Strategy for functioning through a prolonged crisis

THE recent announcement that a committee jointly chaired by senior ministers in charge of security and economy clusters demonstrates that the Malaysian government is serious about creating a balance between continued safety of the general population and survival of the economy.

In the global context, as many countries struggle to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, this step represents a broader and indeed a rapid response to the crisis. The clearly stated objective of this new committee is to balance the medical risks and rewards of increased production in the current situation. This rapid response is testimony to Malaysia’s current rank of 12th in the World Bank Doing Business 2020 report.

From the perspective of crisis management, all scenarios need to be taken into consideration. This includes the scenario that a prolonged crisis becomes the new reality that people and companies must be able to function through. With this possible reality, innovation coupled with a radical departure from contemporary thinking is required.

A proposed solution is the designation of “strategic production zones” in various locations throughout the country. Confirmed free of Covid-19 and able to have managed human capital and production flows, the key components of these zones would include close proximity to a port or airport, temporary on-site accommodation or centralised accommodation, medical screening facilities, additional on-site medical support and central kitchens to ensure availability of food.

Adopting the fly-in fly-out (FIFO) concept, which is used in the mining and energy sectors to allow workers to be on site for a period of time and then flown out while being replaced by other workers, is also important. This would allow the expansion of production beyond the current levels.

Can the concept of strategic production zones be applied to the current situation, considering the country’s current capabilities?

The police and armed forces have successfully cordoned off various “red zones” and the relevant agencies have ensured that those in the affected areas receive food and medical attention.

At the same time, several risks have become accepted norms, including the movement of cargo by land and air, reduced and registered workforce in critical industries, operation of the banking sector and the controlled movement of the population to purchase food, to name a few.

These combined factors leave space for discussions among stakeholders for expanded production at this time.

While many SMEs are already on the chopping block, some of the larger corporations will not be far behind if supply chains and the related ecosystems grind to a halt. Corporations that are chomping at the bit to return to partial or full production need to remember that on any level, a sustainable business model requires customers to remain alive to continue to buy goods and services well into the future. On the flip side, at this time it is important to remember that public health is a luxury that is only made possible by a functioning economy. Innovation and resilience from all stakeholders will be required to shape a positive and sustainable future.


Founding chairman

Malaysia Global Business Forum

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