IPOH, May 12 — Efforts to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic should remain as a priority, but containment efforts need to be balanced to ensure that the economy is not brought to a point from which recovery becomes very difficult, said the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic is extracting a heavy cost from the world, following the implementation of preventative measures including the movement control order (MCO) by the government since March 18.

Economies around the world are expected to suffer from major demand and supply shocks, followed by disequilibrium in the labour market, leading to a severe economic recession, he said.

“The International Monetary Fund projected global economy to contract by three per cent in 2020 — worse than the 0.7 per cent contraction which occurred during the 2009 global financial crisis — and it is expected to slow down post-pandemic.

“In the midst of addressing the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia has also been severely impacted by a severe plunge in crude oil prices —  the worst in three decades, resulting from the price war between the world’s largest oil producers," he said in a speech while officiating the 14th Perak State Legislative Assembly’s first meeting for the third year at the Bangunan Perak Darul Ridzuan here today.

Sultan Nazrin added that the country and the people are undergoing a very challenging phase — people, particularly the lower-income groups, are in dire straits with 2.4 million workers in the country expected to face financial difficulties and potential job losses.

“Reactivating and reviving the economy post-pandemic is an enormous challenge, but it is what the people pray and hope for; a hope that should be followed by policies, measures, programmes and smart moves by policy makers by setting strategic fiscal, monetary and financial targets,” he said.

Although global restrictions — including the MCO — led to numerous challenges, it did have a positive impact on the environment with the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, temperature and cleaner rivers, Sultan Nazrin said.

“It was as if the earth had undergone a period of rest and recovery, which means that through high discipline and controlled waste disposal measures, environmental pollution can be minimised,” he said.

Additionally, he said the ongoing crisis has revealed that the country has not reached the status of food security and food self-sufficiency, therefore, programmes ensuring food security should be given the highest political commitment.  

“The agricultural sector —  in particular, food production —  should be developed by our young, dynamic and educated population scientifically, using technology and modern machinery to ensure higher productivity,” he added.  — Bernama