Saying coronavirus ‘part of nature’ and here to stay, businesses want MCO ended now to avoid economic damage

MICCI president Datuk Tan Cheng Kiat says it is now time to end the movement control order to rejuvenate the economy and assure significant employment nationwide. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
MICCI president Datuk Tan Cheng Kiat says it is now time to end the movement control order to rejuvenate the economy and assure significant employment nationwide. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 ― The Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) has today suggested that the movement control order (MCO) imposed nationwide be lifted with immediate effect, even as Covid-19 has yet to abate.

Although congratulating the government for its effort to contain the spread of the pandemic, MICCI president Datuk Tan Cheng Kiat claimed it is now time to end the partial lockdown to rejuvenate the economy and assure significant employment nationwide.

“A prolonged MCO will have far more damage to the country’s well-being than the epidemic itself, given that the death rate is exponentially lower than existing non-communicable diseases or even the common flu.

“It must be understood that the MCO was intended to flatten the curve and not to eradicate Covid-19,” he said in a statement here, adding that “coronaviruses have always been part of nature and here to stay”.

Tan said it is now time for the government to make decisions based on evidence-based conclusions as the MCO has allowed the administration to put a pause on the economy to derive factual data from the virus outbreak.

“It’s time to make decisions based not on fear but facts. The facts are that the Malaysian mortality rate from Covid-19 is extremely low and almost all the deaths are from underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer.

“The people has, over the course of the MCO, accepted the new normal of social distancing, sanitary practices and working from home,” he said.

He cited how China ― where the outbreak first emerged last year ― did not impose a nationwide lockdown of its economy but instead localised the lockdown to an area with high infections, a move the Health Ministry has replicated with the use of enhanced movement MCO in various parts of the country.

Based on MICCI’s longstanding history, Tan warned of a downward spiral effect on the already challenged country’s economy as the country’s ability to derive sufficient revenues is further diminished by several factors of a prolonged MCO.

Some significant mid-long term effects Tan had listed were irreversible damage to the country’s fiscal health, loss of reputation as a global supply chain provider, loss of confidence from foreign direct investments, delayed education of future human talent and potential loss of employment for more than a million employees.

“Without a robust return to economic activity, Malaysia’s revenue will be starved and would not have the capability of providing sufficient vaccines for significant portions of the population,” he said.

He also said dishing out misdirected populist cash handouts and encouraging businesses to take up more debt was not a sustainable option in the long run.

“Wage subsidy programmes will not guarantee sustained employment, as without business revenue, promises of no employee terminations will be meaningless,” he said.

Tan added that post-MCO, there could still be vigilance via border controls and strict adherence to the Health Ministry’s guidelines on social distancing and good health practices.

Founded in 1837, MICCI is the oldest private sector business organisation in Malaysia and represents the majority of international corporations operating in the country.

Last week, Health Director-Deneral Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said breaking the chain on Covid-19 infection may take between three and six months, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that Malaysia will still be at “war” with Covid-19 even until next year, unless vaccines for the coronavirus is found and made available to the public.

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