The economics of a pandemic
Where have all the flowers gone?
Yes, we all know Covid-19 has wreaked holy hell on our economy. But yesterday, the truth of just how bad it’s been was hammered home with brutal clarity.
Since March, when the pandemic set in and the movement control order (MCO) was implemented, more than 30,000 businesses have had to shutter. This tally, calculated monthly, peaked in August, when 17,800 companies shut their doors once and for all.
The bulk of the businesses affected were micro-entrepreneurs, which SME Corp defines as companies that make RM300,000 or less a year and employ five people at most.
Almost 23,000 of the business shut shop, not during the MCO, but in the first post-MCO recovery period. What happened? Did they hold on for dear life and realise it just couldn’t keep together anymore? Whatever the reasons, it’s still heartbreaking to think about those lost incomes and now troubled lives. And on a pure ringgit and sen basis, think of all that lost future tax revenue.
Remember – all this was despite a six-month loan moratorium which ended on Sept 30. Things are still bad, so the Malaysian Employers Federation has urged the government to extend the moratorium (or rather, we should say, implement a second round) to help SMEs and micro-businesses stay afloat.
Everybody is feeling the pinch. Take school bus operators, for example. Schools were closed for months during the MCO and now, have been closed again until Dec 17 at least. And parents are, understandably, refusing to pay the fares. But costs such as rental and loan servicing are still running for the bus operators, resulting in many now facing bankruptcy.
Want another illustration? Think of school canteen operators. With no kids in school, canteen operators have no way of earning money and may go the way of the dodo (and school bus operators). Opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim has rightly criticised the gomen for not taking steps to protect these operators (some 10,000 or so, if his figures are correct) before shutting down schools.
But here’s the worst thing. More students have dropped out of school so far this year than the year before. At primary level, it increased from 0.12 percent to 0.13 percent, while at secondary level, it went up to 1.26 percent from 1.14 percent. Sure, it ain’t much, but any increase is a sad thing indeed.
Parent education group Parent Action Group for Education (Page) is calling on the government to reopen schools, at least on a rotational basis, with stricter SOPs (and most likely not the Semua Orang Pening kind). In justifying their call, Page cited a survey by Khazanah Research Institute which revealed 77 percent of students were unable to join online classes.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Economists are confident the initiatives announced under the 2021 Budget will be able to keep companies afloat and save jobs via wage subsidies, hiring incentives and retraining initiatives. Here’s hoping.
Sabah clears, clouds gather in Selangor
Yesterday’s numbers saw a slight dip in terms of new daily Covid-19 cases with 822 infections reported, compared to 869 the previous day. But with recoveries at 769, that meant the number of active cases jumped to 11,446. There were also two deaths, bringing the cumulative number of fatalities to 302.
The good news is that Sabah’s numbers have been steadily dropping, with a relatively low 258 cases reported, even though all three of the new clusters discovered yesterday were reported in the state. Sabah, of course, has been the hotbed for infections since the third wave began.
But things are getting under control there, apparently. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah seems to think so, at least. In fact, he says it’s easier to handle Sabah than prevent infections from spreading in good ol’ Peninsular Malaysia.
In fact, says Noor Hisham, the rising number of cases in Selangor has justified the gomen’s decision to impose a conditional MCO on the Klang Valley. It could’ve been worse, he says, if the CMCO wasn’t imposed, and we assume it was for this very reason the powers that be also imposed a CMCO on all states in the peninsula with the exception of Kelantan, Pahang and Perlis.
Further evidence of things calming down in Sabah while getting worse in the Klang Valley is that a part of Sepang will be under enhanced MCO beginning today, while the EMCO in Mutiara Kasih and Taman Khazanah Indah public housing flats in Lahad Datu, initially extended till Nov 23, came to an end yesterday.
Despite all this, though, the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia has urged the government to do away with the CMCO in all states and instead come up with an alternative way of keeping infections down. The academy also urged the gomen for transparency by sharing info and statistics with other medical experts.
The academy’s message would have been better served if it could have suggested some alternatives. Criticism is fine. Suggestions are better.
Forget Covidiots. We've got gov-idiots!
While we’re concerned with what’s happening to the country and frontliners are putting their lives at risk, our brilliant “lawmakers” resorting to name-calling in Parliament (which some would argue is par for the course for our geniuses).
Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing, PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s special envoy to China, basically called Noor Hisham a coward, saying that the Health DG was “afraid to die” as he had not visited Sabah during the height of the third wave to give moral support to frontliners.
There was a heated debate when Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s Tiong said this, with DAP MP RSN Rayer the most vocal in calling for the Sarawak man to withdraw his remark. Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman Said eventually hit the eject button and expelled Rayer when he ignored her calls to calm down and sit down so she could make a ruling.
Noor Hisham later brushed aside Tiong’s remark, saying that as a Muslim, he accepted death can come at any time and so wasn’t afraid to die. Besides, he said, he had visited Sabah in the run-up to the state elections and had also asked one of his deputies to pay a visit as well.
Tiong maintained he had been in the right and didn’t mean to malign Noor Hisham, but merely to relay the voices of the people, who were disappointed with the government’s shortcomings.
Whatever Tiong’s justifications, to say someone is “afraid to die” is an insult. While we’re all for giving the people a voice in Parliament, it could’ve been done in a classier manner. Tiong could have also been magnanimous in withdrawing his remark. But hey, expecting class from our politicians is kinda like expecting to see a pig in the cockpit of a Boeing 747. 🤷
But darling Noor Hisham is being disingenuous also lah. Yeah, he went to Sabah – but that was way before the elections, which means it was before the peak of the infections. Since then Sabah has seen neither hide nor hair of the so-called Superman who’s leading our public health battle.
