Malaysia eschews strict lockdown to keep jobs

Finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz said the government will not impose a strict lockdown as it would impact the country’s 900,000 SMEs severely.
By: | February 5, 2021

He said more than 70% of the country’s SMEs had posted losses in 2020 after the country implemented the first movement control order (MCO) in March last year. 

“A strict ‘lockdown’ will hit our SMEs, or over 900,000 businesses nationwide. 

“Within this are small- and micro-business owners whose livelihoods are immediately affected by even a day of ‘lockdown’, what more a 14-day shutdown,” he said, adding that SMEs contributed nearly 40% to the GDP and formed the backbone of Malaysia’s economy. 

The biggest lesson learned from the first MCO was that a “lockdown” and ensuring the economy’s survival “are not and must not be mutually exclusive”. 

Policymakers and market regulators will inevitably evaluate the economic effect of a lockdown from a macro perspective, but they need to also acknowledge that a tighter lockdown will surely affect real people facing real survival issues, he said. 

This was particularly true for small- and micro-businesses run by food stall owners, tailors, barbers and launderette operators whose concerns will simply be about the reality of survival such as the ability just to feed the family every day. For them, the balancing act will have little meaning when basic survival is at stake daily.  

Tengku Zafrul then posed a rhetorical question: “Who is to say one occupation is more essential than the other? 

“All types of jobs are essential because they provide food on the table and a roof over people’s heads. Which is why, policymaking in managing the COVID-19 crisis extends beyond public health. 

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“There are those who believe that a tighter MCO will save more lives. For anyone concerned about losing a loved one to COVID-19, this may seem like the only fact that matters.  

“However, as a society, it is important for us to be clear about what exactly the outcomes and alternatives are,” he said when delivering the keynote address at the Bursa Malaysia Forum, reported Free Malaysia Today.