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Groups welcome reopening of 11 economic sectors but urge government to allow all businesses to operate

FMM In The News: THE SUN DAILY, PETALING JAYA, Sunday, August 15, 2021 - While trade groups and associations welcome the government’s announcement on the resumption of 11 economic sectors’ operations under Phases 1 and 2 of the National Recovery Plan effective Monday with conditions, they are urging the government to allow all businesses to operate.

The Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta) on Sunday called on the government to reconsider the current guidelines to make them more consistent and reflective of operational reality.

First, it repeated its call to do away with the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses, and for reopening decisions to be based strictly on capacity, ability to implement and enforce social distancing and safe operational guidelines and vaccination status of employees, customers and visitors.

“For example, while we are allowing the reopening of morning markets, where enforcements are carried out by volunteers and Rela officers; we have yet to allow the operations of trade exhibitions, where enforcements are usually far more organised and held in larger venues.

Another example of the inconsistency is that while we are allowing the reopening of furniture shops in Phase 1 of the PPN, carpet shops are only allowed to be reopened in Phase 2. Are carpet shops inherently more dangerous than furniture shops? What if a shop sells both furniture and carpets?” Samenta Central chairman Datuk William Ng asked.

Second, it urged the government to refine the SOP and reopening guideline to reflect a single operational parameter, instead of the announced tiered approach.

“We suggest to allow all sectors, including manufacturing, construction and retail, to reopen at 80% capacity when 80% of all employees are fully vaccinated, while allowing only visitors and customers who are fully vaccinated. This will serve the dual purpose of reinforcing trust in the vaccine and avoid a potential enforcement nightmare for our already stretched frontline enforcement personnel.”

Third, given the varied SOPs, it urged the government to immediately direct all enforcement agencies to adopt a consultative approach to enforcing them, especially in the first one week of this new guideline. Businesses should not be fined immediately for inadvertent lapses and minor oversight that are not a clear danger to employees, customers or visitors.

Fourth, it once again urged the government to have a single agency or point of contact to coordinate the issuance of permits and operating approval letters, instead of requiring businesses to go to their respective “governing ministries”. This has caused some businesses to fall into cracks or “no man land” as their businesses are not “under any ministry”.

National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) president Datuk Low Kian Chuan again requested the government to allow all businesses (regardless of essential and non-essential services sector) to operate, subject to strict SOPs.

Despite this, Low is relieved that the government has considered its call for allowing the operations of non-essential services sector though not all non-essential sectors are allowed. The government has also adopted the chamber’s proposal to allow the operations of the manufacturing, construction, mining and quarrying sectors under Phases 1, 2 and 3 starting from Monday.

Low said that the latest relaxation rules is a welcome relief to many businesses, especially micro and SMEs as well as those self-employed, who have been struggling hard for survival under the prolonged pandemic impact and “open-shut” restricted containment measures.

“On this note, NCCIM hopes that businesses comply strictly with the SOP, and with the facilitation of regulators to ensure a smooth full reopening of the economy. NCCIM urges all Malaysians and businesses to not let down their guard and continue to maintain high level of SOP, including social distancing to keep our business community and workplace safe.”

It added that a three-pronged strategy of speeding up vaccination, 3-T approaches (tracing-testing-treating) and insolation is equally important to win the race of taking Malaysia out of the pandemic.

Moving forward, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) called for clarity and consistency in the interpretation of the rules of operations by the various enforcement agencies both at the federal and state levels to ensure a smooth process of reopening the sectors and to facilitate business recovery during this critical period.

“The industry will continue to be reminded to ensure strict adherence to the Covid-19 SOP and to enhance preventive measures including testing of workers to protect the safety of workers at the workplace,“ said FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai.

FMM lauded the decision to ease the restrictions for economic sector operations which now allows industries including the non-essential sectors to resume operations with effect on Monday based on company vaccination rate. This is indeed an eagerly awaited and welcomed announcement which will provide the much-needed relief to many industries that are currently in a dire state of affairs and at the brink of collapse after almost three months of business closure.

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