LETTER: In crisis, stability is crucial

In crisis, stability is crucial

By Ivlynn Yap

Letter: I read with deep concern on the political development in our country.  I would like to express my concerns as a professional in crisis communications management. Any attempt to destabilize the government of the day will have dire consequences more so when the country has not gotten ourselves safely out from the current Covid-19 pandemic.

As I see it, we have just entered the Recovery phase. In crisis situation, stability, sensibility and calm are important. The current Covid-19 pandemic crisis is unprecedented. I repeat, unprecedented. The fact of the matter is, in 1997/1998 financial crisis, only Asia was affected. In 2008 financial crisis only US & Europe were affected. The health of the population in these regions were not gravely impacted then.

This time, however, we have to face both crises, health (lives) and livelihood. At the same time, the impact is global and far reaching, impacting almost all countries in the world.

The current Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, led by Muhyiddin Yassin as the Prime Minister, though is not perfect, and one which some do not approve of, there is legality in its formation and approved by our honourable Seri Paduka Baginda Yang Di-pertuan Agong.

The spread of Covid-19 arguably, became intensified following the Tabligh cluster, the event of which happened on 29 February to 3 March, 2020 before the PN government was formed. As the country was already facing the pandemic in early February, albeit at an early stage then, do we also point the finger at PH government which approved the mass congregation of the Tabligh event, prior to the “Sheraton Move”? No one could predict that level of intensity and the danger of the spread then, hence, no one should be blamed.

As a crisis evolves, it is utmost important to focus on the resolve and prioritize actions. The crisis situation has been assessed and responded with actions taken to safeguard the lives of Malaysians, which was the priority when the MCO started on 18 March, 2020. With the spread of Covid-19 showing signs of containment and control, we can now move on to recovering the economy, hence, businesses are back in operation.

The ‘Sheraton Move’ was indeed unprecedented too. No one likes it. But what has been done, had been done.  It is indeed an expensive lesson to learn. So, why do we want another move which will destabilize the country once more and waste the good effort that the country and us, its people, especially our health and security frontliners, have made thus far?

It is very crucial for the country, as we enter the recovery stage to have a stable government. The country CANNOT afford to have another ‘Move’ whatsoever until we reach some level of stability and calm in terms of safeguarding lives and livelihood amongst the general public.

As in any government, there are always room to improve. All governments of the day, have their strengths, weaknesses and flaws. Let’s look at some positive actions and results the country and us, the citizens have accomplished thus far to lessen the impact from Covid-19 on our lives and livelihood.

From business and economic perspective:

1)     Reinstate relationship and amended ties with India to buy Malaysia’s palm oil. This has regained the livelihood of approximately 112,000 palm oil FELDA settlers. Malaysia is India’s 10th largest trading nation with US$1.8 billion revenue from the sale of palm oil alone to India. Malaysia’s trade surplus with India is US$5 billion.

2)     Bursa Malaysia KLCI is on a rally, albeit on a cautionary note. Moving up from 1382.310 points since CMCO started on 9th May, 2020 and 1451.730 points till, 27 May, 2020. An increase of 69.42 points.

3)     Bank Negara announced lower basis lending rates (BLR) to spur spending to kick start our economy again. For the economy to move, government and the people need to spend to ensure enough liquidity in the marketplace. As it is, most businesses and even restaurants and shopping malls have begun to re-open albeit within the SOP to contain the spread of Covid-19.

4)     Malaysia is currently the world’s largest source of medical gloves, with a market share of about 65%. In 2019, Malaysia exported about 182 billion glove pieces, accounting for US$4.31 billion in revenue. This year, according to the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA), the figure could go as high as 240 billion pieces. All glove producers have seen uncharted increase in their share prices and they are investing and expanding further their capacities in land, factories, facilities and workforce to meet increasing global demand.  This is an income for the country to partially substitute the losses in industries such as travel, tourism, air transportation as well as the oil and gas industry.

5)     Hotels turned into quarantine centers giving the hotel industry some lifeline as tourism is halted.

From health perspective:

1)     Malaysia’s Covid-19 recovery rate is close to 80% one of the highest in the world. Malaysia’s recovery rate of 80% is also much higher than the global average of around 41%.

2)     As of 15 May, 2020, Malaysia has tested close to 425,000 individuals, among the highest number of Covid-19 screenings in ASEAN. Of the total, 6,855 tested positive for the virus, which equates to a positive rate of 1.62 per cent.

3)     Covid-19 related death cases on 27 May, 2020 is 115/7,619 positive cases, equivalent to 1.5%, lower than WHO official estimated fatality rates of 3.4%. Other countries are reporting averages of between 4.6% and 5.6%.

4)     Malaysia has ramped up its testing capacity and capability. Around 45 labs equipped for Covid-19 tests, which translates to a daily testing capacity of 26,673 at the moment.

5)     Transformed the exhibition halls of the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park (Maeps) into a gigantic temporary makeshift hospital for Covid-19 patients for the purpose of quarantine and treatment for low-risk patients in the country. This makeshift hospital can house up to a maximum of 604 patients.

6)     ‘Test, Test, Test’ – slogan.

The pandemic has brought Malaysians closer together – from government and frontliners, to activists and the public – in the war against the COVID-19 virus.

No doubt there are impending bankruptcies, foreclosures, unemployment and many more challenges that the country will have to deal with in the next 12 to 18 months.  But any form of recovery (be it social, health or economic) will take some time while we need to constantly be on guard to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The need to strike a balance between safeguarding lives versus safeguarding livelihood is not an easy task. This is what we need to focus on for now and not politics! All of us, Malaysians, must come together as one nation (more so Members of Parliament from both side of the political divide) to see this through instead of jostling for power at such crucial time.

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

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Ivlynn Yap is the Founder, Managing Director & Crisis Communications Lead Counsel of Citrine One, an 18-year old, marketing communications and PR agency. She is also a coach and trainer on crisis communications management to top level management (CXOs) executives and senior communications executives of corporate and public listed companies.
She has also been invited as a speaker at the upcoming International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) World Conference 2020 from 14 – 17 June.

NB: Details for registering to access the International ASsociation of Business Communicators (IABC) World COnference 2020 can be found at this link.

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