Malaysia Bagus News
PETALING JAYA: Several economists are concerned that the movement control order (MCO) announced yesterday will cause unemployment to rise and economic recovery to be dampened.
Carmelo Ferlito of the Centre for Market Education predicted that Malaysia would see “more unemployment and more businesses closing down”.
He said small- and medium-sized enterprises were just beginning to recover from last year’s MCO and were now particularly vulnerable.
“In a nutshell, we are undermining the seeds of the recovery that have started to emerge,” he said.
“We will not reverse this trend and more businesses will leave for Vietnam and Indonesia, where there are no new restrictions to businesses but even more openings for FDIs (foreign direct investments).”
Data released by the Department of Statistics yesterday showed that Malaysia’s unemployment rate had risen by 0.1% month-on-month to 4.8% in November, with 764,400 without work.
Ferlito alleged the government had imposed the new lockdown in order to avoid snap elections.
He challenged Putrajaya to disclose scientific data that would support its projection that the country could, by mid-March, record 8,000 new Covid-19 cases a day.
He said the harshest lockdowns in Europe had not produced significant results. Closer to home, he added, Thailand had destroyed nearly a quarter of its economy due to similar restrictions.
He also said it was doubtful that Malaysia’s Covid-19 situation would be vastly different in the next two weeks.
Shankaran Nambiar of the Malaysian Institute for Economic Research warned that the MCO might be extended after a fortnight.
He said the government might not be able to “comfortably” support damage to the economy because of legacy issues.
“Fiscal prudence has never been valued and the economic guardians have never planned for extreme stress,” he said.
“The option now is to prepare for distress and to concentrate on rebuilding an economy that will endure damage until widespread vaccination is administered.”
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday announced an MCO for five states and the federal territories and a ban on interstate travelling in a bid to stem the rise in Covid-19 cases. He said the country’s healthcare system was at “breaking point”.
Goh Lim Thye, an economics lecturer at Universiti Malaya, said another MCO might be the only move the country could count on to contain the virus, but he added that the economic impact was worrying.
He said the country’s economic climate in 2019 put it in a good position to ride the MCO-induced downturn in 2020.
“In 2019, Malaysia’s economy registered a growth rate of 4.3% with a total value of RM1.42 trillion at constant prices,” he said.
“The unemployment rate was at 3.3% and direct debt stood at RM793 billion, or 52.5% of the GDP (gross domestic product).
“But in 2020, the Malaysian economy was expected to contract by between 4.5% to 5.5%, the unemployment rate registered in the third quarter was at 4.7 %, and direct debt stood at RM874.3 billion, or 60.7% of the GDP as of the end of September.
“Hence the economic data does not seem to favour MCO 2.0.”
Bank Islam Malaysia chief economist Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid also said the MCO would slowdown economic recovery.
“But we believe the impact may not be as severe as the first round MCO commencing March 18 and ending in early May 2020,” he said.
“Back then, the implementation was nationwide. This resulted in the GDP plunging 17.1% in the second quarter of 2020 as economic activities almost ground to a halt.
“As such, we could see possible revisions in the current GDP projection of between 6.5% to 7.5% for 2021, which was made in November last year.”
PETALING JAYA: The ban on interstate and inter-district travel across the country for the next two weeks will deal another heavy blow to the already suffering hotel industry, the Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (Maho) said.
It said the absence of travellers and holidaymakers due to the movement control order (MCO) would see more employees losing their jobs or being forced to go on unpaid leave.
Maho executive director Shaharuddin Mohamad Saaid said more hotels could be forced to close shop, as the earlier MCO and conditional MCO had already caused losses of up to RM8 billion for the industry last year.
“The hotel sector was already dying before this due to the MCO last year. The addition of another MCO and CMCO for two weeks at the start of the year will definitely leave a negative impact on the sector.
“This is because we have already made operation expenditures while our income decreases sharply,” he told reporters.
Shaharuddin regretted Putrajaya’s decision to enforce an MCO without referring to business groups in the tourism sector, saying it was as though the government wanted to kill off the hotel industry silently.
“Before announcing an MCO, they should first consult business groups like us to get suggestions. It’s as though the government wants the tourism sector to die.
“Has anyone heard of a Covid-19 cluster in hotels before this? There isn’t, because we really take care in following the SOPs stringently,” he said.
