ALTHOUGH it is a bit too late for the establishment of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), it can be accepted nonetheless.
It is certainly not a healthy sign but something borne out of desperation and despair.
It is certainly better than nothing from the beleaguered Perikatan Nasional (PN) Government, barely able to keep its head over water.
More than one year of over centralisation or “we know better” in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic did not bear any results.
The decision making entirely left to the National Security Council (NSC) failed to stem the tide of the pandemic as was seen in the surge of infections, particularly in the densely populated areas of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
In fact, 50% of the daily infections rate are these two areas.
The NRP introduced in June was meant to take cognisance of infections on relative basis and not based on absolute figures.
It was meant to take into account the progress made at state, district and local levels and move away from the centrality of the absolute national figures.
It was realised the NSC through the NRP could monitor the daily infection rates among the different states.
For this to materialise, NRP was divided into phases. In other words, the progress from one phase to another would be dependent on three criteria: daily rate of infections, the capacity of hospitals based on bed-count and the percentage of those vaccinated against the population.
With the NRP’s different phases of recovery, there was no necessity to lump the entire country under one single movement control order (MCO).
NRP allows for variations, in other words, the derivation of detail knowledge about the impact of the pandemic in different geographical areas of the country.
Thus, by taking into consideration progress at the state and district levels it was assumed that a better profile could emerge in the control of the pandemic.
The NRP might not be major step, but certainly a small step in the right direction.
It was born out of the failure of the Government to control the pandemic that is raging presumably under a new variant.
In brief, the NRP represents a bottom-up approach, from the top-down approach evident in the practice of the NSC.
I understand that in ensuring the success of NRP, the Government has sought to enlarge the membership, with the inclusion of some prominent individuals not necessarily those who support the Government.
I am not sure whether members if the opposition have been invited to join the committee.
I understand that an invitation was extended to the former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammed.
Whether he is interested or not is not clear; but why would he be interested in joining this committee when his real interest is becoming the next prime minister.
As I have said earlier, the NRP was something better than nothing.
However, whether the NRP will be really independent of the whims and fancies of the Government, is yet to be known.
In fact, there are no indications, it will be anything different from any other commitments that have been set up.
Not surprisingly some of the so-called prominent individuals who have been invited are those who might not have the independence to differ from the Government.
It is real shame!
Prime Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin who announced the NRP, said among other things that to beef up the work of the NRP, the Government will be allocating a bigger budget to the Health Ministry, something not done in the earlier Governments.
The establishment of the NRP comes in the wake of realisation that things are not going well for the Government in management of the pandemic.
With all the existing measures in place, the infection rates are not showing a downward trend.
Despite the attempted procurement of vaccines, the vaccination rate is not something encouraging.
From the beginning, the Government was ill-prepared to manage and contain the pandemic.
Indecision and bad leadership were mainly responsible for the inability to control the infection rates. It can be interpreted as something dangerously surging in the country.
The economy has come to a virtual standstill. How the Government is moving forward is not something unclear.
It is not the establishment of the NRP alone, but whether the Government is prepared to swallow its false pride to engender the viability of democratic institutions in the country.
Hopefully, the NRP is not rendered as “No Recovery Plan”, just like how the New Economic Policy (NEP) is infamously known today as “Never Ending Policy”. – July 25, 2021
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Photo credit: Harian Metro