Firstly, thanks to the government for the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package which has extended a lifeline to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It has helped retain jobs and saved many SMEs from bankruptcy.
Also a big debt of gratitude to all our frontliners, in particular doctors, nurses and hospital staff as well as the police and armed forces.
As we enter the final week of the extended Movement Control Order (MCO), there is a need for a clear exit strategy.
We hope the government will announce this strategy soon, especially the criteria, conditions and guidelines.
Moving forward, there is a great need for a National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) which should contain both short-term and long-term plans.The short-term measures focusing on business survival, resilience and continuity have been largely addressed in the stimulus package.
However, some tweaking is needed.
Firstly, the special relief facility (SRF) loans should be approved promptly by banks as many SMEs do not have enough savings to last them another one to two months.
Secondly, the wage subsidy should be extended to six months from three months.
Although this will cost several billion ringgit more, it will be necessary to prevent mass unemployment and the collapse of small businesses.
For the longer term, the NERP should focus on making Malaysia more resilient, competitive and productive.
It is proposed that a new National Consultative Council (NCC) on Economic Recovery should be appointed like the previous National Economic Consultative Council (NECC).
This new Council should have representatives from businesses, trade associations, chambers of commerce, SMEs, youth and women entrepreneurs, civil society organisations, academic researchers, think tanks, trade unions and consumer bodies to be truly representative.
The NERP should prioritise key economic sectors like the construction, property, manufacturing, food and agriculture, technology, logistics and transport. It must provide a road map for their business continuity and restructuring.
At the same time, there should also be plans for new growth drivers and new economic sectors like e-commerce, fintech, smart manufacturing and open distance learning.
We have seen during the MCO the big increase in online business and online education.
Priority should be given to expanding and strengthening the digital economy and green economy to promote environmental sustainability as the cities and rivers are cleaner and greener during the MCO period.
Big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), digital marketplace and cashless trading should be encouraged and incentivised as key components of the digital economy.
These are the sort of sectors that can attract more young entrepreneurs. Social enterprises need to also be supported as part of the economic recovery efforts.
The NERP needs to also focus on addressing the four key securities that the nation needs:
• Food security to ensure sufficient food stockpile and to be self sufficient in food;
• Health security to stockpile medicines and hospital equipment;
• Cyber security to keep pace with cybercrimes; and,
• Human security to ensure better protection for vulnerable people and human rights.Having these four areas of security adequately addressed will ensure we can be better prepared for future eventualities.
Another area that the NERP needs to provide for is to introduce in Parliament a Covid-19 Act to protect business and industry against claims for inability to complete contracts due to force majeure. The Singapore Parliament has approved a similar Act.
Finally, we need a bipartisan approach to overcome the difficult challenges ahead.
National unity should be prioritised and all Malaysians should work together to ensure the health, safety, wellbeing, peace and prosperity of the nation.
Healing the nation in all aspects is urgently needed. Let us all rise above partisan and divisive politics to bring the nation together.
Let us work towards an inclusive and sustainable economy where no one is left behind.
Tan Sri Michael Yeoh
President KSI Strategic Institute and Deputy Chairman of The Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur