FMM: Border reopening not ideal but it’s necessary

by AUFA MARDHIAH / pic by TMR FILE

THE Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) urges the government to reopen international borders for fully vaccinated individuals to support the country’s economic recovery, although it may not be ideal due to the currently increasing number of Covid-19 cases.

However, in support of the National Recovery Council’s (NRC) recommendation on the reopening of international borders in March, FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai (picture) said it is necessary and crucial to stimulate economic growth.

“As the country is now moving into an endemic phase, we believe that given our remarkable achievement on vaccination, ongoing booster dose and children’s vaccination programme, Malaysia is well protected against the virus as evident from the low number of cases under Categories 3, 4 and 5.

“We believe that the caseload is manageable by the national healthcare system and remains stable without any undue pressure on the healthcare services,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Soh believed that easing border restrictions would facilitate movement for work and trade, in return have a positive impact on the recovery of industries, as well as help address the unemployment issue caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

“Allowing international border crossing for fully vaccinated persons will help reinvigorate tourism activities, domestic retail activities and trade between countries, hence, creating a spillover into various subsectors when demand and supply activities get stimulated as well as import and export activities get further activated,” he said.

Furthermore, he noted that many companies in the manufacturing sector are heading for business recovery by considering capacity expansion, new business opportunities, business and product diversification, exploring new markets and more.

In addition, as part of business revival strategies, there are also companies commissioning new machinery and equipment as part of their business and product diversification. This requires adopting technology from overseas vendors where the physical presence of their business partners or customers, vendors and technical experts are needed to seal negotiations, as well as to commission projects.

Meanwhile, Soh recognised the government’s initiative to provide a One Stop Centre fast track approval mechanism to facilitate the entry of short-term and long-term business travellers including the elimination of existing quarantine processes to reduce cost and time.

“Many of our regional neighbours are already reopening their borders with Thailand resuming quarantine-free travel from Feb 1; Philippines from Feb 10; and Australia from Feb 21.

“None of these countries has been spared from the Omicron wave and some were even more badly impacted given that their vaccination rates are lower than Malaysia’s,” he said.

Alternatively, he added, the government should expand the Vaccinated Travel Lane arrangement with other key countries that can be categorised into different risk levels based on their Covid-19 public health response and vaccination rates, as well as Malaysia’s reliance on these countries for trade and tourism.