What the virus taught us: Self-sufficiency shouldn't be the goal

APRIL 8 — As I attempt to keep sane during this extended period of self-isolation, it is hard not to be irked by the constant missteps made by those who should have really thought things through.

The good news is since my last column, hardware stores as well as pet supply stores are now allowed to open twice a week.

I suspect someone influential ran out of expensive cat food and somewhere there is (or was) a backed-up toilet in a fancy mansion.

Of course some people are reacting to the lack of certain goods by trying to make those goods themselves.

Take, for instance, bread. I am rather irate that I have not been able to procure any bread flour as they keep selling out in supermarkets.

It is nearly impossible to buy groceries online as delivery slots are full for weeks in advance and often goods are out of stock by the time those slots are fulfilled.

Imagine ordering RM200 worth of food hoping to last the week and then being told that only a quarter of what you wanted was available.

The problem is a lack of understanding at the top about how supply chains work — it is not enough for food sales to be allowed.

A lot goes into the production, transport and sales of food but if part of the chain is disrupted, then it all comes to naught.

You cannot declare that only food and medicines be allowed in while forgetting to allow for the goods involved in the packaging of said items.

We cannot fully rely on having all our essentials produced in the country and we will need outside goods as well as the freedom to trade and export as well.

A fully self-sufficient country is just not practicable and neither is growing and making all your own food.

Instead of trying to be more independent, what we should be learning and appreciating is just how dependent we are.

More so now than before we need to forge better trade ties, and domestically allow a more cohesive approach to supply and sales of goods within the country.

The internet has probably helped keep some businesses going and many of us sane, so I hope that it will no longer be seen as a luxury but a necessity.

Our broadband prices should be even cheaper and subsidies for internet or even internet centres in remote locations should also be considered.

We cannot leave the poor out in the cold, cut off from the internet and the freedom to access both knowledge and essential services.

It cannot be "every man for himself." Not in this world. Not in these times. More than ever, we need to appreciate just how much we need each other.

The government also needs to step up and start using the word "all" -- truly address how it can make life better for all Malaysians, and not just some, at certain times.

While the hashtag #KitaJagaKita has been going around, I suggest the government instead refine it to #KitaJagaSemua (We look after all).

It's the least they can do.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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