Allowing operations of essential industries at 50pc impractical, says Invest Penang

Opalyn Mok
Lee said a prolonged shutdown will be devastating for the country’s economy and the people’s wellbeing. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, April 6 — The current policy of allowing essential services industries to continue operating at below 50 per cent capacity is not practical when the supporting supply chain is not even allowed to operate, said Invest Penang Executive Director Datuk Seri Lee Kah Choon.

He said the manufacturing sector cannot operate without its supply chain being energised, and the people cannot go back to work without proper protection.

He used the production of sanitisers and supply of eggs, both listed under essential services, as examples.

“Sanitisers cannot be put on the shelves without the supply of bottles, and eggs cannot be supplied without the trays,” he said in a statement issued recently.

He said bottles and trays are not in production now because these items were not listed as “essential” on its own.

He said the government should immediately work on an Environment, Health and Safety protocol that the industries can adopt to ensure the health and safety of its employees, the public and the environment.

The Special Investment Adviser to the Penang chief minister suggested a partnership between the government, industries and the people to shift away from pitting health against the economy.

He said the government’s stimulus package in providing assistance to tide over businesses for the immediate term is just a “life supporting” action.

“Putting the country into productive mode is the key for long term financial sustainability, not only for the nation but also for the citizenry,” he said.

He said Malaysia relies on its manufacturing sector, which contributes 85 per cent of its export, and a prolonged shutdown will be devastating for the country’s economy and the people’s wellbeing in terms of employment.

He said the country’s main economic driver is manufacturing, oil and gas and palm oil, but oil prices have plummeted.

“Low oil prices will reduce the need for biodiesel which may indirectly impact palm oil prices. The sharp reduction of Indian import of our palm oil aggravates further a dire situation,” he said.

He said this left the manufacturing sector as the main economic driver.

“As Malaysia forms part of the global supply chain, any disruption in our production commitment will impact the supply chain gravely,” he warned.

He believed that a prolonged shutdown in Malaysia will see the country’s supply chain being replaced by countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

He noted that apart from specific cities and provinces in China, countries like South Korea and Taiwan that were also affected by Covid-19 pandemic did not order a total lockdown.

He projected that Malaysia could see a rise in unemployment rate to 15 per cent if the workforce is not put to work soon.

The current national unemployment rate was at above three per cent or about 500,000 before the movement control order (MCO) took effect.

He said this is an extraordinary time and it called for extraordinary solutions.

“Otherwise, we may have a bankrupt government, shuttered industries and unemployment awaiting us after this pandemic is over,” he said.


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