Lack of Clarity May Drive Businesses Out, Warns SME Body

The SME Association of Malaysia says the government should seriously work towards stopping firms from moving out.

PETALING JAYA: The government has been urged to draw up a clear and definite list of essential and non-essential businesses allowed to open during lockdowns, as some of them are facing delays in continuing their operations due to the confusion.

SME Association of Malaysia vice-president Chin Chee Seong said some bigger manufacturing companies have indicated that they are planning to move out of Malaysia to either Indonesia and Thailand as they have commitments to supply products overseas.

Among other things, he said, the investors are not certain as to whether they are allowed to operate during lockdowns or not.

“That is why it is crucial to have a definite essential and non-essential list,” he said during a webinar organised by Institut MASA, titled “Can We Survive Another Lockdown?”

Chin said many major businesses and multi-national companies are in a dilemma because of the uncertainty.

He claimed that various chambers of commerce from Europe and the US have indicated that some of their businesses have decided to move out of Malaysia or are in the process of doing so.

“The government should seriously work towards stopping them from moving out,” he said.

He said while businesses were told to get approval from the international trade and industry and other related ministries, the process is taking time with some essential businesses failing to get approval to operate.

“The more the government drags the approval process, the more it is causing inconvenience and anxiety to the fraternity,” he said, adding that businesses are facing uncertainties with the constant lockdowns.

Chin warned that up to 250,000 workers are likely to be laid off if the total lockdown is extended beyond six weeks, with at least one million workers losing their jobs if it is extended till the end of this year.

The current total lockdown, which began on June 1, is set to end on June 14. Putrajaya has yet to indicate if it will be extended. So far, 100,000 businesses have shut down since the first MCO.

Chin said although the government has been giving out aid and helping undergraduates to get jobs, more needs to be done to help the 900,000 SMEs to survive.

He said companies and staff need automatic loan moratoriums with zero interest specially to help debt-laden companies.

“Now, if we take another loan to service the two existing ones, it will kill us,” he said, urging the government to subsidise at least 1% of the company loans.

Economist Jamal Othman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said Malaysia would lose RM256 million a day under the total lockdown if there was no government assistance.

“Over 1 million people will also lose their jobs if no assistance is given. But with economic packages, it should help,” he said.

Pornography, drug addiction on the rise

A mental health expert warned that the movement control order (MCO) has caused a rise in addiction to the internet and drugs.

Prem Kumar Shanmugam said internet addiction among children and adults is on the rise resulting in behavioural changes as people are forced to stay indoors during the MCO.

There is also a rise in online bullying, gaming, pornography and virtual sex addiction, he said, adding that more people are also looking at different ways to get drugs to their homes.

Prem Kumar said that during MCO 1.0, the business community and families were still trying to digest the total lockdown but anxiety and mental health issues started affecting them after the second MCO in January.

He said some people were stressed-out worrying about jobs, being infected, their children’s education and survival of their businesses.