NRP’s arbitrary threshold figures raise more questions

Construction industry and its supply chain forecast current stockpile for building materials will be depleted in 1 to 2 weeks

by NUR HANANI AZMAN & HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

MORE calls were raised by different bodies for the government to explain the decisions made under the National Recovery Plan (NRP) as Malaysia is still in its Phase 1.

The government stated that the country will move to the next phase of the NRP when its three main objectives are achieved.

These include daily Covid-19 cases recorded below 4,000 cases for seven consecutive days, having the rates of bed use in the intensive care units stand at moderate levels and 10% vaccination rates for populations that have received two complete doses.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that most health quarters want the government or the Ministry of Health (MoH) to explain why they have decided on the 4,000 figure.

“We don’t know how and why the next phase depends on cases reaching below 4,000. We don’t see the science behind it. Most public health (officials), medical experts and organisations also want the government or MoH to explain this matter.

“The number is arbitrary. It is not only dependent on the number of infections, but also the number and policy of tests done.”

He said if the government uses a technical appropriate approach, it would take more than two weeks or a month at least for cases to decrease below 4,000.

To date, only six states — Perlis, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Penang — have transitioned into Phase 2 of the NRP.

Various quarters have questioned Pahang’s inclusion into the list as the state still records higher infection rate than others.

Meanwhile, various industries have expressed concerns that these objectives will not only put economic activities on hold, it could also jeopardise people’s livelihood further.

Master Builders Association Malaysia president Tan Sri Sufri Mhd Zin said the construction industry and its supply chain at the moment are forecasting that the current available stockpile for building materials will be depleted soon, in about one to two weeks.

“As processes at quarries, manufacturing and warehousing sites are not allowed since the start of the third Movement Control Order (MCO 3.0) about one month ago, the industry is only surviving on existing stockpiles.

“If we cannot start producing new building materials now, even essential and critical construction works cannot go on, and the industry will eventually be put to stop,” he told TMR.

Since the implementation of MCO 3.0, only 19% construction projects were found to be operational out of the total inspected sites, according to recent statistic by Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia dated June 29.

Sufri said all classes of contractors from G1 to G7 will suffer if the lockdown continues as cashflow is one of the main issues faced.

“When there is no work for contractors, there will be no payment. If that happens, contractors are not even capable to pay for daily labour wages.

“Not only contractors, but the whole supply chain will be impacted financially and may not survive this current NRP or lockdown,” he added.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai expressed his concern about the uncertainty of achieving the NRP’s milestones before the essential economic sector list is expanded and workforce capacity is increased.

“FMM has proposed that instead of enforcing a nationwide lockdown, targeted lockdowns and prioritised vaccinations including via the Public-Private Partnership Covid-19 Industry Immunisation Programme should be carried out in states or areas with the highest number of infections.

“To minimise the impact on both the industry and economy, states/ areas where the cases are lower and under control should be allowed to operate without any distinction between essential and non-essential sectors,” he told TMR.

Additionally, the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason said food price hikes are negatively impacting consumers despite the NRP in place.

“Whether we like it or not, prices for processed food or ready-made food such as food from ‘mamak’ stalls have literally gone up by 30%. Daily food from the wet market such as vegetables and fish, the prices have gone up by 25% as well.

“The NRP does not take into consideration prices, its concern is on the number of Covid-19 cases, not prices. So, I do not see anything good for the consumers,” he told TMR.

He also noted that consumers are cutting down their budget to eat low quality food just to survive, especially the low-income group.

“For me, the government has to be more realistic and serious to address this issue. If they want to implement a lockdown, so be it, but don’t let people die. Do they want livelihood or saving lives?”

“To be very honest, the entire consumers’ life is being yo-yoed. People are helpless and many do not know where to go. Only a small fraction of people are enjoying their salaries and perks right now,” Marimuthu lamented.