Balancing between lives and livelihood

There is no such thing as a non-essential industry, as all parts of businesses require each other to collaborate

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE government needs to formulate a survival plan that would strike a good balance between saving lives and livelihood and not just wait until 70% of the population are inoculated with Covid-19 vaccine before the economy can be totally opened up.

Business Survival Group (BSG) pro tem advisor Datuk Wira Haji Dr Ameer Ali said if everything remains the way it is until March next year, “all livelihood in the country would be dead”.

“If right now we are all barely surviving, with only 40% capacity that is incapable of breaking even — which requires 70% — then within that period, a lot of us business owners big and small would be gone.”

BSG also views Health DG Tan Sri Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s statement that the country can only consider reopening borders once 70% of the population is vaccinated as unrealistic.

Ameer said the argument that there is no such thing as a nonessential industry, as all parts of businesses require each other to collaborate.

BSG pro tem president Datuk Abdul Malik Abdullah said while the current fear and over-cautiousness is understandable in the stance of security, there is a need to reconsider livelihood over life.

“Right now, a lot of businesses are in the ‘nyawa-nyawa ikan’ stage, which is barely even surviving as we see it.

“Eventually, there will come a point that if we are too cautious with our lives, we’d miss out on the livelihood — which affects families, their survival and the mental health of everyone involved,” he told the media in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Ameer said a lot of the industries have to rely on each other to survive, and even if only one is running, the benefits would trickle onto the rest.

Abdul Malik said the statement of having to wait for 70% of the population to be vaccinated is not a balanced strategy.

“We can’t open most sectors and we restrict travel. The economy is a continuous value chain and not an isolated ecosystem.

“We support all the measures taken by the government but we cannot emphasise the economic impact of prolonged bans that will be devastating to many livelihoods.”

Abdul Malik said considering livelihood versus lives should be the principle that is adopted by the government, as the argument for lives is being mitigated with the arrival of the vaccine.

“As such, we are urging the government to allow inter-district and interstate travel immediately, but they can keep any localities that are high-risk closed.

“Employ a targeted Enhanced Movement Control Order for localities, areas, districts, states or even regions between green and red zones.”

He said the government should employ empirical data guided by a multitude of strategies to manage the pandemic instead of using generalisation as the benchmark.

“Use the ‘whole-of-government approach’, which is the Emergency Ordinance which allows for the use of private hospitals and general practitioners to do 30% of the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) to reach herd immunity faster.

“Similarly, there should be an expedition of vaccination cover to a shorter time than planned under the NIP.”

Ameer said it is understandable that the government has taken on a more cautious stance, but a balanced view is still needed moving forward.