrificed for the last 15 months, meaningless. They should be made to cease operations completely rather than be the cause of the undoing of the present EMCO. Those who may not be able to comply with the 446 quick enough should consider using the low occupancy budget hotels as an interim solution so authorities can track, test n trace effectively.

The Government is trying to ramp up the vaccination programme, to achieve an average of 300k doses per day daily in July and subsequently 450k doses per day by mid-August. And we must make sure migrant workers – regardless of their legal status are vaccinated too.

Mobilize all available resources to achieve this especially in manpower and vaccine delivery. It needs to be a whole of government approach. All hands on deck. Political interest or concern should be last on anybody’s mind. The latest contradiction between the MKN announcement and KPDNKK is an example that should not be repeated.

Unfortunately, the lockdown per the Recovery Plan entails total commercial inactivity of most SMEs and the informal sector and their sense of hope for the rest of the year. YB Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, the Minister of the Ministry of Entrepreneurship Development & Cooperative said 49% of MSME representing 580,000 businesses has the highest failure if the MCO continues by August, which may cause more than 7 million to be unemployed. Industries Unite representing 115 trade associations and chamber of commerce members representing an estimated 3.3 million businesses, said Malaysia is at breaking point, economically speaking and demand a new strategy to allow the opening of the economy sooner than later.

I had the pleasure of listening to the Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham for 3 hours twice. Once with the Malay Chamber of Commerce (DPMM )and another session with NCCIM to understand why some decision made or wasn’t made. I can vouch MOH are doing their very best.

Therefore, I would like the Government to consider enhancements within the next 30 days:

1. The Government must be ready to provide more economic or strategic assistance to b40, m40, micro and small business according to the phases. This time it must be designed to spur real economic recovery before we enter Phase 4. The strategy must be in place or the business would close down within the next few months.

2. Provide a real moratorium for all, interest-free, with a fixed minimum cost per loan, but not leave it to banks to decide, at least until all of us enter phase 4. What has been announced is “Indah khabar dari rupa”. It must include all other Credit, Leasing Companies. What has been offered is akin to rubbing salt to wound as only those who can afford will not accept the moratorium. In the end, it’s creating more debt from those affected by the pandemic, despite the Banks are making billions because of it, last year.

3. The moratorium must also be given to those who are in default. No foreclosure actions must be taken.

4. Consider more cash transfers to b40 and m40 for 6 months, and monthly food coupons to avoid wastage n leakages via many foodbank initiatives via public donation or from the allocation given to each Parliamentarian.

5. Consider Wage subsidy for SMEs for 6 months instead of 4 months n should not cover those in the T20 category.

6. The government must have a mechanism to continuously engage diverse stakeholders from experts, associations to the man on the street. at the moment, it is a vicious cycle of a government-knowsbest announcement, the rakyat channelling their collective anger on social media, followed by an embarrassing u-turn causing trust erosion.

7. Any opening up of economic sectors must be based on historical & scientific data, including which business, that which likely increase the spread of covid19. We can’t decide this based on the economic interest of a few at the expense of others.

The point is, we need to make sure that no one is left behind and our value as human life is not determined by the amount of GDP we contribute. The government need to show more empathy. we cannot take it lightly when some of our rakyat are surrendering by waving white flags and worse, taking their own lives. every life matter.

Recommendation by MOH must be given the utmost consideration, and supersede others, especially in deciding which sectors to open first, rather than based on which company has more employees or the value of their contract with their clients abroad. As stated by Tan Sri Noor Hisham, “ you can cheat MOH but you can’t cheat the virus”.

The government is advised not to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. The RM150 Billion latest “assistance” will mean nothing if doesn’t reach the people nor it will mean much if it is too little to matter or disbursed not promptly whatever the assistance is called.

We have much rebuilding and resetting to do in 2022 but let’s keep everyone alive and our public health situation under control for now before we prematurely start spending on IR4.0, 5G or any other stuff that guzzles up our current limited resources. One thing for sure, the gap between the rich and the poor will be wider, the deprivation will be more felt, and the wealth gap between races will be more glaring, as a result of this pandemic so more work needs to be done for Malaysia to achieve it’s true potential for all Malaysians.

Ahmad Yazid Othman
Senior Fellow
MTEM
8th July 2021

Tentang MTEM
Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu Bersatu Berhad (MTEM) adalah sebuah pertubuhan naungan, yang mewakili lebih dari 50 pertubuhan ekonomi Melayu bukan-kerajaan di peringkat kebangsaan, ketika ia ditubuhkan. Platform kebangsaan MTEM adalah yang pertama diwujudkan di Malaysia dan mewakili lebih dari 500,000 perniagaan Melayu. Untuk makluman, MTEM diasaskan oleh Dewan Perniagaan Melayu Malaysia (DPMM ) tahun 2011 dan dipengerusikan Presiden DPMM.

*The views expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Samudera.my*

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