by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
THE federal government should mitigate the business uncertainty to safeguard local jobs and alleviate investors’ concerns, said the Pakatan Harapan Economic Committee.
The economic committee urged the Perikatan Nasional (PN)-led administration to reset its Covid-19 pandemic management and approach, which heavily rely on disruptive sweeping lockdown measures.
The committee also calls for the administration to move towards a more targeted approach centred around systematic identification and containment.
“This shift in strategy would inject a degree of certainty and pave the way for gradual reopening of economic activities, thus, safeguarding jobs as well as allaying concerns by the investor community.
“Numerous investor groups namely the Japanese Chamber of Trade and Industry Malaysia, Malaysian Dutch Business Council, and Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry have called upon the government to reassess standard operating procedures (SOPs) that not only disrupted operations but also failed to control virus transmissions,” it said in a statement yesterday.
In response to several letters from foreign business groups, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) said the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and its agencies are currently drafting alternatives and refinements to current standard operating procedures (SOPs) governing businesses.
Mida told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that these recommendations are expected to be presented for approval to the National Security Council, which oversees and directs all Covid restrictions. including the MCOs.
“The issues mentioned are being actively looked into and monitored by MITI and its agencies.
The economic committee also deemed Malaysia’s international trade visits “pointless” should the domestic fundamental problems are not being resolved.
“It is pointless for the International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali to embark on trade visits overseas if he and the entire PN administration do not immediately address these fundamental issues which could potentially drive away existing investors.
“Clearly, successfully managing workplace transmission is an important precursor to reopening Malaysia’s economy across all sectors responsibly.
“It is time to move past the arbitrary distinction between ‘essential’ and ‘nonessential’ sector types as even essential services can be hotbeds of virus infections,” it said.
The committee said sectors with low transmission incidence should be gradually opened distribute the resources to assist other businesses to mitigate transmission at their premises to ensure they can resume operations in a ‘new-normal’.
“We have to start adopting a more scientific assessment in accordance with the risk of transmission.
“Pre-emptive risk assessment means SOPs should focus on improving air quality and ventilation in indoor spaces as well as treating outdoor spaces as low risk with adequate social distancing and crowd control measures
“We repeat our call for the government to increase investments in strengthening Malaysia’s healthcare capacity and “pandemic-proofing” workspaces to ensure continuity of economic activities,” it said.
Other measures include government investment of at least RM15 billion in pandemic-proofing economic grants and soft loans, matched with appropriate tax incentives to immediately “pandemic-proof” workplaces, factories and workers’ quarters.
The committee added that the government should introduce a mandatory periodic subsidised testing regime at workplaces to ensure early containment of any potential outbreaks while increasing investment to strengthen the capacity of our healthcare system to deal with the Covis-19 virus and its variants.
“We should have learnt our lessons from all our prior ‘lockdowns’ that the fight against Covid-19 will never be resolved with simplistic lockdowns.
“That is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. Thus, we must do everything we can to enable us to live alongside this pandemic and survive in the long run,” it said.