JOHOR BARU: The call for the land border with Singapore to be reopened as soon as possible is getting louder, with one leader urging the state government to set up of a task force to review the opening of the two land crossings with the island republic.
Bekok assemblyman Dr S. Ramakrishnan (pic) said that the focus should be to reduce the time period and cost of following the SOP while crossing the border.
“Laboratory testing facilities must be at the site of entry, in view of the number of people crossing so that results can be received much faster.
“The cost of testing should also be looked at, including the possibility of it being subsidised,” he said.
Ramakrishnan was commenting on the Star’s recent report on Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad saying that the state government was not capable of finding employment for 100,000 Malaysians who may lose their jobs due to the prolonged closure.
The borders were closed to daily commuters when Malaysia imposed the movement control order (MCO) since March 18.
Hasni had added that the current unemployment rate in the state was already at a record high of 18%, with 35,000 people jobless.
Ramakrishnan said that the large number of Malaysian workers in Singapore and Singaporeans crossing the border for shopping, entertainment and tourism was critical for the state’s economy.
“Unfortunately, the state government did not show any urgency in opening the border much earlier.
“Knowing the urgency of the matter now, steps should have been taken to shorten the quarantine period and reduce the cost of Covid 19 tests with minimum interruption to cross-border travelling.
“Unfortunately, this matter (border reopening) was left to the Federal Government to handle,” he said in a statement.
He added that development agencies such as Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) should be proactive and aggressive in attracting more foreign direct investments into Johor.
“So far, investments from China seems focused on property development, and therefore we need more investments from other countries and MNCs focused more on non-property sectors,” he added.
He also suggested that the state government needed to develop infrastructure for the digital economy.
He stressed that since the pandemic has altered social interactions, communication, business transactions and work life, digital platforms could enable businesses to continue their businesses online and virtually.
“Irda should lead the shift to digital and gig economy. Government agencies should play a crucial role in raising awareness and digital skills of small and medium-sized businesses in the state,” he said, adding that the state government must help traders embrace e-commerce to become digital entrepreneurs with new future skills.
Hasni had earlier said that: “The time has come for the Federal Government to find a way to balance the people’s lives and their livelihoods, as we do not want the scale to tip only towards lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Hasni said that 5% to 10% of businesses in the city area had closed as a result of cash flow issues since the border closure in March.
He noted that the economy of Johor, which previously had some 250,000 people commuting daily between both countries to earn their keep, had been hard hit.
Hasni said he was in touch with Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to find a way to keep the Covid-19 situation under control while moving to fully reopen the border.
Hasni also said it was an opportune time for the border to be reopened for daily commute, as Johor had been a green zone for some time.