Retail industry cries out for fairness

I WORK in the retail industry where I manage both the operations of a mall and its tenants.

Last week, I woke up to rumour that the government was planning to enforce another movement control order (MCO3.0). This was duly denied by the government, but as we all know by now, it has turned out to be true.

When it was announced, MCO3.0 did sound like another “death sentence” to many of us in the retail industry, which has been my family’s livelihood for more than 10 years. In all these years, we have never faced problems as serious as the ones we are experiencing now.

Since the first MCO, tenants have been struggling to make ends meet because of low footfall in malls. Many of them scrambled to switch to the e-commerce platform, but out of 10, only two or three succeeded.

I have seen many tenants winding up their business because the operating cost was simply too high even after mall owners/landlords had given significant discounts/rebates on their rentals.

Business never really recovered during the past conditional MCO periods, but of late, footfall had started to increase.

After the announcement of MCO 3.0, I received over 30 enquiries via phone calls and text messages from tenants and their staff.

One sales assistant, a single mother of three, told me in a shattered voice that she had been told by her supervisor she was going to be laid off.

One of the food court operators asked what would happen if this movement restriction is prolonged, as business was bad during Ramadan. Being forced to close abruptly after being placed on the HIDE (Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement) list and then faced with MCO 3.0 is a double whammy to us.

I believe the HIDE system was implemented without proper explanation and the government failed to engage the stakeholders on how it would be used.

The ministers in charge have not been convincingly able to navigate the Covid-19 crisis, thereby forcing our economy further into darkness and hopelessness.

Really, can we not have better people in charge to handle this national crisis? Can’t our political leaders have compassion for those who are working tirelessly to rebuild our nation’s economy?

The worst part is, a few Cabinet ministers were recently exposed for breaking fast without observing SOP, but no stern action was taken against them.

I would really like to stress this point: Shopping malls have provided a safe space for all shoppers by strictly adhering to all the rules and regulations imposed by the government. People in the retail industry have diligently done their part in curbing this pandemic by working together with the government.

In return, the government should offer some sort of compensation whenever MCO is implemented, such as tax exemptions or a stimulus package. This is because at the end of the day, taxes paid by the businesses are channelled back to the government.

Furthermore, we should be given advance notice before the government decides to impose strict MCO rules. This shows professionalism and some form of structure and planning.

Learn from other countries what effective measures they have implemented to curb this pandemic without affecting the economy to a grave extent.

I do sincerely hope that from now on, the government will plan strategies more effectively and wisely, as the decision to implement MCO 3.0 has been very abrupt and has negatively affected many industries, especially retail.

I strongly believe that as a nation, we can overcome this pandemic – but only if the thought-process on the SOPs are thoroughly scrutinised. The government cannot afford to fail the people over and over again because of the substandard management of the pandemic by those in leadership roles, especially Cabinet ministers. The blood will be on their hands.


Kuala Lumpur

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