The grim reality we are facing

Are we prepared to face the economic effects caused by Covid-19?


LAST week, a social media post — which showed a man resorting to selling head scarves at a gas station in order to buy diapers and milk for his children — tugged at the heart of many Malaysians. Even the most Herculean of men could shed a few tears.

The man had refused any donation and insisted on finding his own income, which had been hit hard due to the Movement Control Order (MCO).

It is tear-jerking and we are starting to see more such stories across the country.

People are being evicted for failure to pay their rent (as reported by The Malaysian Reserve), a delivery worker had to pick up and deliver parcels to retrenched staff and complaints by workers who were forced to sign a “voluntary resignation” letter. Many of these victims do not know where to turn to.

On social media, we are seeing more people stating that they have been retrenched, mostly from the tourism sector as more hotels inch closer to closure. All these occurred just slightly after three months since the first coronavirus case was identified in the country.

For those with freelance jobs, they are worried whether they will get payment for their last gig. For the roughly 2.6 million self-employed Malaysians, every day is a battle for survival.

Perhaps that is why a watermelon seller, whose video of him defying the local council officers became a hit online, decided to continue selling his produce within the compound of his house.

Because at the end of the day and in his own words, “who is going to look after him and his family’s livelihood?”

This boils down to the question, are we prepared to face the economic effects caused by Covid-19? This seems to be the question in the minds of many people as more employees kick the bucket and choose pay cuts and retrenchments. And the number of cases is piling up.

It has been 43 days since the implementation of the MCO. The public at large understands the need for it to be implemented.

The government, on its part, has responded by announcing a stimulus package to ensure that “no one is left behind” during this current crisis.

However, those who initially did not have to rely on the government’s aid may find themselves needing the BPN (Bantuan Prihatin Nasional).

According to Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, the government has received up to 3.26 million applications to date, where close to three million are new applications, while the remaining are appeal cases. This is on top of the 7.74 million eligible recipients who have received their payment.

The figure, judging from the current scenario, is expected to be higher as we enter the month of May.

Bank Negara Malaysia had also warned that the country’s unemployment in 2020 could rise to 4% or 629,000 individuals. In comparison, the unemployment rate was 3.7% in 2009 following the global financial crisis and 3.2% during the Asian financial crisis in 1998. But one must take note that Malaysia’s population was 21.56 million in 1997 against 32.2 million now.

Tengku Zafrul has assured that the government is working on comprehensive measures to rebuild the economy. After more than a month, what the people need is an assurance that they will be taken care of.

The people, especially those in vulnerable groups or about to fall into that segment, just want to see concrete and firm actions, and no delay in the implementation of the initiatives.

Hopefully, this economic recovery plan will be able to protect all Malaysians. Nobody should be left behind, especially when we are facing this pandemic together.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.