Money changers in JB waiting for better times

A lone customer at a money changer at JB Sentral in Johor Baru. Before the pandemic, business was brisk.

JOHOR BARU: Money changers in downtown Johor Baru are facing tough times as business has slowed down for them due to travel restrictions imposed at the Malaysia-Singapore border.

The move was carried out to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Before the movement control order (MCO) was implemented on March 18, most of them enjoyed brisk business.

A money changer counter staff at JB Sentral, Isliyana Kamaruddin, said there was a big drop in customers, especially on weekends.

“About 80% of our customers are Malaysians who commute daily to work between Johor Baru and the island republic by bus,’’ she said.

Isliyana said the remaining 20% were Singaporean visitors and Malaysians travelling to Singapore.

She said before the pandemic and MCO, the company operated round the clock as the place was busy with people entering and exiting Johor Baru from Singapore.

“We now open from 9am to 6pm,’’ said Isliyana, adding that on average the company saw not more than 10 customers daily now compared with about 200 before the pandemic.

She said most of them were Malaysian workers who entered both countries under the Reciprocal Green Lane and the Periodic Commuting Agreement.

A money changer at Jalan Wong Ah Fook, who wanted to be known as just Wang, said Malaysians who worked in the republic would usually stop by at his shop in the morning to change money before going to work.

“Some also used to come in the evening or late at night to change money before heading to the nearby 24-hour Indian Muslim restaurants for meals,’’ he said.

Wang said there were hardly any customer now, even on weekends and public holidays.

“Before this I operated 24 hours but have shortened operating hours now to reduce costs,’’ he said, adding that if the situation continues longer he might have to close his business.

Money changer and money transfer agent counter staff at Larkin Terminal, Nur Arrisa Natasya Yusni, said most of their customers were Singaporeans and locals working in the island republic.

“Business was good, especially on Saturday and Sunday, as many Singaporeans came in buses and taxis to the terminal.

“But the situation has changed now, with the border closure,” she said.

Nur Arissa said these days most of her customers were Bangladeshi and Indonesian workers sending money to their families back home.

She said most days, about 20 customers would come to use money remittance services.

Malaysian Association of Money Services Business chief executive officer Adam Malik hoped Malaysia and Singapore could speed up the opening of the border between both countries.

“The move will help to boost the local economy as it is a well known fact that Johor and Singapore are economically interdependent on each other,” he said.

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