KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Amid an extended lockdown, retailers in Malaysia struggling for survival today urged the government to allow them to reopen for business next month.
They expressed concern that if the current prohibition continues in July, more businesses will be forced to close for good and that economic recovery may prove difficult once the health crisis stabilises.
“Presently, already 20-30 per cent of shops in malls have been closed due to the adverse conditions of the past 16 months, and with 30 per cent of staff being laid off, this amounts to 300,000 personnel.
“We foresee that in the event the mall and retail industry including street-front shops are not re-opened by beginning of July 2021, there will be another 50 per cent of the remainder closing their doors for good, including prominent domestic and international retail brands with more employees at risk of being laid off,” the business groups said in a joint statement.
They comprised the Malaysia Shopping Mall Association, Malaysia Retailers Association, Malaysia Retail Chain Association, Bumiputera Retailers Organisation and the Selangor and KL Electrical Home Appliances Dealers’ Association.
They said the retail sector should reopen to provide essential and other services to the community without risk of infectivity.
They cautioned that once international brands exit Malaysia, it will be doubly difficult to lure them back into the country.
“With these massive lay-offs and shop closures, the entire retail and shopping malls industries will be grievously and critically damaged and will need massive efforts and time to rebuild the malls’ ecosystem or the malls themselves will permanently close, and the retail supply chain will be deeply fractured,” they added.
The business groups claimed that the Health Ministry’s own data from before the current lockdown began earlier this month showed that malls were not a major source of infections due to the strict adherence to SOPs by retail stores and shoppers.
“Any prolongation in reopening will cause irreparable damage to both the retail and shopping mall industry which may not recover for the next few years, leaving us far behind in the economic recovery process.
“Therefore, we seek the government’s urgent consideration to mitigate the catastrophic but real scenario as predicted above,” they reiterated.
The third nationwide movement control order dubbed MCO 3.0 is set to end on June 28. Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin laid out Putrajaya’s four phase recovery plan last week.
In each of these phases, Muhyiddin said, 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.
In Phase One, only essential services are allowed to operate while all social sectors and activities are barred, while Phase Two will see several more economic sectors such as the manufacturing industry allowed to operate with up to 80 per cent capacity.
However, Phase Two will only kick in if new cases dip to under 4,000 daily, vaccination rate reaches 10 per cent, and intensive care unit’s usage falls to “moderate” level.