Industries Unite urges Putrajaya to devise new Covid-19 strategies to avoid further crisis

A pedestrian walks along an elevated walkway in Kuala Lumpur July 1, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A pedestrian walks along an elevated walkway in Kuala Lumpur July 1, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — Trade group Industries Unite pled with Putrajaya to change its approach towards tackling the Covid-19 pandemic or risk another national crisis which could result in the economy collapsing.

The group, which currently has 115 trade associations and chamber of commerce members representing an estimated 3.3 million businesses, said Malaysia is at breaking point, economically speaking. 

During a Zoom press conference today, group co-founder Datuk David Gurupatham said the group had warned Putrajaya six months ago that if current strategies are maintained, it will result in mass closures of businesses in July.

He said the recent suicide cases involved employees — people who have lost their jobs who have children at home instead of schools. 

“We’ve been invited to talk with ministers and ministries in the past but what happened to our recommendations? They tell us they’re ‘studying it’. Well, the exam is over, it's time to listen.

“We need a new strategy and narrative because if you look at what the world thinks of us now we are last on the list of countries likely to recover after this crisis.

“The WHO (World Health Organisation) has said lockdowns are not the right approach as it’ll devastate the economy. So, stop blaming each other. 

“All these things about ‘back door, front door’ (government) must stop, leaders need to lead by example. At this point, we’re beyond saving businesses and it is going to take years to recover as the current policies aren’t working,” he said.  

David said the group has repeatedly tried to get in touch with the National Security Council (NSC) but its requests were never entertained. 

CEO of Ban Lee Hin Group, Datuk Tony Looi said unclear SOPs and poor communication between ministries continues to confuse the public. 

Looi said when the group approached the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) for clarification, it was directed to the NSC and then vice versa. This, he said was happening despite the group being willing to offer its help and expertise to the government to come up with solutions for the current crisis.

“The National Recovery Plan (NRP) is more like an MCO (movement control order). At times we are confused with the SOPs and when seeking clarification we are sent from ministry to NSC back to ministry. We’re tired of playing these games,” said Tony.

“A lot of SMEs are dying, they’re like a punctured tyre. They need air and a retool to start back up. That’s why Bank Negara needs to come up with a special loan to lend money to the businesses or else they will be permanently out of business.” 

President of the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association Datuk Teo Chiang Kok claimed that crimes like theft have increased exponentially during the extended periods of MCO. 

He pointed out how in Kuala Lumpur, a more targeted approach is being taken where they shut off an entire building if they know a cluster exists; however, in Selangor, an entire district is under lockdown.

“When I asked the authorities why they lockdown the whole district they said Kuala Lumpur is very porous so you can lockdown building by building. In Selangor, they said it is easier to just lockdown the entire district. 

“My question is if can do building by building in Kuala Lumpur, why not in Selangor? Not only that to move into Phase Two we need 12.2 cases per 100,000 people. But in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur we’re denser so we do more testing and more cases will pop up.

“So using this threshold is irrelevant. Discount factors need to be imposed on states with more testing to level the playing field,” he said.

Daily Covid-19 cases have been hovering around 6,000 to 7,000 cases daily with Selangor topping the list of cases for months.

With Malaysia set to receive 12 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines this month, the group hopes that these will be administered as soon as possible without any delay or interference from middle parties trying to profiteer from selling them.

Industries Unite co-founder Datuk Irwin Cheong warned that more people will die if the economy is not reopened.

 He alluded to a lack of trust between ministries leading to poor cooperation and communication.

Irwin said the government should now move from taking a negative approach to a positive one when trying to decide between choosing between a lockdown or otherwise.

“NSC and the government are saying cases are high so stay at home but how is tracing possible when you are at home?

“This is what’s led us to MCO 3.0 which is sadly not working. There is a huge unemployment wave coming soon and when that happens, no form of handout will save you.

“We plead with the government to please work with us, sit with us and we can come up with proper SOPs and guidelines together as we are the people on the ground with the knowledge and know-how,” he added.

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