He said the new MCO will force many hotel owners to shutter operations as they cannot afford to sustain continued losses, particularly since many of them in the Klang Valley depend on conferences and events for income.
Shaharuddin hoped that, if the MCO were to be extended, the government would relax restrictions across the country by only implementing enhanced MCOs in critical areas and districts.
“There’s no need for a whole state to be under MCO, there needs to be some relaxation of restrictions. The government needs to focus on districts that have been severely affected. This is fairer for business sectors like us.”
He also urged Putrajaya to consider increasing the subsidies for the tourism and retail sector under the Wage Subsidy Programme 3.0 from RM600 per worker to between RM1,000 and RM1,500 each.
He said a memorandum proposing this had been handed over to the finance ministry last November, but no news has been heard from the government since.
“Even now, the minimum wage is already RM1,200, so a RM600 subsidy is not enough. Not everyone gets paid only RM1,200,” he said.
KUCHING: An educationist has supported Najib Razak’s call for the government to postpone the reopening of schools.
Jonathan Chai, president of the Association of the Boards of Management of Aided Primary Schools in Kuching, Samarahan and Serian, said Sarawak is also experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases in the last few days, hence, it is still not safe for children to return to schools.
“I agree with the former prime minister that schools should reopen after Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 12,” he told reporters.
“I have also received queries from parents on the possibility of postponing the reopening of schools. Apparently, many parents have expressed concern over the safety of their children to go back to school under the deteriorating circumstances.”
Chai said schools could use the first-term break in March and mid-year holidays in May to replace the lost days.
Alternatively, he said, schools may carry out the registration or enrolment of students for the new academic year in batches over the next two weeks and then start the classes through online teaching if the situation does not improve.
Sarawak Teachers’ Union (STU) president Adam Prakash Abdullah said schools in the red zones should continue with online teaching and learning for the safety of the teachers, students and their families.
“Although teachers have been making preparations and are all ready for the opening of the new school year, we are concerned with the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in Sarawak.
“We also urged all teachers to implement teaching and learning effectively under all circumstances,” he said.
On Saturday, Sarawak reported 55 new Covid-19 cases, the highest in a single day for the state so far.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s unemployment rate rose by a marginal 0.1 percentage point month-on-month to 4.8% in November, with 764,400 without work, the Department of Statistics Malaysia said today.
Chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the conditional movement control order implemented during the month, which saw economic activities continuing to operate with adherence to strict SOPs, resulted in a slight drop in employment compared with the previous month.
“Among others, this may be due to job losses and cancellation or freezing of new hires,” he said in a statement.
Uzir said the number of unemployed persons rose by 2.2% or 16,200 people to 764,400 in November compared with 748,200 in October.
The actively unemployed went up by 2.3% to 637,700 compared with 623,100 in October.
Overall, he said, the growth in labour force was almost flat, with an additional 5,200 people making up 5.96 million in November, while the labour force participation rate (LFPR) dropped marginally by 0.1 percentage point to 68.4%.
PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya has agreed to procure an additional 12.2 million doses of vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, the health ministry announced today.
This brings the total dosage the government is purchasing to combat the Covid-19 virus to 25 million. This increase will see 39% of the population receiving the vaccine.
The ministry revealed this after signing a Manufacturing & Supply Agreement (MSA) with Pfizer (Malaysia) this morning.
The agreement was signed through a live conference by Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, on behalf of the government, and Pfizer’s country manager (Malaysia and Brunei) Luksanawan Thangpaibool.
The agreement with Pfizer will see the pharmaceutical company supply 12,799,800 doses by the end of February to cover 20% of the population.
“The agreement that was signed today represents the first phase of the supply of vaccines for the entire country,” the ministry said.
The MSA signed today comes days after the vaccine was approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), the ministry’s regulatory body on pharmaceutical products in the country.
The vaccine was co-developed by US-based Pfizer Inc and German biotechnology firm BioNTech. Two doses per person are required for vaccination. The companies say the vaccine is more than 90% effective.
PETALING JAYA: Two staff members at Bursa Malaysia have tested positive for Covid-19, but the stock exchange will remain open.
In a statement, the company said there will be no disruption to the critical and support functions as its “business continuity management plan” will ensure smooth running of operations.
