KUALA LUMPUR: There is a sense of hopefulness that comes with ushering in the new year and closing the books on 2020, especially with news of Covid-19 vaccine already being distributed all over the world.
But are we out of the woods yet?
QI Group founder and executive chairman Datuk Seri Vijay Eswaran said the year-long pandemic had created a devastating impact on the global economic landscape that would probably take a long time to recover.
“We are heading towards a global economic depression and based on history, economic depressions can last up to 10 years. Coming out of this will take longer and more painful. This is what we need to be worried about.
“Big companies like Petronas will find a way to survive but the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are going to be hit the hardest, ” he told Bernama.
The government has been very accommodative for the business sector and help them to hold out during this hard time.
However, Vijay said SMEs needed to evaluate their businesses and make pragmatic decisions that would work for them over the long term and not delay these decisions because of cash handouts by the government.
Citing an example, he said if their businesses are not making money, they need to pivot to something more profitable while also adopting the shift towards e-commerce.
The pandemic has affected job security all over the world and across various sectors, with those who have lost their source of income having resort to opening up street food stalls.
Following this, Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa announced that Malaysians living in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan are allowed to conduct businesses at any location within their respective federal territory from Nov 15,2020 to April 15,2021.
This is a commendable effort to help people make ends meet, however, it is receiving mixed response from the public considering that this short-term solution will also cause road congestion.
In this regard, Vijay said the government should consider refurbishing and reviving old food courts in the country to make way for these food stall operators. “Our food courts are dying long before the pandemic and city councils are not spending money for the upkeep of these facilities, ” he said.
He said Singapore’s hawker culture being added to the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is something that Malaysia should emulate.
On the discovery of the Covid-19 vaccine and its global rollout, Vijay said this is not the fastest way for countries to return to normal, and given the current stage, the vaccine is not going to reverse the pandemic.
He said it would take time for the population to be vaccinated and there is always the risk of a new strain of the virus, therefore, the vaccine would still need to be adjusted.
It would be more pragmatic to come up with an effective treatment protocol as well as a fast, cheap and effective Covid-19 testing method, he said.
Both SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) currently do not have vaccines but these diseases were able to be contained through effective treatment protocols. If the Covid-19 also has an effective treatment protocol, he said, normalcy would resume as fears for the virus would be curtailed.
The current swabbing method to detect the virus is becoming ineffective because the process of sample collection is a hassle and the results took too long to be produced, he added.
“It needs to be cheap, fast and effective. I am sure businessmen in Malaysia will be lining up to fund these devices if they were to be brought into the local market, ” he said. — Bernama
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