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Cautious approach best for health, economy

12 Apr 2021 / 10:26 H.

PETALING JAYA: Measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 must be tempered with efforts to give the economy a much-needed boost.

A medical expert and an economist theSun spoke to agreed that while measures to prevent another surge in infections must continue, some easing of restrictions are in order.

Economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said now that the work-from-home policy has been lifted, the next step will be to ease restrictions on interstate travel.

Sharing similar views is Dr Victor Hoe Chee Wai Abdullah, who said that there must eventually be some semblance of normalcy.

They were responding to an April 1 announcement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that Malaysians who have been fully vaccinated for Covid-19 will be allowed to cross state boundaries.

In a note issued a day later, the Malaysian Rating Corporation Bhd (MARC) said that interstate travel should be lifted soon “to prevent further economic scarring”.

MARC has forecast an economic growth of just 5.6% for the year, lower than Bank Negara Malaysia’s estimate of 6% to 7.5%.

Hoe, who is head of the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at Universiti Malaya, pointed out that “there is always a risk in everything”.

“What we need to do is to manage the risk,” he said, adding that even those who have yet to be vaccinated should be allowed to travel to other states and even abroad.

“It would not be fair to give this privilege only to those who have been vaccinated as most people have yet to be given the chance to take the jab.”

Hoe said the best way forward is to ensure that everyone observes standard operating procedures to stem transmission of the infection.

Yeah, who is professor of Economics at Sunway University Business School, said a slower-than-planned roll-out of the vaccination plan and weaker-than-expected global economic recovery are factors that will moderate growth in Malaysia.

The government would have to mobilise the support of employers and the community at large to ensure that the vaccination target is met, and workplace and personal protocols are fully observed for the pandemic to be successfully contained, he said.

Another economist, Dr K. Kuperan Viswanathan, believes Bank Negara’s projection is “far too optimistic”. Nonetheless, he said, the country can expect at least a 5% growth this year with increased government spending and a gradual recovery in oil prices and tourism activities.

He agreed that lifting interstate travel ban will promote economic growth through higher consumption and increased economic activities, especially in domestic tourism and services sectors.

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