It said the health ministry had been informed and the two staff members were under home quarantine.
“Bursa Malaysia has carried out contact tracing and established the movements of the infected staff members.
“In an immediate response, Bursa Malaysia staff who have had close contact with the affected staff members will be sent for testing and will work from home until their test results come back negative.
“As a further precaution, staff who have had indirect contact will also be working from home.
“Bursa Malaysia will provide the necessary support should they choose to be voluntarily tested.”
Deep cleaning and sanitation work are being carried out at the premises.
“Bursa Malaysia places the utmost priority on the health and well-being of our employees. We will continue to exercise the necessary precautionary measures that have been in practice since the start of the pandemic.
“We will continue to monitor the developments closely and provide updates as new information becomes available,” it said.
GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s famous week-long Thaipusam festivities will not take place this year following concerns of a Covid-19 spike as the state’s five districts are now red zones.
Every year, about three million people from all over the country and overseas converge on the island to take part in a 7km chariot procession from Little India to Waterfall Road, in a tradition which began almost 150 years ago.
At a press conference today, Penang Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy also urged all devotees to stay home this Jan 28.
“Stay at home. We are all in a red zone. We do not want a Thaipusam Covid-19 cluster. We plead to you to pray at home,” he said.
Ramasamy added that all activities of the three-day festivities, from Jan 27 to 29, will be banned, following advice from the health ministry and the National Security Council (MKN).
These include the processions by the silver and gold chariots, devotees carrying milk pots or kavadis, as well as the breaking of coconuts and shaving of hair.
The two main temples, Nattukottai Chettiar and Hilltop Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani, have also agreed to comply with the state government’s decision and will cease all festivities in light of the Covid-19 situation in the country.
Ramasamy, who is also Penang Hindu Endowments Board chairman, said prayers on Thaipusam day at the respective temples will only be attended by priests and committee members who are bound by health ministry SOPs. He said police would be on standby to enforce the law.
Temples, he said, would continue to be open in the meantime until Jan 26, and entry is subject to strict crowd control and compliance with SOPs.
As of yesterday, Penang’s Covid-19 numbers stood at 4,408 cases, with 1,327 cases recorded in the past 14 days. According to the health ministry, all of Penang is a red zone as all districts have recorded more than 41 cases.
KOTA KINABALU: When the Covid-19 pandemic started, Sandakan-based NGO Cahaya Society was forced to halt operations of its Alternative Learning Centres for stateless children in that district.
Since January 2019, they had been teaching children in the community basic reading, writing and counting on top of music, and other skills.
Asrin Utong, 25, and 20 others have been volunteering at the NGO to teach the stateless children from 10 different villages in the district.
Speaking to reporters, he said the movement restrictions had significantly hampered their operations.
“Even though it has been a long time without classes, the welfare of the students’ families is still being taken care of,” he said, adding that the NGO has been distributing food packs to ensure that they had enough food throughout the pandemic in Sabah.
“We also offer counselling sessions to the students and families to handle mental health issues,” he said.
When the movement restrictions went full force, many NGOs had gone on social media to complain of food supply cuts, especially among Sabah’s sizeable undocumented and stateless communities.
Asrin, better known as Rien, said 937 families had received food aid consisting of rice, oil, flour, eggs and soap, up to November last year. A total of 1,129 packs were distributed to alternative learning centres, single mothers, fishermen, minibus drivers and other B40 lower-income group recipients.
Together with partner NGOs such as Borneo Comrade and Pangrok Sulap, they spent over RM40,000 trying to reach isolated families, including those on remote islands such as Pulau Mumiang, Pulau Pitas and Pulau Jerman.
Aside from distributing food, health workers and hospital frontliners also worked to distribute health and hygiene kits to the deeper pockets of Sabah.
However, he said many people, especially those in marginalised communities were still unaware of the implications of Covid-19.
According to Rien, there are still shortcomings in the management of Covid-19 in Sabah, mainly inconsistencies in enforcing SOPs in enhanced movement control order (EMCO) areas.
He said in some areas residents were allowed to go to work but in others, residents still needed police approval.
“In the end, there were a series of protests at EMCO areas in Sabah. Besides that I also see that the government is still hesitant in conducting a community mapping exercise especially for those out of easy reach,” he said.
