Image credit: The Star

PETALING JAYA: With the realisation that Malaysia cannot continue to lose billions of ringgit daily by imposing a movement control order during the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) has proposed to the National Security Council to introduce an advanced alert system for industries, says its minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

The Senior Minister said it was vital for such alerts to be created as the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic had hit businesses which were just restarting their operations.

In the alert system, when there is a surge in Covid-19 cases in areas where the industries are located in, the authorities will inform them of an impending MCO that will be imposed in their areas.

This will help the industries from being caught off-guard by the MCO that usually involves the shutting down of business operations and closure of roads.

As such, the industries can continue operating with minimal disruptions.

Azmin also said much had been done to improve the economy during the pandemic.

“We have just injected RM305bil in stimulus packages such as Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (Prihatin), National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) and Kita Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package (Kita Prihatin).

“No amount of funding, however, can ensure that the economy will return to where it was (during the pre-Covid-19 period).

“The gig economy and vendors like Makcik Kiah (hawkers) were restarting their businesses when the third wave hit.

“We cannot afford a complete lockdown on the economy. This is why we have proposed to the National Security Council a new alert system before a conditional MCO is announced.

“With such a system, the industries will be alerted in advance to comply with the tightened SOP when the alert is announced.

“The biggest challenge is to ensure the small businesses can continue to operate. The last thing we want to see is retrenchments.

“As a responsible government, we have to balance between lives and livelihood,” Azmin said in an interview with The Star.

He said that although the Health Ministry had stated a complete lockdown was the best way to stop the pandemic, business associations warned that this would kill the economy.He admitted that there was much confusion initially over the SOP to be applied to the various economic activities.

“We have streamlined the SOP for all types of industries. With the series of engagements we undertook with the stakeholders in the last few months, the current SOP is deemed acceptable.

“Now the issue is about compliance. If we can cut short the conditional MCO, the faster the economy can start its recovery,” he said.

On Malaysia’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum this year, Azmin said it was unfortunate it had to be conducted virtually.

Malaysia has been hosting Apec meetings starting from December 2019 until this month, with the 2020 Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting to be held virtually this Friday.

“Apec is an incubator for ideas and less binding for its members. Before we reach the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where agreements are more binding, Apec leaders use this as an incubation ecosystem to learn from each other.

“The new rule of global trade is not just on the GDP but also inclusivity, environment and workforce. These are very sensitive issues for many economies and most feel comfortable to discuss it at Apec,” he said.

He also said the government would continue to engage foreign business leaders on behalf of SMEs and the Malaysian private sector through Apec Business Advisory Council one day before Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting.

“As Malaysia has been endorsed as one of the countries best to manage Covid-19, hosting Apec even virtually stands to restore investors’ confidence in Malaysia.”

Azmin chaired the Apec Ministerial Meeting virtually yesterday as the host of Apec 2020.