It’s time to plan for post-Covid-19

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 08 Apr 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The additional RM10bil in government aid will help business owners and allow workers to keep their jobs, but the government also wants to continue supporting businesses after the movement control order (MCO) period.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed (pic) said it was crucial for the government to start planning for some economic sectors to get back on their feet.

“We have to plan this systematically without letting our guard down. If not, all the MCO efforts would have gone to waste.

“Our priority continues to be saving lives. Of course, the MCO has affected businesses drastically. We want to help businesses bounce back quickly but let’s get it right, ” he said in an online interview.

He said the Health Ministry and other ministries would be consulted on how businesses could resume so that the economy could be revived and Malaysia could start to catch up.

But he said efforts must also be taken to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19.

Mustapa cited the examples of Hong Kong and Singapore which now had to face a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections as other major nations were still struggling to fight the virus.

“In Japan, for example, more stringent measures are just starting, with the Emergency Orders to be carried out.

“So, these are scenarios that we have to consider as the world is now very deeply connected and any move we make or others make would have a reaction, ” he said.

Mustapa said the Economic Action Council Secretariat had started work to prepare for economic recovery post-Covid-19.

He added consultations had already begun with various stakeholders, which include small and medium enterprises (SMEs), business associations, economists, think tanks, academics, individuals and investors – both foreign and local – to prepare a medium-term plan to revive the Malaysian economy.

“Beyond monetary support to SMEs, the government wishes to hear from these stakeholders on how we can revive various industries by, for example, reducing red tape – such as hastening permit approvals or even doing away with them completely.

“We may set a fixed time line for approvals online as we want business to catch up on lost time. This is an opportunity to undertake fundamental reforms, ” he said.

Asked whether Malaysia was too heavily dependent on oil and palm oil, and if it was time to look at other sectors, Mustapa replied: “Yes, without a doubt, we have been too dependent.”

He said there was low-hanging fruit such as education and healthcare, which needed bigger boost, in the face of competition from neighbouring countries.

“I have read in The Star that foreign students spent over RM40bil in higher education institutions.

“That is a lot of money for Malaysia and certainly we must look at how we can be more attractive. Let’s get down to working out the details and be more aggressive in promoting Malaysia’s strengths, ” he said.

Mustapa said healthcare would become more important as people would be very health conscious from now on, underlined by an ageing population and higher life expectancy.

“The government, through the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), has done a fairly good job in promoting the sector, but our potential is huge. This has to be fully exploited.

“The point is that education and health are essential sectors, and we need to support and encourage sectors such as these.

“There are many other sectors, including digital and delivery platforms, that we need to boost in various ways, beyond just monetary help. Let’s identify the list of revenue earners. The economic landscape post-Covid-19 will be very different – we have to be agile and ahead of the curve, ” he said.

Mustapa said healthcare saw resilience and robustness over the years, with Malaysia reportedly

having recorded a 17% cumulative aggregate growth rate for healthcare from 2015 to 2018.

The post-Covid-19 economy will change but he believes Malaysians will be resilient and strong in meeting the challenges ahead.

“All of us are searching for answers because this is an unprecedented health and economic crisis. We must work together in a tough environment.

“As a government, we are trying our best. Let us, the public and private sectors, work together for a better future for everyone.

“Now is not the time to ridicule or put down anyone. We are all human beings with weaknesses. Let’s support the government’s efforts with our ideas and proposals, ” he said.

Mustapa said the government acknowledged that there would be different dynamics of rebound which would see different types of businesses recovering at a varied pace.

“For sure, I am aware that the stimulus package the government has provided may not please everyone. However, the majority of Malaysians acknowledged that the government has done its best.

All three packages – announced on Feb 27, March 27 and April 6 – amounted to RM260bil or 18% of GDP, with direct government injection increasing from RM25bil to RM35bil.

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