BEFORE the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Zuraida Abdullah, 38, was an assistant chef at a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
But she was let go by her employer in May as the hospitality industry was among the most badly affected by the movement control order.
She now sells chicken rice, mee rebus and bihun sup at a roadside stall along Jalan Setiawangsa in Setiawangsa, Kuala Lumpur, to support her family.
“I was clueless about doing business but knowing that I had to feed my five children gave me the strength to start fresh.
“After several weeks of operating, I think I have got the hang of it, ” she said.
Zuraida used aid that she received through Bantuan Prihatin Nasional to start her business.
“The amount given depends on the number of children in a household.
“My family received RM1,800, ” she said, adding that her husband’s income had also been affected.
“My husband works at a restaurant. He used to make about RM2,000 a month but now he gets only RM700 to RM800, ” she said.
Zuraida is among the temporary traders who are now allowed to do business, who have opted to set up shop in Jalan Setiawangsa.
They had taken up the Federal Territories Ministry’s offer of a temporary six-month licence to become petty traders under the free trade area initiative from Nov 15.
Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa said the initiative was to help those who had lost their source of income amid the worsening economy.
Online poll results
The Star Online ran a poll on the matter and asked readers to respond to three questions. (see chart)The poll which ran from Nov 25 to 28 received 5,250 responses.
A majority (53%) said they supported the free trade initiative while 47% were against it.
However, only 40% said they were confident that the authorities could ensure unobstructed traffic and pedestrian access.
The other 60% said they did not believe it could be effectively enforced.
Respondents however appeared to be almost of one mind on whether or not the initiative had been clearly explained to the public.
Almost four out of five respondents said the initiative was not clear while the rest felt that more could have been done to educate the public.
Another trader spotted at the site was Norizan Abdullah, 38, who found herself in a financial bind after her monthly income dropped by more than 70% during the MCO.
Unlike Zuraida, Norizan is still an employee in the hospitality industry.
“Business was really bad during the MCO, and just as it was about to recover, the conditional MCO took effect.
“Although I am still employed, my income has dropped significantly.
“I started a small home-based business selling tidbits and marketed my products via social media.
“When I heard that people could apply for a temporary licence in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to give it a try, ” she said.
Norizan, who lives in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, said her husband also worked in the hospitality industry and that his salary had gone down too.
“This business is our lifeline now even though the loan moratorium was extended, ” she said.
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced on Nov 26 that the B40 group would be granted automatic approval for the loan moratorium.
Meanwhile, those in the M40 group could apply from their respective banks. Their applications would be reviewed and approved within five days.
School canteen operator Mohd Shaharudin Undar, 47, turned to selling UHT milk by the roadside as all schools were closed during the conditional MCO.
“Many canteen operators have had to earn a living by other means.
“As a petty trader, I make much less. I would be lucky if I could take home RM50 a day, ” said the father-of-five, adding that the busy period was during lunchtime and late evening.
Shaharudin said he applied for his temporary licence on Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) website, and it was approved the next day.
Zuraidah Zainon, 39, who sells fried rice and laksa, said she was grateful to be given a licence to do business in Jalan Setiawangsa.
“It is good that those who are without a job can earn some money during these trying times.
“At least we can support our family, ” she said, adding that her stall was open from 11am to 5.30pm daily.
“Most shops here operate around the same time.
“I make sure to clean up and take all the equipment home after I am done for the day, ” she said.
Another trader who only wanted to be known as Azmi, 37, admitted that he and his friend had been doing business at this spot for the past 15 years.
“We had applied for a licence from DBKL at that time, but our request was turned down.
“After we heard about the temporary licence, we decided to apply again and succeeded this time, ” he said.
However, some traders have yet to apply for the licence from DBKL.
Checks after 8pm on a weekday revealed that the stall owners had removed their equipment after business.
The stalls were also equipped with a quick-response code for customers to scan the contact tracing app, MySejahtera.Regulations needed
Not everyone has welcomed the row of stalls along Jalan Setiawangsa.
They include nearby residents who are concerned about traffic congestion due to the haphazard parking of vehicles and lack of physical distancing among customers.
A resident who only wanted to be known as Azman, 55, said that roadsides should be off limits to petty traders.
“When stalls operate along a roadside, it leads to traffic congestion as customers park their vehicle for at least five to 10 minutes while waiting for their order.
“These stalls are located too close to a residential area.
“DBKL has an obligation to consider our views too, ” he said.
Another local, Kamal Adnan, 30, questioned the decision to allow so many stalls to operate in the area.
“It almost looks like there is a Ramadan bazaar going on here every day.
“I remember that Ramadan bazaars were banned this year to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“But the number of cases are much higher now so why are the authorities allowing these stalls to operate here?
“What if a Covid-19 cluster were to form at these trading sites?” he asked.
Kamal was also upset that the stalls had been set up along the walkway, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road.
Another local who only wanted to be known as Maznah, 55, said trading locations must be sited away from housing areas.
“We are not against people doing business, but the authorities must ensure residents’ comfort too.
“We have a right to a clean and quiet environment. Nobody wants to live close to a noisy and crowded trading area.
“There needs to be a clear separation between residential and commercial areas, ” she said.
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