Just keep the economy running, says economist

AN economist said the government would have reviewed all options before coming up with the proposal to proclaim an Emergency to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to FocusM, Crewstone International chairman Datuk Jalilah Baba said she was confident the government would consider all angles, including the economy, should it decide to declare an Emergency.

“I’m sure the government is keeping public safety as paramount consideration. They know what is best for the people,” she said.

Yesterday, Muhyiddin called for a special Cabinet meeting at Seri Perdana. It was speculated the former was looking into declaring an Emergency due to the on-going pandemic.

However, critics have said that Muhyiddin was looking at the ‘nuclear option’ as it was rumoured that his political adversaries may be looking at dislodging his government by voting down Budget 2021 which is scheduled for Nov 6.

However, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah ibni Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah has informed the government that he will need to deliberate the proposals with the Conference of Rulers first before making any decision.

Muhyiddin’s recent moves earned the wrath from both sides of the political divide, including his mentor-turned-nemesis, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Jalilah, who spent decades working on government policies to attract businesses, said the government should ensure certain economic sectors remain open if Emergency is proclaimed in the future.

“Certain essential sectors like food production, logistics and manufacturing must be allowed to operate within certain time frame.

“We can just reuse the guidelines given during the movement control order (MCO) in March to implement the measures,” she said.

However, Jalilah concurred that foreign direct investments (FDI) and domestic direct investments (DDI) will be affected during an Emergency.

“That is why the government should ensure that supply of essential items remain adequate during such period.

“We should also allow import and export activities to remain in order to protect our economy. If not, the people’s income will be affected and that will cause more problems,” said Jalilah, who is also a council member of SME Association.

On related matter, several legal associations have voiced objections to Muhyiddin’s move, calling it going too far.

In a statement today, the Sabah Law Society (SLS) also urged politicians to stop dragging the nation into uncertainty as the masses are already suffering from health and economic constraints due to the pandemic.

“We call upon politicians to focus on their efforts to help our healthcare personnel to deal with the pandemic.

“SLS will not support moves by any individuals to undermine confidence in our public institutions any longer,” said its president Roger Chin.

Chin cautioned against any moves to call for an Emergency, adding that such exercise would grant vast powers to the executive branch to pass laws without oversight.

“The implications are far reaching. The two others pillars of our democracy, the Legislature and Judiciary, will be rendered impotent, leaving our institutions compromised,” he said.

He also dismissed notions the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is duty-bound to follow every advice of the prime minister, saying the monarch possesses certain discretionary powers under the Federal Constitution.

“Some argue that under Article 40(1), the Agong is duty-bound to follow the advice of the prime minister but we disagree with this argument.

“Under Article 150, the Agong must be satisfied that grave threat exists in order for the monarch to declare an Emergency,” said Chin.

He added public health crisis is not included under the clause of Article 150 which would warrant for an Emergency to be declared.

“That is why we have the Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease Act to deal with infectious disease,” said Chin.

Echoing SLS views, the Malaysian Bar also said a nationwide Emergency proclamation was disproportionate to the existing public health crisis.

“The Malaysian Bar is concerned that an Emergency would cause a plunge in confidence for individuals and businesses alike.

“What the people need now is stability and a strong focus on public health instead of an Emergency. Any move to declare an Emergency will be perceived as a regressive approach to the rule of law and our parliamentary democracy,” said its president Salim Bashir.

He added an Emergency proclamation may even lead to a constitutional crisis, leading to further disruption to public life.

“We hope the government would reconsider its decision. The Malaysian Bar believes the government has the ability to handle the spread of COVID-19 without calling for an Emergency,” added Salim. – Oct 24, 2020

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