Groups want more sectors to open up, govt says not just yet


PETALING JAYA: While essential industries are allowed to operate, “non-essential” industries in the same supply chain that feed into them or from them are asking for the same leeway.

Their rationale, supported by the essential industries, is that there is a need to procure goods to allow the companies permitted to operate to function, as disruptions in getting raw materials and semi-furnished goods can spell trouble for even the essential industry companies.

The government has heard those pleas but said there is a need to adhere to decisions made by the National Security Council (NSC).

Federation of Manufacturers Malaysia president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said with almost 80% of all businesses falling into the non-essential sectors that are not allowed to operate, and with only 60% capacity allowed for the essential sectors, the extended lockdown has already crippled the manufacturing sector and its contribution to global supply chains.

“Essential manufacturers who can operate are unable to sustain our 60% capacity operations as parts of our supply chains supplying raw materials and services have not been allowed to operate, ” he said when contacted.

He said as suppliers to major industries in global markets such as the United States, exports have been badly affected.

“Ultimately, the industry, despite having all the necessary standard operating procedures and precautionary and preventive measures in place at the workplace, has had to bear the regrettable outcome and blame arising from the lack of SOP compliance in the community, ” said Soh.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said that although the views of industry players are being heard, the ministry has to abide by the decision made by the NSC.

“We have to follow the collective decision made by the NSC. It is not a decision we ministries make in isolation, ” he said.

Fadillah, the Works Minister, added that all decisions on opening up more economic sectors in the current lockdown can only be made based on the advice of the Health Ministry.

Malay Contractors Association of Malaysia secretary-general Ahmed Zaharani Yusof Omar said the association would welcome the opening up of more non-essential sectors, especially in the construction industry.

“The ones who suffer the most in the construction industry during a lockdown are the small-time contractors such as G1 and G2 bumiputra contractors.

“We are willing to do anything as long as we can operate. What we need are our workers to be vaccinated and the supply chain to operate, as well as the supply of workers, which is now at a standstill.

“It is good that the government has started the Public-Private Partnership Covid-19 Industry Immunisation Programme (Pikas) because many of us depend on daily earnings to survive, and this lockdown has completely cut off our wages, ” he added.

Ahmed Zaharani is urging companies with government projects and doing maintenance work be allowed to operate as long as their workers are vaccinated and with strict adherence to the SOP.

“We cannot even restart from zero if we were to shut down completely. Many of us have already folded, ” he added.

He said that when it comes to construction contracts involving government projects, prices of the projects remain the same despite the cost increasing due to delays and an increase in raw material prices.

Malaysian Automotive Association president Datuk Aishah Ahmad said that she hoped the authorities would look into gradually allowing auto assembly and auto manufacturing plants to operate.

“Currently, only auto workshops are allowed to operate to provide after-sales services, ” she said, adding that exports of vehicles and components have been affected and overseas customers are threatening to look for other sources.“We appeal to the government for exports and sales to be allowed to continue, with a stricter SOP, ” she added.

Associations representing shopping mall and retail industries nationwide said that their members have been unduly penalised.

“The retail and shopping sector contributed to merely 0.8% of all cases in May 2021, even prior to the lockdown, ” they said in a joint statement.

“These extremely low figures testify to the retail and mall industries’ strict adherence to the SOP, and they should not be unduly penalised with closure.

“We believe that the retail and shopping sector should be re-opened immediately to provide essential and other services to the community, without the risk of infectivity.”

They said presently, 20-30% of shops in malls have closed due to the adverse conditions of the past 16 months, and with 30% of staff being laid off, which amounts to 300, 000 personnel.

They added that they foresee in the event the mall and retail industry are not reopened by the beginning of July, another 50% of the remainder will be closing their doors for good, including prominent domestic and international retail brands.

“Once international brands exit from our country, it will be doubly difficult to attract these brands to return, ” they added.

The joint statement was issued by the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, Malaysia Retailers Association, Malaysia Retail Chain Association, Bumiputra Retailers Organisation and the Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan Electrical Home Appliances Dealers’ Association.

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