Pakatan calls for govt to invest more in healthcare, make workspaces pandemic-proof

Police officers conducting checks at a roadblock in Jalan Kuching, Kuala Lumpur January 31, 2021. PH’s Economic Committee first said the government must put a stop to the implementation of repeated lockdowns and subsequent confusion triggered by ever-changing standard operating procedures (SOPs). — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Police officers conducting checks at a roadblock in Jalan Kuching, Kuala Lumpur January 31, 2021. PH’s Economic Committee first said the government must put a stop to the implementation of repeated lockdowns and subsequent confusion triggered by ever-changing standard operating procedures (SOPs). — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) has called on the government to buck up on their handling the country’s economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic, saying more proactive steps must be taken immediately to avoid losing out on investors while keeping the virus under control.

PH’s Economic Committee first said the government must put a stop to the implementation of repeated lockdowns and subsequent confusion triggered by ever-changing standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“We are deeply concerned that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration’s lack of economic leadership has created a prolonged climate of confusion potentially deteriorating the international business community’s confidence in Malaysia as a viable investment destination.

“The continued strategy of disruptive intermittent lockdowns will destroy any remaining investor confidence and bring the economy to its knees,” it said in a statement.

Moving forward, the Economic Committee proposed two measures for the PN government to undertake which they said would aid the country’s preparation to handle Covid-19 should it end up endemic, and to avoid disruption in operations, supply chains and economic activities.

They proposed the government first invest in strengthening the country’s healthcare capacity in anticipation of Covid-19 ending up an endemic, which the committee said would cause an elevated number of daily case numbers despite high numbers of individuals vaccinated.

It proposed for specific investments be made to handle Covid-19 cases in the future, underscoring how the private health sector must be plugged in to assist in containment efforts in line with the “whole of society” approach.

“The national healthcare infrastructure needs to be able to handle more positive patients, especially in terms of Intensive Care Unit facilities and availability.

“To reduce the burden on existing hospitals, considerations should also be made for purpose-built Covid-19 treatment centre. The same approach has been taken before with the establishment of purpose-built leprosy and tuberculosis centres,” it said.

The economic committee’s second suggestion was for the government to provide funding, grants, and to lead by example in pandemic-proofing workspaces to ensure continuity in the supply chains.

“Given that workspaces, especially in the manufacturing sector, are the largest source of Covid-19 clusters, the government must invest in ‘pandemic-proofing’ factories and workers’ quarters,” it said.

Among the proposed steps is for the government to invest at least RM15 billion to be offered as grants and soft loans to allow already cash-strapped companies some breathing space to modify their workspaces and quarters to comply with pandemic mitigative laws and regulations.

This includes offering tax incentives, deductions, or even subsidies to affected companies for them to install appropriate sensors and ventilation systems at these modified premises.

“The above two urgent strategies will go a long way towards managing and re-energising our economy under the ‘new normal’.

“Even if Malaysia is successful in our vaccination campaign, and that’s yet to be taken for granted, we must anticipate outbreaks of varying severity to still occur going forward as new and potentially more deadly variants of Covid-19 arise. We cannot just rest on our laurels and hope for the best,” it said.

It stressed that proactive measures must be taken to avoid further detriment to the economy while also bolstering the faith of investors looking towards Malaysia.

“We need to provide assurance to industry players, and by extension investors, that the country remains open for business and that the workplace can be a safe place for all.

“The days of lockdowns, confusing SOP flip-flops and policy U-turns must come to an end,” it added.

The statement included the endorsement of all nine Committee members, including Petaling Jaya MP Tony Pua, former health minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad, Subang MP Wong Chen, Wangsa Maju MP Datin Paduka Dr Tan Yee Kew, and Kangar MP Noor Amin Ahmad.

Also named is Parti Amanah Negara’s Ammar Atan and Sheikh Khuzaifah, and DAP’s Raja Ahmad Iskandar Fareez and E Hun Tan.

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