Malaysia Dateline

No total lockdown, but rakyat continues to suffer under MCO 2.0

The Perikatan Nasional government may not have imposed a total economic lockdown, but this alone does nothing to alleviate the financial woes of ordinary people. With Malaysia weathering its worst recession in history and MCO 2.0 further extended until 18 February, more businesses are falling apart while joblessness is on the rise.

Chinese New Year is just around the corner, yet the mood is far from festive. Just ask traders along Petaling Street, who have been suffering the impact of empty streets and no customers.

Kuala Lumpur Hawkers and Petty Traders Association chairperson Ang Say Tee said that 90% of stalls are unable to operate due to the MCO. “If this continues, traders may not die of illness, but will starve to death.”

“The problem now is that the CNY goods cannot be sold at all…. There are no customers at all.”

“The only way for the government to help us is to cancel the MCO and relax the rule on prohibiting economic activities. No income, no food,” he lamented.

Likewise, Kuala Lumpur Fruits Wholesalers’ Association president Chin Nyuk Moy echoes Ang’s sentiments. Chin said that the economy is worsening, and sales have reduced by at least 50%.

They are not alone. Industries Unite, a coalition of more than 40 trade, business and professional associations said in a joint statement that MCO 2.0 would kill businesses and leave many jobless and penniless.

“While public health and safety are of paramount importance, we expect to see the death rate for businesses to spike over this period.”

“Thousands of retail outlets have closed down since MCO 2.0. With its extension again, majority of our members may never be able to recover. Any possible recovery is further hindered by the lack of a clear path forward,” they said.

“The industry requires assistance from the government in (the form of a) moratorium on financial commitments, wage subsidies and more. These issues have yet to be addressed in this MCO.”

Urging the government to lift the MCO, they said, “People may be saved from the virus but may die of poverty.”

All across the board, different industries have been struggling just to stay afloat. However, tourism-related sectors have been some of the hardest hit.

A hotel manager in Penang has resorted to selling food by the roadside to the public for only RM3 just to help the business make ends meet. Jeffrey Lim, who runs the Red Rock Hotel along Jalan Macalister said, “This is actually to help the staff, help the hotel to survive during the Covid-19 time.”

We cannot depend much because there is nothing much from the government for the hotel industry,” he explained.

Evidently, a total lockdown is not needed to kill the economy and people’s livelihood. MCO 2.0 is already doing that. For as long as PN fails to contain the pandemic and continues mismanaging the country, ordinary people will continue to pay a very steep price.