Kota Kinabalu(Thurs): The government decision to extend the Movement Control Order or the MCO from 15 to 28 April was a wise decision. Sharing his opinion today, Executive Director of IDS, Anthony Kiob is in support of the extension of the MCO. He said many countries around the globe are just starting the MCO exercise, and in fact our neighbour Singapore just started the exercise on 7 April for a month period.
“As of 15 April, as what being announced by the Malaysia Health Ministry, the KKM, Malaysia reported less than one hundred new cases of positive covid19 and this shows extending the MCO has proven to be effective in breaking the Covid-19 chain,” said Anthony. Perhaps we should follow China example where MCO is only lifted when no new positive covid19 cases are reported,” said Anthony further.
Meanwhile, Anthony informed that IDS is carrying out a number of surveys targeting at selected business sectors that are badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the MCO. One of the recent surveys carried out was on tourism product operators.
“As we know Sabah is heavily relying on our tourism sector and this is the sector that contributes most to our GDP. Unfortunately, this is the sector that is most affected by the MCO due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Sabah is popular among the Chinesse and Korean tourists and these are the two countries that were among the first that experienced the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. At the moment no tourists are allowed into Sabah and our tourism operators are now facing bleak future.
He said IDS received encouraging respond from the target group. “I can say we get 100% feedback from them as they wanted to convey their concerns to the government.”
Among the findings of the survey revealed that 32% of workers in this group received a pay cut, another 34% are on unpaid leave while 26% have lost their jobs. “They revealed that they have zero-income due to the absence of visitors during this MCO measure. As the operators have no income, they were unable to pay their workers and cover their operational cost,” said Anthony.
With regards to the government stimulus package the operators got their 15% discount on monthly utility bills, the monthly wage subsidy for employees, and bank loans moratorium. These measures are welcome by the operators as many are unable to pay their staff and may lay off staff if the salary subsidy by the government did not come in,” said Anthony.
“About half of the respondents revealed that, even with the availability of the stimulus package, they are still unable to sustain their businesses as the MCO is extended,” he said.
“Our survey also highlighted that the tourism players are looking forward to reviewing the measures by mid May to address the economic slowdown due to MCO. “They foresee that the subsequent fears to travel will have longer impact on the tourism sector and the state’s economy,” he said.
Anthony stated that some of the other suggestions put forward by the industry players include waving all together the electricity and water bills for six months period instead of just giving 15% discount on monthly bills. “They also want the wage subsidy to be extended for another three months or until the pandemic is over or until business is back to normal,” he said.
On the bank moratorium, they expressed their wish that it can be extended until the end of the year 2020, Anthony said.
Other suggestions put forward include special grants for freelance tour guide, dancer and musicians; suspend EPF contributions from employers to employees for 6 months: allow certain business to re-open for limited hours and with restrictions in stages during the MCO; and Government to assist in aggressive campaign on domestic travelling after the MCO is lifted. And for the government to go down to the field and visit operators who are badly affected by the MCO and help ease their burden as well as ensure they can move forward after the MCO episode,” said Anthony.
Anthony said the full result of the survey will be submitted to the state government. Meanwhile Anthony encourages the public to visit IDS facebook, Instagram and website. “From time to time we will put an online poll on current issues and the public may participate in this poll,” he said. The website can be accessed at https://ids.org.my/ and IDS facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sabah.ids and IDS instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ids.sabah/.