He suggested the state government strengthen its efforts to disseminate information to the public through social media platforms and other means, including by working with NGOs to distribute educational materials in different languages, considering Sabah’s diverse ethnicities.
He added that the government should reconsider a policy compelling NGOs to go through the Welfare Department to distribute aid, as this had made it very tedious for them.
Meanwhile, Rizo Leong of NGO Pangrok Sulap said the biggest problem faced by Sabahans they knew, especially those under EMCO, was that they were unable to go out and work.
“Many of them are undocumented. Their areas also do not receive a lot of attention from the government and more often than not they are left out from the list of aid recipients.”
He too suggested the state government open up avenues for better collaboration with NGOs and cut down on red tape.
PETALING JAYA: Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has asked Putrajaya if Malaysia is losing the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, after the surge in cases and clusters and the delay in taking confirmed cases to hospitals.
“There seems to be a lack of direction (by the health ministry). We are not clear on what they intend to do to keep the numbers low. Have they given up the fight?” he said.
Lee told reporters that even confirmed cases were being isolated at home, adding that there was a 70% chance of family members being infected.
He predicted that new cases may rise to 3,000 daily in two weeks’ time.
Yesterday, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had warned that the Covid-19 situation was going to become worse after a record 2,593 new cases and 13 clusters were reported.
Lee, who is also the Gopeng MP, said healthcare workers and hospitals were unable to cope with the increasing number of confirmed cases.
“Has the ministry given up on contact tracing? I am told by medical staff that contact tracing was not done because there is insufficient manpower,” he said.
On the new clusters, he said they did not appear out of the blue, but because of the failure to carry out immediate contact tracing.
“They must have an index case,” he said, adding that the original case was from Lahad Datu, Sabah, which had since spread throughout the state and to the peninsula.
Lee urged the ministry to separate healthy foreign workers from those who were unwell. “For those who are certified healthy, the risk of complications is low. Why admit them to low-risk centres and burden the frontliners?”
‘Hire jobless Malaysians to do contact tracing’
He said the ministry needed to strengthen contract tracing procedures, with testing done within 48 hours, which could be done by hiring 10,000 youths on a short-term basis.
“There are so many jobless graduates, contract healthcare staff and medical, nursing and pharmacy graduates,” he said.
The ministry, Lee said, needed to create a national network with contact tracing teams having access to all village heads and other communities to carry out immediate contact tracing.
He also hoped that more localities would be placed under the targeted enhanced movement control order (TEMCO). “They cannot carry out an EMCO without stating how long it will be held. It creates anxiety.”
He suggested that large-scale testing be carried out for two weeks in a particular area to stop the spread of infections. The number of cases would drop drastically, and the government would then be able to implement recovery MCO in the said area.
Lee said Putrajaya should not depend on the Covid-19 vaccine to reduce the number of cases as they may have skyrocketed by then.
He said it was impossible to vaccinate a large population as it would be carried out on a voluntary basis, with pregnant women and those below 16 excluded. “And no one knows what the side effects are.”
Once Malaysia receives the vaccines, he said, the government should immediately vaccinate healthcare workers, enforcement officers such as those in the police and fire department, prison wardens and teachers for free.
“Those above 65 years and with pre-existing medical conditions should also be provided with free vaccination but on a voluntary basis,” he said.
KUANTAN: Seventy-nine tourists stranded at the National Park in Jerantut, 170km from here, since the end of last month, were rescued and brought to Kuala Lumpur late yesterday.
Kuala Tahan Village Development and Prosperity Committee secretary Sabri Abdullah said they comprised local and foreign tourists who had checked into four resorts at the National Park for the year-end holidays.
“Most of them were initially scheduled to check out on Dec 31, but the water level of the river rose sharply and flooded five areas in the National Park, making it unsafe for them to take the boat ride out.
“The tourists were taken care of by the resort operator, but the situation worsened when the floods persisted, causing a shortage of food and disruption of water supply,” he said when contacted here today.
Sabri said of the total, 15 were foreign tourists and the rest were locals.
The operation to bring them out was mounted with the cooperation of the security forces, Civil Defence Force as well as villagers.
Meanwhile, Jerantut police chief Mazlan Hassan, when contacted, confirmed the operations, saying that it went smoothly and ended at 7pm.
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