Light at the end of a tunnel: A year after PN took over

By Jamari Mohtar

 

WITH the COVID-19 infections showing a downward trend, the death rate at 0.4% among the lowest in the world, and with more than 90% of COVID-19 patients have fully recovered, the stage is set for the current, third wave to be a manageable affair in a few months’ time.

What’s more, the Government has some new strategies to ensure the infection curve will be flattened as soon as possible by controlling the spread of the disease.

For instance, based on its data, it was observed 10% of the clusters had contributed to more than 85% of COVID-19 cases. Henceforth, the Government will take a more targeted approach by implementing a more stricter movement control order (MCO) at all clusters’ location.

This science-based approach has already been put into action when the Government announced on March 1 that the enhanced MCO will be imposed in Felda Jengka 1, 2, and 7 as well as Felda Ulu Jempol in Maran, in Pahang starting today until March 15. This is despite Pahang scoring a one-digit infection (8) on March 1.

As explained by Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the move was to facilitate the Health Ministry (MOH) to carry out early detection and isolation of COVID-19 cases to ensure residents with infection risks remained in the enhanced MCO area.

Meanwhile, the Government is also enforcing MCO in the district of Nabawan, Sabah from March 3 until March 16 following a sharp rise of cases involving a cluster in the district that has high infectivity.

On March 1, the daily infections were at its lowest 1,828 since last Thursday, with Selangor – consistently occupying the top position for a long time as the state with the most daily infections – showing a drastic improvement by moving to the second position with new cases at 453.

At the same time, while the Government will be opening up more sectors of the economy, all economic activities are subject to a stricter social distancing and standard operating procedures (SOPs). The implementation of these SOPs will be enhanced by a firm action against SOP violators which averaged 500 a day.

So, a year after the Perikatan Nasional (PN) has taken over the helm of Government, Malaysia is now moving towards a recovery trajectory in the balance between lives and livelihoods, and at the same time, is moving fast to put in place some fundamentals that will steer the country in the right direction for a post COVID-19 world.

This is the gist of the special message of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday, dubbed as One Year of Concerned (Prihatin) Malaysia, which marked his one-year premiership of the country.

Reading the message to the end, it is indeed very clear that the Government has adopted and will be adopting an enlightened two-pronged approach in not just fire-fighting but also putting in place the necessary fundamentals for Malaysia to thrive in a post COVID-19 world.

Among some of these measures are empowering Malaysia with a digital economy as a new source of wealth through the action framework of the MyDigital initiative launched by Muhyiddin on February 19, along with the focus on implementing the Digital Education Policy, which inter alia will bridge the digital divide and produces responsible citizens that function in a knowledge virtue-based society.

All these will provide the direction for Malaysia to create talents/workforce of the 21st century in order for it to be a more competitive country in the digital era.

“I believe the Digital Education Policy is one forward move to provide for a generation that is digitally literate and at the same time propels the quality of our national education to be one of the best in the world,” said the PM.

Other fundamentals mentioned by the PM in his message that will facilitate the recovery of the economy and equip it with the wherewithal for a post COVID-19 world includes:

  • Ensuring the security of the rakyat via managing the spread of the COVID-19 through enhancing some aspects of border control especially a no compromised tighter control of the border to prevent the entry of illegal or undocumented immigrants who are one source of the spread of the disease;
  • Comprehensive effort at creating travel bubbles with some potential countries that have brought the COVID-19 under control. This is very important in order to activate bilateral trade and investment that will accelerate economic growth. This is also in line with the Asean Travel Corridor Arrangement (TCA) mooted at the Asean Summit in November to facilitate intra-Asean travels which will revive trade, tourism and the services industry; and
  • Introducing the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030) as a continuity to Vision 2020 with the main goal of ensuring Malaysians in general can enjoy a decent standard of living by 2030. This will be implemented through the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025) and the 13th Malaysia Plan (2026-2030).

Among the priorities of the 12th Malaysia Plan are managing poverty especially the eradication of hardcore poverty, now that the pandemic has pushed a lot more Malaysians under this category.

Towards this end, a Cabinet Committee on Poverty chaired by the PM has been formed to explore in details what can be done by the Government, government-linked companies (GLCs), voluntary organisations and the private sector to manage together the problem of poverty.

Other priorities include speeding up developments in Sabah and Sarawak, and other under developed states by stabilising the provision of infrastructure and basic needs; providing a conducive eco-system to develop the micro, small and medium sized enterprises; speeding up both the take-up rate of advanced technology and digitalisation among businesses and the rakyat; and the transition to a green economy to support the agenda of sustainable development and a low carbon emission country.

On sustainable and green development, the PM has already launched in January a 100 Million Tree-Planting Campaign as part of the Greening Malaysia Programme, one of the national agendas for addressing climate change and improving the quality of life of the people.

The PM also touched on the Emergency ordinances which have facilitated the war on COVID-19. Giving assurance that the Emergency is not an attempt to prolong his tenure in office, Muhyiddin said:

“All these ordinances are meant to enable the government to manage the COVID-19 in a more efficient and effective way including improving the management of foreign workers’ dwellings which is one main source of the spread of the disease.

“With the Emergency, all these ordinances have been implemented in short order without going through the normal parliamentary process that will take too long to materialise. I’m aware and understand what democracy means and hence, nothing in these ordinances were meant to enable the PM to remain in power indefinitely. Even this Emergency is not indefinite. It has an ending which is August 1. This is the first time in the nation’s history that an Emergency has an expiry date.”

And some observers have taken note too that the Emergency is responsible in taming down the excessive politicking in the country which had resulted in some good achievement in the economic numbers for 2021 so far, such as a stronger ringgit, a thriving bond market and good export numbers.

It is indeed a long journey of one year to see light at the end of a tunnel but it’s no mean feat to achieve this as the PM took over the helm of the nation with unprecedented circumstances of major issues occurring together at the same time (health, economy, politics) and so criticisms against him and his Government is not only easy in hindsight, but also expected. Also, the odds were against him to shine, as the call for unity has been challenging indeed. – March 3, 2021

 

Jamari Mohtar is Director of Media & Communications at EMIR Research, an independent think-tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based upon rigorous research.

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

 

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