Opinion: What priorities should NRP set when it gets the ball rolling

By Sathish Govind

 

THE newly minted national recovery plan council (NRP) chaired by Prime Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin has its work cut out for it and that it is hoped that it will immediately set the ball rolling by looking at the problems facing the country arising out of the pandemic holistically.

It is said that the council chaired by the Prime Minister, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz would also rope in representatives from the private sector, industry experts, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The council should be different from what the Government had done in the past, a proposition that many would find hard to buy in considering the principal actors in the committee are the very same people managing the crisis to this point.

Nonetheless, with the infusion of more experts into the committee that would look at the technical aspects of the pandemic, with politicians looking at purely policy issues, it can be different this time in meeting public expectations.

I have the following suggestions for the NRP:

Composition of its members and inspiring confidence

If the council is to succeed, its composition must be well represented comprising of key representatives who are principal stakeholders affecting the crisis.

Aside from the PM, the Finance Minister, experts on health, virus, psychiatry, sociology, and economics should be drafted in. The problem facing the country is a problem of science and science should be used to resolve the problem.

There is glaring evidence to the contrary in the past when we used half-hearted movement control orders (MCOs), half-baked standard operating procedures (SOPs) and as a result, we have been always getting hit.

When there is respite in the numbers, we relax the restriction on our moments as if we have reached the end of the tunnel, only to realise that it was the light of the oncoming train and then back to the drawing board again.

Politicians in the committee must resist the temptation of bringing politics into decision-making to deal with the problem robustly.

Paramount to the success of the council would be the confidence of the people in it which can be addressed by bringing in the various experts into the council.

Learning and hearing from the best

It is heartening to hear that Tengku Zafrul who said that the council will adopt the “whole of nation” approach” appointing representatives from the private sector, industrial experts, and non-governmental organisations to share their experiences and advice on various NRP aspects.

The Government must also go on to emulate best practices that were used by other countries to solve the problem of the pandemic.

As an example of how India had dealt with the Delta variant. For example, on May 14, India was grappling with more than 326,000 cases, and a lack of oxygen tanks while Malaysia had 4,113 new cases.

Two months down the road, India has managed to bring its numbers down to 38,792 new cases while Malaysia’s numbers have more than doubled to 11,618. The dangers of the delta variant cannot be underestimated as Malaysia can learn from India other countries that were successful in containing the variant.

We should not close ourselves from learning from the best in managing the pandemic. Successful countries that come to mind are countries such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China.

Many aspects of the management of the COVID-19 can be emulated which spares the Government the need to try to reinvent the wheel especially when time is of essence.

Photo credit: Malaysiakini

 

Shoring up our hospitals

Not a day goes by without Malaysians having to see images of our medical staffs battling the pandemic with limited resources in the media.

Therefore, we should seek the expertise of countries such as China in building hospitals or temporary hospitals in Klang Valley and other states in the shortest of time.

In addition, the chronic shortage of doctors, nurses, and paramedics should be addressed immediately as health care resources and personnel are stretched beyond means.

Again, China has the experience of battling the pandemic and we could use diplomacy to request additional doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers to assist our frontliners in combating the pandemic. It is hoped that external support, would ease the pressures of our healthcare staff.

Workplace clusters and vaccination

The increased rate of COVID-19 cases that reported in workplaces in Malaysia either in factories and workers’ accommodation as employers fail to abide by the Workers’ Minimum Standards and Housing Amenities Act. 1990.

An urgent task force should be established to look into this problem as the number of workplace clusters has been on the rise.

Aside from ensuring employers meets the standards, a detailed study should be undertaken to ascertain how the spreading takes place.

Lastly, the Government should be complimented for its vaccination initiatives, although started slowly have already picked up, with the daily vaccination rate breached the 40,0000-mark on July 12. This is a truly remarkable feat.

It is hoped that under the Public-Private Partnership COVID-19 Industry Immunisation Programme (PIKAS), an estimated 2.25 million local and foreign workers employed in the critical manufacturing sub-sectors would be vaccinated soon. – July 21, 2021

 

Sathish Govind is a FocusM contributor.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

 

Photo credit: Twitter (Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah)

 

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