BUSINESS organisations want Johor government to speed up the Covid-19 immunisation programme under its third economic stimulus package.
The organisations had praised the introduction of the Ihsan Johor 3.0 package worth RM241mil that touched on 33 initiatives with the aim to empower the state’s management of the pandemic and strengthening social safety.
A total of RM167.33mil was allocated for the first Ihsan Johor economic stimulus package followed by the second financial package worth RM109.48mil.
Johor Master Builders Association president Tee See Kim said the state government was taking the right step by allocating RM75mil to improve its pandemic management efforts, with RM40mil set aside to purchase Covid-19 vaccines under the third package.
“Hopefully, the state government will consider allowing private clinics and hospitals apart from KPJ Healthcare to sell vaccines to enable more people in Johor to get vaccinated,’’ he said.
Tee said many people were willing to pay for their Covid-19 vaccination, administered by private clinics or hospitals.
He said Malaysia could follow the Indonesian government’s move, where 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines were allocated to private clinics and hospitals there.
“The faster we achieve the 75% to 80% herd immunity, the better for our economy as we can start reopening our border with Singapore,” said Tee.
Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Low Kueck Shin said that while the lockdown was necessary to flatten the Covid-19 curve, it was impacting the economy.
“Faster vaccination for the people is the answer to this,” he said.
Low said businesses in downtown Johor Baru were badly affected with the closure of the border between Malaysia and Singapore since the first movement control order was implemented on March 18 last year.
“Take a walk or drive to downtown Johor Baru and you can see how deserted and quiet the place is, almost like a ghost town,” he said.
He added that Johoreans working in Singapore had helped boost the local economy as the money earned there and spent in Johor had contributed to the state’s development.
Low said the strong Singapore dollar compared to the ringgit for the past several years was a boon for Johor’s economy as Malaysians working in the republic had strong purchasing power.
He said they had disposable income to buy properties and cars and this definitely benefitted developers, retailers and businesses in Johor.
“But sadly, thousands of locals working in Singapore have been stuck there since the first MCO and the majority of their income is spent in the republic,” he added.
Unofficial figures show that some 300,000 Malaysians commute daily from Johor to Singapore to work pre-Covid-19 days, while another 400,000 worked and lived there.
KGV International Property Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd director Samuel Tan said Johor was probably the only state in Malaysia that had started such initiatives for Bangsa Johor.
The Ihsan Johor 3.0 package, he said, was very proactive in meeting the current needs brought on by the pandemic.
“The two-pronged objectives are appropriate. Maybe the state should allocate more funds for vaccination relief as this will solve the root of the problem,” he said.
Tan said that while the 33 touchpoints had a bit of everything for many segments of society, those in dire straits should be prioritised to benefit from the initiative.
“While taking care of the B40 group is important, the state must not neglect the M40.”
He said many in the M40 group were encumbered by high household expenses and loans and yet were often not eligible for government assistance.
The state government, he said, must have an exit plan and new post-pandemic economic model for Johor, particularly Johor Baru.
“It is needed to ensure that we are less vulnerable to border closures that are likely to happen every now and then,’’ he concluded.