PETALING JAYA: Any economic recovery plan that will be introduced now must give priority to meeting the immediate needs of the people.

On the other hand, the country must not lose sight of the need for a long-term plan to get the economy back on its feet.

“For now, the priority is likely to be short term given that we still do not know what is going to happen tomorrow,” said Universiti Utara Malaysia professor of Economics Dr K. Kuperan Viswanathan.

“We need to let the Covid-19 pandemic play out first simply because no one knows how successful the vaccination programme will be.

“In economic terms, we don’t even know what’s going to happen in the next quarter.”

He said to ensure a stable economy, a study is needed to determine how successful the stimulus packages have been in spurring economic activities.

External factors also play a role, Kuperan said, adding that before Malaysia makes any long-term plans, there is a need to wait for the world economy to reopen.

He was commenting on a statement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the government is already preparing an economic recovery plan, or exit plan, for when the country recovers from the pandemic.

Kuperan said it is important for the government to consider the views of business chieftains, community leaders, experts from various fields and other relevant players to ensure a balanced view.

Dr Barjoyai Bardai, an economist at Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, said a twin strategy is needed to deal with the damage wreaked on the economy by the pandemic.

“In the near term, we need to see how we can help those who are suffering because of the pandemic,” he said.

“We have already lost nearly two years of economic development. We need to put in place plans that will help us to grow the economy quickly once we have overcome the pandemic.

“Many countries are already making their plans and we cannot afford to be left behind or we will end up as a third world economy.”

At the same time, Barjoyai said there are structural problems in the economy that the government has to deal with before it moves forward with the recovery plan.

He said with the rapid migration to the fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0) and digitalisation, nearly 70% of jobs that exist today will no longer be available in the near future.

“As such, we need to get people ready for the next big change.”

Sunway University Business School professor of Economics Dr Yeah Kim Leng said any move to come up with a proper economic development plan is only feasible after the pandemic has been overcome.

“After all, the government’s recovery plan is tied to the success of the vaccination campaign and an exit from the pandemic.

“If we fail to recover from the pandemic, our economy will be mired in stagnation,” he added.

He said adequate resources and tough measures will be needed as the country moves forward but the people must remain mindful of the pandemic.

Businesses would be less inclined to make new investments or even expand if they are not sure about the government’s exit strategy, he added.

“The government must have a short term and a long term plan to take full advantage of an ever-changing business environment.”

Yeah said that as the country moves forward into IR4.0 and digitalisation, the reliance on cheap labour must also stop.

“The people must be made ready to face the new challenges that IR4.0 will bring,” he said, adding that this meant reskilling, and retaining and providing opportunities to those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.