Where do we go from here?

pic by TMR FILE

THE prime minister of Malaysia has announced that the Conditional Movement Control Order is extended for another four weeks to June 9, 2020.

Continuing the effort to “flatten the curve”, the announcement is certainly a wise move to gradually transition Malaysians back to “normal life”.

The extension allows ample time for organisations and individuals to prepare and adhere to the standard operating procedures of working.

To date, more than 43% of the Malaysian workforce is back to work and the trend will move upward.

Unfortunately, many organisations had to make difficult and unpopular decisions to let go of their employees during this challenging time in the name of survival. According to the Department of Statistics, Malaysia’s unemployment rate is now the highest in a decade at 3.9%, but still relatively low compared to the level recorded at 7.4% in 1986.

The International Monetary Fund has projected Malaysia’s unemployment to spike to 4.9% for 2020, or in absolute value — approximately 750,000 jobless individuals!

Prior to the Covid-19 global pandemic, future-proofing focuses on the need to prepare the workforce to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0).

Jobs will be impacted, if not eliminated due to automation and artificial intelligence.

With the present situation now being coined as “The Great Lock- down” after the 1930s Great Depression phase, we all know that the intense decline in the global economy will need to be managed delicately using a play script that has never been used before.

Do we slow down the IR4.0 trajectory to keep jobs or do we ride the wave to accelerate the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce? Where are we going to find the declining budget or are organisations seriously ready to reallocate existing budgets to invest in their people?

Honestly speaking, I am no expert in giving a full-proof solution and all of us will have biases in giving the best options for this beloved country of ours.

For a start, countries will have to take stock of their current capability and capacity during this crisis before taking the necessary steps.

Malaysia is blessed to be a relatively young nation that has progressed well and weathered the storms along the way since we became independent in 1957. We should not take too long to plan for the future as I believe Malaysians are well known in coming up with masterplans and blueprints.

Let’s admit, we will need to improve on the execution bit, and this can only be achieved if we prepare the right talent for the right job. A thinker will struggle to be an executor, vice-versa.

Based on an independent research, almost nine out of 10 Malaysians today need to be upskilled to work in a digital environment.

When the 5G technology is to be rolled out across the nation eventually, the amount and speed of data can be overwhelming for many of us to manage. If data is to be the new oil, we will need to get our act fast and ensure that we are on the right track to shift smoothly from a productivity-driven nation to become a knowledge-driven nation.

There is no silver bullet to solve this problem, but it’s time for Malaysia as a nation to pray, plan and work towards a better place for us and our future generation. It is now about future-proofing Malaysia.

Farouk Abdul Khalid

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.