Compliance with social distancing measures depends on how long people expect them to last
by S BIRRUNTHA / Pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
THE government should practice clarity and consistency in standard operating procedures (SOPs) in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
Centre for Market Education fellow and Bait Al-Amanah economist Benedict Weerasena said the government has to also practice strong enforcement against any double standards.
Most of all, he added, it should understand people’s expectations of SOPs.
Citing an example from the past, Malaysians still succumb to panic buying whenever the government announces new restriction measures and SOPs to contain the spread of the virus.
He noted that this is an example of an unintended consequence when an SOP is planned without considering human behaviour.
“I think it is all about people’s expectations. For instance, compliance with social distancing measures really depends on how long people expect them to last.
“If I as an individual expect that the social distancing measures are going to last for like six months, it is going to leave me in fatigue or make me lethargic because we cannot be trapped in the house for that long.
“So, it is high time for the government and policymakers to consider human behaviour in designing these SOPs moving forward,” he said in a webinar session titled “Webinar Negara: Essence of a New National Paradigm” last Friday.
Commenting further, Weerasena said the country needs evidence-based policies by incorporating data analysis and mathematical modelling to guide the nations in handling this pandemic.
He also said targeted measures based on the basic reproduction number should be in place, instead of just blanket policy measures which are questionable in nature.
Apart from that, he added that Malaysia needs a voice for good governance and a better public administration to implement the solutions to prevent confusion when there are so many spokespersons.
“We need a single spokesperson to direct the way the country is moving forward. Not only that, we need to address the crisis of capability and the legitimacy of our politicians,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Weerasena said leaders need to walk the talk by fostering a high degree of trust among Malaysians through clarity in communication.
He emphasised that the leaders should constantly address fundamental issues such as social inequalities, economic inequalities, health inequalities, especially among the marginalised.
“We must build on the distributed network of resilience that we have, whereby our civil society organisations and NGOs have risen to the occasion.
“With all these, I believe we are on the right track with all on board to living with the pandemic moving forward,” he added.
The main objective of Webinar Negara was to bridge the gap between technocrats and relevant decision-makers in regards to policies related to pandemic management.
Former CIMB Group Holdings Bhd’s chairman Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazir Abdul Razak delivered his opening address during the webinar session, where he expressed that it is difficult to implement reform in Malaysia because the country is ruled by a “three-headed monster” of corruption, communal identity and the concentration of power wielded by Umno.
He noted that over time, these negative side effects grew and arguably overwhelmed the positive benefits of the country’s system.
“It is a monster because it is hard to slay. It fights off attempts at reform.
“There have been many attempts notably in the early years with a few leaders’ administrations to implement reform but all of them have failed to do so,” he said.