Umno veep echoes calls for urgent MCO exit strategy

Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin said that the government’s response to the devastating Covid-19 fallout so far lacks urgency. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin said that the government’s response to the devastating Covid-19 fallout so far lacks urgency. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin today joined the growing chorus of calls for an exit plan post the movement control order (MCO), reminding the government that there is an urgent need for a clear, actionable, and measurable strategy.

Khaled said that the government’s response to the devastating Covid-19 fallout so far lacks urgency.

“First, there is an immediate need for a clear, actionable, and measurable ‘exit strategy’ to confront the current Malaysian economic situation,” he said in a statement.

“I have mentioned this before and once again assert the urgency of this now more than ever.”

Industries, small and medium especially, have welcomed Perikatan Nasional administration’s hint at a gradual reopening of the economy with little enthusiasm.

Most have commented that the announcements made by Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who heads the international trade and industries portfolio, that some so-called essential sectors will be allowed to restart lacks clarity and appear patchy.

To date, over a dozen industries have been allowed to resume operations subject to stringent health regulations. Still, complaints from industry representatives — ranging from bureaucratic hassles for permit application to supply chain disruptions have continued to pour in.

This morning Malay Mail reported SMEs saying they could be forced to cut up to two million jobs, even as wage subsidies have been made available under the RM260 billion Prihatin “stimulus” packages Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin unveiled early April.

And much of the funds can only last just over a month, they said. Without the margins for cash flows, a large number of SMEs warned that mass solvency could be inevitable if businesses cannot resume more than two months.

Khaled stressed that the absence of a clear exit plan could soon deplete the healthcare budget at the expense of public welfare.

“This (the exit strategy) can’t wait any longer,” he said.

“The more we stretch it, the more we would not be able to sustain our healthcare system and the welfare of the people.”

Acting on the advice of health authorities, the prime minister has extended the MCO for two weeks more, lengthening the partial lockdown to nearly two months.

The move has fuelled disquiet as jobs losses mount, but he has since appealed for calm and patience.

Khaled suggested the Malaysian government should do better. Citing Germany’s exit plan as an example, the former Umno minister said health protocols should have been prepared earlier so small businesses, sectors in dire need of help, could reopen.

“The German government's move to gradually allow operations of schools and stores up to 800 square meters is an example that the Malaysian government could emulate,” he said.

“Businesses should be allowed to reopen in phases, where restrictions may be loosened bit by bit while still upholding the social distancing rules.”

To date, Putrajaya has only hinted that an exit strategy is in the works, although no clear timeline has been provided.

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