JOHOR BARU: Opening up the two land borders in Johor with Singapore, which have been closed for more than a year due to Covid-19, must be among the top priorities of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, say local leaders and experts.
Leading the call is Umno Youth exco member Bastien Onn, who said that Ismail Sabri must do whatever he can to convince the island republic that the pandemic, especially in Johor, is being managed well.
The Segamat division youth chief called on the new administration to discuss putting in place a proper mechanism to allow Malaysians to cross the border daily, with its Singapore counterparts.
“Prior to Covid-19, an average of 200,000 Malaysians crossed the border daily due to work commitments as Singapore needed our manpower for their economy.
“Once our government is able to convince Singapore that Malaysia can overcome Covid-19, then our cross-border travel should resume,” he said when contacted yesterday.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Azman Hashim International Business School Assoc Prof Dr L. Nanthakumar said getting the Causeway and Second Link reopened as soon as possible is key to both nations’ economy.
“We should hasten our vaccination effort and introduce a green lane to allow those already vaccinated to travel between both countries.
“Singapore needs Malaysian workers while we depend on Singapore investments to drive up our economy,” he said, adding that Singapore has already opened up its border to several countries.
Johor South SME adviser Teh Kee Sin noted the importance of Singapore as one of Malaysia’s main partners in foreign direct investments in the last decade, especially in the southern region.
“In addition, Singaporeans are big spenders and among the biggest group of tourists visiting many states in Malaysia, helping to grow our tourism sector,” he said.
Teh said many are hoping to re-enter Malaysia once infections are brought under control.
“We hope fully vaccinated Singaporeans and Malaysians are allowed to travel in and out of both countries so that we can see economic activities in Johor and our city area thrive again,” he added.
Last Monday, two days after he was sworn in as Malaysia’s ninth Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri received an invitation from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to visit the city-state.
In a separate congratulatory letter to Ismail Sabri, Lee said the two governments have worked closely on shared challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic and he looked forward to expanding their cooperation for mutual benefit.