Muhyiddin should meet SME representatives and a cross-section of Malaysians on the RM250 billion economic stimulus he announced last Friday

Grim milestones in the invisible global war against the Covid 19 pandemic continue to be chalked up in the last 24 hours, emphasizing that the war against the new coronavirus is going to be a long, dreary and complex one.

This is because the Covid-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis, it is also an economic and nation-building one.

The grim milestones in the last 24 hours on the Covid-19 war-front were led by:

  1. Total death toll in the Covid-19 pandemic has passed the 30,000 mark - two-thirds of them in Europe—since the epidemic started in China last December.
  2. Italy raced past the 10,000 mark for daily fatalities, after 889 more people died in the previous 24 hours. In the past 10 days, Italy suffered a heavy daily toll of Covid-19 deaths, i.e. 889, 919, 712, 683, 743, 601, 651, 793, 627 and 427 fatalities or a total of 6,105 deaths, which works out to 610.5 deaths per day. The countries with the most deaths are Italy with 10,023, Spain (5,690), mainland China (3,295), Iran (2,517) and France (2,314).
  3. United States skyrocketed to a new record of highest 24-hour increase of confirmed cases, i.e. 19,648 cases, pushing the total confirmed cases in the United States to 123,012 cases.

But news on the Covid-19 pandemic war-front are not all bleak and gloomy.

China is opening up again after the Covid-19 pandemic, demonstrating that the battle against the Covid 19 outbreak could be won. Today, trains packed with thousands of passengers arrived in Wuhan where the virus first emerged late last year, as the Chinese city partly reopens after months of near total isolation for its population of 11 million.

But China is not the only success story in the ongoing global war against Covid-19.

South Korea is another, and Malaysia must learn from the lessons of South Korea and China to ensure that Malaysia can win the invisible war against Covid 19, which is not only the public health war, but an economic and nation-building battle.

If Malaysia cannot win the war against Covid 19, then Malaysians must be prepared for the fate of Italy - a nation with about double the population of Malaysia, but which tops the world in breaking the 10,000-mark in Covid 19 fatalities in the past 24 hours, with a confirmed total of 92,472 cases – a nation where one person dies every two minutes and the shortage of ventilators and ICUs are forcing doctors to decide who will live and who will die.

But it will be a pyrrhic victory if Malaysia wins the Covid 19 war but loses the economic battle, with the economic system damaged beyond repair.

What the South Korean Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, whose interview with BBC has gained worldwide popularity, said about the secret of the success of the South Korean strategy of the Covid-19 response, must always be borne in mind by the Prime Minister and his government - ”openness, transparency and fully keeping the public informed” which are in fact the barometers for government legitimacy.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are among those who protested that they do not benefit much from the Prime Minister’s RM250 billion “economic stimulus package” announced last Friday, predicting that at least 50% of SMEs would have to close down costing four million people their jobs.

This is most shocking as the Finance Minister, Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, was formerly CEO of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd but he did not seem to give weight to his own bank’s report, “SME Landscape in Malaysia”, developed in partnership with CompareHero.

The CIMB/CompareHero report stressed that the country’s economic fate relies on the success of SMEs which represent 98.5% of all business establishments in Malaysia, and in 2018, contributed RM521.7 billion of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). SMEs currently provides 5.7 million jobs to 70% of Malaysia’s workforce.

In keeping with the motto of “openness, transparency and fully keeping the public informed”, Muhyiddin should meet SME representatives as well as a cross-section of Malaysians with regard to the economic stimulus package which he announced last Friday to ensure that it is the best formula to restart the Malaysian economic engine at the earliest opportunity.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri