Citing lack of clarity, business coalition says unconvinced by National Recovery Plan

A view of an empty shopping mall during the movement control order in Kuala Lumpur June 2, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A view of an empty shopping mall during the movement control order in Kuala Lumpur June 2, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — A coalition of 110 trade groups has criticised the government’s National Recovery Plan as being vague and missing definitive strategies needed to confidently guide Malaysia out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a ten-point response to the announcement yesterday, Industries Unite said the plan did not include a clear blueprint for how to revive the ailing economy or contain a raging pandemic, instead relying on “too many variables and ifs” based on what it felt to be dubious data.

“There are too many if's and variables in play for the plan to actually spur the confidence of the rakyat,” the group said in a statement.

“Unless we have a clear and defined path forward the idea that we will come out of this in September or October 2021, is not convincing; amongst others as the whole plan is entirely based on the accuracy of purported numbers of infected persons and the availability of vaccinations on time,” it added.

“Many analysts have openly stated serious doubts on this.”

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin presented yesterday a four-phase National Recovery Plan with three specific threshold indicators that will decide if and when Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted in stages.

Each of these phases, said the prime minister, will be based on thresholds that will look at the daily Covid-19 case average numbers, the capacity of the public health system, and the vaccination rate of the general population.

But Industries Unite said there are doubts about the absolute numbers the government is resting its plan on, echoing criticism by various independent health experts who said official data tend to skew to the lower side because of limited testing.

The government is also less transparent about its contact tracing data, which the group added is crucial to help form the right strategy response.

“Limited and variable testing numbers and testing may mean that there are flaws in the absolute numbers being relied upon here,” it said.

“Where is the tracking data on clusters and contact tracing? Without this, we are fighting with eyes closed. In any case, most of the cases appear to be asymptomatic, so are the numbers correct?”

The group called for the government to beef up vaccination capacity, critically pointing out the need to work with the private sector and mobilise all available infrastructures, including using public clinics as vaccination centres.

“Private practitioners who have been inoculating children and adults for decades are not being fully mobilised , these private practitioners, who are by law allowed to vaccinate the public, are frustrated by the process of having to register and to be trained by a private company,” it said.

Under the National Recovery Plan, each phase will see more restrictions towards economic activities and the social sector ease up as each of these thresholds reach a more satisfactory level, with the fourth and final phase expected to be imposed only towards the end of the year.

Malaysia is currently under Phase One of the plan, and could move to Phase Two by July if new cases dip to under 4,000, vaccination rate reaches 10 per cent, and intensive care unit’s usage falls to “moderate” level.

Editor’s note: This story has been amended to correct the number of trade groups in the coalition that has been earlier misstated as 52 instead of 110.

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