And since it would be rude to ask if he’s scared to die, maybe us cheeky sods at BTL would put it this way: Scared to catch Covid ah, doctor?
Other Covid-19 stuff
There were a few other Covid-related articles that came out yesterday, so here they are:
- Pahang mufti Abdul Rahman Osman wants the government to ensure any vaccine, when available, is halal. The Halal Development Corp (HDC) is almost ready to introduce a halal certification standard for biological products, including vaccines, possibly by next year. So, if the vaccines are not halal, we’re gonna wait for a halal version, lives and deaths be damned?
- It is not an offence to sit beside or behind the driver of a vehicle during the CMCO, says Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob. This follows a viral video claiming that a man was issued a summons for having his wife sit next to him. The dude had actually been fined for using his handphone while driving.
- There is no necessity for politicians from the peninsula to campaign in Batu Sapi for the upcoming by-election, says Sabah minister Masidi Manjun, as Sabahans were perfectly capable of campaigning for themselves. We’ve learned from the state elections and resulting chaos caused by the spread of Covid-19, he says. Two months too late, we say.
- The National Security Council has decided to proceed with plans to postpone the Malaysia Cup. Meanwhile, local league champions JDT will have to skip the AFC Champions League scheduled for later this month in Doha as the travel ban still stands.
All other things
And to round things up for the day, here are some of the bittier bits from yesterday’s news:
- Before Deputy Speaker Azalina kicked DAP’s Rayer out of the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, she actually agreed with him over one point: that either the Finance Minister or one of his two deputies should be present during the debate on the 2021 Budget. Despite objections from other MPs, Azalina reprimanded the minister and his deputies (who weren’t present) and told government backbenchers to remind them to be present.
- Meanwhile, a PAS MP has hit out at BN, likening its conditional support of the Budget to the Puteri Gunung Ledang legend, in which the princess was said to have told the Melaka Sultan that for him to gain her hand in marriage, he would have to build a golden bridge from the mountain to Melaka and provide her a plate of mosquito hearts, as well as five other impossible tasks. Whatever happened to Muafakat Nasional?
- The government has agreed to negotiate an out-of-court settlement following civil actions taken over its move to reopen tender for the Klang Valley Double Tracking 2 project. So now we’ll have to pay the contractor to settle its claim, and then pay another contractor to take on the project? Didn’t Transport Minister Wee say this change was supposed to SAVE us money??!?
- The Human Resources Ministry will investigate claims of racism at an Ipoh factory. This follows an incident where a former employee who claimed he had been fired because of racism crashed his car into the premises and threw a Molotov cocktail into the management office, only to be killed in an accident a short while later.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees claims it has been denied entry to detention centres to meet refugees and asylum seekers for a year as Malaysia cracks down on undocumented migrants.
- The Federal Court will hear on Dec 8 a leave application by 33 former Sabah assemblymen who want to challenge the consent given by Governor Juhar Mahiruddin to dissolve the state legislative assembly in July. The proceedings will be conducted via video conferencing due to the CMCO.
- In a commendable show of unity which we all hope would happen more often, both Pakatan and BN assemblymen voted to preserve Selangor’s forest reserves at the state legislative assembly yesterday.
- The mother of Nora Anne Quoirin, the 15-year-old Franco-Irish girl who died after going missing from a rainforest resort in Negeri Sembilan, has questioned the official police findings that there had been no foul play. She told the coroner’s court looking into the case it was odd there weren’t many injuries on her daughter’s body, considering she had been walking around the jungle for 10 days and maintains she had been abducted.
- The father of an Ampang girl who had, on Tuesday, been charged with 41 counts of raping, sodomising and molesting her has been slapped with nine more charges – six of sodomising and three of molesting the girl.
- Clearly not everybody is feeling the pinch of Covid-19. A record total of RM7.3 million was received by the Road Transport Department within five days of bidding for the PPP vehicle licence plate number series. We wonder if People’s Progressive Party prez M. Kayveas was one of those who bid for a number.
- A massive croc measuring nearly 5m in length and weighing in at a whopping 500kg (WTF?!??) was caught in a big monsoon drain near a school in Limbang in Sarawak. We sure have some huge respect for the firemen who caught the reptile!
“Storms make trees take deeper root.”
- Dolly Parton -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- US President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit in Michigan to block the state from officially declaring for Joe Biden despite trailing by 148,000 votes there, while Georgia has ordered a recount, by hand. Trump has refused to concede the elections to Biden and has repeatedly claimed voter fraud.
- Meanwhile, Myanmar also had its own elections with an estimated 70 percent voter turnout, indicating that its people intend to move democratic reforms forward despite the Covid-19 pandemic. This article will give you an insight into the elections in numbers.
- Italy now has more than a million Covid-19 cases, joining the Top 10 list of worst-hit countries in the world. The UK, meanwhile, has become the first country in Europe to record more than 50,000 deaths.
- All of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition have resigned in protest over the expulsion of four lawmakers after Beijing passed a resolution giving local authorities broad new powers to quash dissent. Under the new ruling, lawmakers deemed to be promoting or supporting independence, or who refuse to acknowledge Beijing’s sovereignty, immediately lose their qualifications.
- Bloomberg’s Pop Star Power Rankings list has named all-girl K-Pop group Blackpink the world’s biggest music act. ‘How You Like That’?