Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers latest to reject total lockdown as Covid-19 response, moots tougher enforcement

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Police officers conducting roadblock checks during movement control order 3.0 (MCO) on the Federal Highway May 10, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Police officers conducting roadblock checks during movement control order 3.0 (MCO) on the Federal Highway May 10, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) today joined two commerce chambers in opposing a complete lockdown to address the worsening Covid-19 situation here.

In a statement today, FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai echoed the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) and the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham) Malaysia in urging the government to enhance the existing movement control order (MCO).

“The recent spike in Covid-19 cases leading to the government having to declare a nationwide movement control order (MCO) from May 12, 2021 to June 7, 2021 is indeed very concerning and alarming. With the daily cases having passed the 6,000 mark today, there is no doubt that the current wave could trigger a national crisis if the rate of infection is not controlled and brought down as the overwhelming active cases are reported to be putting the country’s healthcare system at a critical breaking point.

“While the industry understands the need for stricter measures to be implemented, the industry is not in favour of a total lockdown such as being called for Selangor as reported in the news because it will cost irreparable damage to our economy. There is no doubt that the previous MCOs implemented by the government i.e. MCO 1.0 from March 18, 2020 to May 3, 2020 and MCO 2.0 from January 13, 2021 to February 18, 2021 were effective in bringing down the Covid-19 infections but at the same time they, especially MCO 1.0, had a damaging impact on the economy.

“The impact of MCO 1.0, which was an almost full lockdown situation where only essential services were allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, was very severe on the economy, resulting in a drop in the gross domestic product (GDP) to -17.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 and loss of jobs hitting 826,100 in May 2020,” Soh said.

He added that the government previously offered various financial aid to individuals and businesses, without which many would have collapsed.

Soh called for the continuation of the previous loan moratorium, wage subsidy programme, financing assistance, reduction in business cost such as utility costs, statutory contributions, financing rates, and others, to assist industries that continue to be gravely affected by the current MCO 3.0 and the pandemic.

In the list of proposed responses to the pandemic without further hurting businesses, he suggested rescheduling work shifts in plants by having fewer people in operations based on individual company assessment, and practicing a complete work from home (WFH) system for companies that are able to, and with the necessary support facilities to do so.

Soh also called on the government to accelerate the vaccination programme, including expediting the programme for the economic sectors to achieve faster herd immunity.

“In the case of the manufacturing sector, FMM is heartened to know that our constant reminder has helped in the reduction of infection clusters at factories from January 2021 to now as reported by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) and we continue to remind our members to remain vigilant in ensuring our operations are carried out with strict adherence to the SOPs. All the necessary precautionary measures must continue to be taken to ensure that the employees, the workplace and employees’ living quarters are safe and abide strictly to the SOPs,” he added.

Earlier, Amcham voiced its outright rejection of a proposed full lockdown in any state across the nation by the federal government, urging the government to instead implement best practices from previous iterations of the MCOs.

Its chief executive Siobhan Das warned that imposing further lockdown measures similar to the MCO enforced in March 2020 will negatively impact investment sentiments and threaten the positive momentum of the country’s trajectory towards economic recovery in the current quarter.

This is despite voicing its support for the Malaysian government in taking strong measures to curb the sharp increase in daily Covid-19 cases and easing the burden on the country’s healthcare system.

Prior to that, Eurocham Malaysia also warned the Malaysian government against a full lockdown, citing many businesses in the midst of recovering from last year’s MCO, may not be able to survive another one.

On Monday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said his ministry is mulling the implementation of a total MCO lockdown in Selangor, should the number of cases continue to rise.

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