By Michael Tay, Johor MCA Government Coordinating Affairs chairman.
Encountering Covid-19 may have seemed like entering an air pocket, of sort, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride ahead, but I strongly believe Malaysia is more resilient than many other countries.
The turbulence may be uncomfortable but we will survive and a rebound will occur once the borders fully re-open.
The Johor state government reportedly suffered a revenue loss of over 20% following the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and closure of the Malaysia-Singapore border where more than 200,000 locals commute daily to the republic for work.
After receiving an outpouring of complaints from those who ply the Causeway and the Second Link daily, I want to say that Malaysia needs to adopt a two-prong approach as she treads on the road to recovery. Both the government and the public must work together in synergy for a faster economic rebound.
The government must set up a task force comprising highly analytical thinkers that will be able to identify new niche markets and types of jobs where workers can be retrained to take on new roles. Those affected by the closure of the borders should not be disheartened.
For workers whose monthly income has been slashed or are about to face a pay cut, please try to downgrade your way of living. It’s not all gloom and doom. Women, too, should not put more pressure on their spouses who are sole breadwinners, as the husbands are doing all they can to provde the best for the family. Instead of grumbling or complaining about the current situation, wives should try to chip in and contribute to the household income.
Malaysians of both genders are known to be rather picky when it comes to finding employment. The pandemic has come to change our mindsets. As long as it is decent work, even if the salary is not what you’re used to getting, you should bear with it until the economic situation improves. I have friends who truly embrace the entrepreneurial spirit where they turn to different trades as a means of improvisation.
When one path is blocked, they look for another path.
We can get tour guides to organise tours to new tourist destinations like recreation or fruit farms, for instance. Singapore-based tour agents which are facing economic challenges should also start planning tours for its citizens to explore Malaysia, especially destinations in Sabah and Sarawak. Singapore is such a tiny island. A short getaway that is affordably-priced would prove to be a much sought-after respite. One just needs to be creative.
The government should promote domestic travels, set up more plantations, fisheries, poultry farms, vegetable farms. This would create jobs for Malaysians and food prices will also become cheaper as they are locally produced.
We seriously need to focus on domestic re-structuring now. We need community leaders who come up with strategies to revive the economy and help the people sustain a livelihood. If you manage your finances well, as long as you’re willing to work hard, survival is not an issue.
SMEs need to be taken care of, and we should welcome investments from China. We have our own culture, principles and practices. A model of our own.
Employees who have been laid off should not hesitate to reskill or upskill themselves. When the government come up with such programmes, go ahead and sign up. Just as long as you’re willing to take on new challenges, a new dawn awaits.