KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin defended the government’s decision of not implementing a full-scale lockdown as the first movement control order (MCO) implemented on March 18 last year almost led to a total economic collapse.
“At the time we had no prior experience (in dealing with a pandemic) so we closed down, even as the cases were not yet widespread. But the economic impact was considerable, verging on the point of collapse,” Muhyiddin said during a special talk interview session on RTM.
Speaking to moderators Terrence Dass and Wan Syahrina Wan Ab Rahman, he said the economy almost collapsed as it cost approximately RM2.4 billion a day during MCO 1.0.
“It is not just a matter of losing ringgit but of jobs as well, the inability to conduct business properly. The Health Ministry said this was the best move to prevent Covid-19 from spreading, but its effects on the country are another thing.
“When the government released the RM340 billion stimulus package, 20 per cent of the package was used by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to bolster economic recovery from Covid-19, with nearly two million Malaysians aided in terms of employment,” Muhyiddin said.
Were a full-scale lockdown to be implemented like before, the prime minister said RM340 billion would certainly be insufficient to stimulate the economy again.
“Maybe half a trillion ringgit, but do we have the money? We may be able to close down the economy, but to reopen it after it has likely collapsed?
“So we learned from this, we cannot close everything altogether. Life is important, and I do not wish for the national economy to collapse,” he said.
This is the main reason for the government’s recent decision, which Muhyiddin said was made based on the current situation and trends.
“We implemented MCO 3.0 with many restrictions, but not too many. This is something the rakyat must understand. I know many out there have said we might as well close everything.
“It is not that I do not understand what the rakyat wants, but for the moment just stay safe. It is a matter of finding the right steps to navigate through this pandemic,” he said.