How time flies… it was 10 years ago that I started this column. How things have changed. I would have never thought that my personal freedom would be restricted, that I would be forced to stay at home and not allowed to travel freely.
Corruption, though, has not changed much. Politics all over the world has become uglier, moving more right, more nationalistic and more confrontational. Political systems in many countries are showing cracks and fractures and in need of a reset in beliefs and values.
We have learnt many new words over the last two years. Trump-ism, back-door government, lives vs livelihood and K Recovery. These are topics/phrases that I had never heard of in my university days nor read about in any books on business and economics.
For those not familiar with K recovery, it just means that the economy is still in recession, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Some industries are doing well and surviving, some businesses are still suffering while some have died. Overall, it is still negative but recovering quarter-on-quarter from the global March 2020 meltdown.
Due to massive quantitative easing (QE) by central banks all over the world, we now have a disconnect between stock markets and the real economy, which will eventually lead into an asset bubble in the financial markets. But this QE will not solve mass unemployment. Direct cash put in citizens’ pockets will support domestic consumption temporarily. Only reinvestment in the real economy will bring back jobs. Only when international travel resumes will pilots and cabin crew be re-employed.
Despite the availability of vaccinations, our economy this year will be the same as last year in what I call the on-off economy. For restaurants and retailers, today they “got business”, tomorrow “no business”. For airlines, hotels and tourist guides, “no business last year and no business this year”.
Many business owners are crying “how to survive like this?”… I have no answer.
Domestic consumption has fallen because consumer confidence has fallen drastically. The fear of being infected and the fear of losing jobs have taken hold. Most families have reduced combined income (politicians and civil servants are not affected though) and government subsidies are too little too late. The latest budget mainly covers health and government operating expenses (which is not reduced).
The declaration of an Emergency makes no business sense to me. It does not promote consumer confidence. It does not promote foreign direct investment. And worst of all, it does not encourage domestic investment.
Politicians should be mindful that the interest of the people comes first and they are in power to serve the interest of the nation. If there were no Sabah election, we would not have the current crisis. This power grab play by all parties must stop now.
If Malaysia were to join the world in a V-shaped recovery in 2022, we would require the following forces to act in concert. There needs to be mass vaccination of 80% of the population by the end of the year.
It’s the only way to restore consumer confidence. International travel will require vaccination passports and a negative Covid-19 test. Then our airlines can start flying international routes again and allow foreign tourists with the V passports to come to Malaysia.
It will still be compulsory for everyone to wear masks and sanitise their hands, plus the normal social distancing guidelines.
Political stability with the right thinking leadership is important. Practice what you preach and lead by example. Plan thoroughly before implementing new rules and regulations.
Reduce the operating budget and spend only on necessities. Invest in beneficial infrastructure projects. Promote unity. Control religious extremism. And most important of all, help the poor and the unemployed of all races.
Bank Negara and banks continue to support SMEs through the moratorium and extension of bank loans through 2021. Compassion not numbers should be the main criteria in extending assistance to the struggling SMEs now that recovery has been pushed to next year.
Similar moratorium assistance should be given to unemployed home owners who are not able to keep up with their monthly installment payments. It is more crucial that they be allowed to put food on the table for their families. Help them survive so that you survive too. Never lose a profitable and loyal customer.
SME owners must fight to survive over the next 12 months. Those that are surviving should stay prudent, save and prepare to expand when the economy recovers next year. Those still struggling will need to reduce cost further if they have not reduced their operating expenses according to the sales decline last year. They have to assume that this year will not be better than last year. This MCO lockdown will continue to be extended till the Covid-19 numbers decline by a lot. And that means potentially by up to two months.
Employees in the private sector must be appreciative that they still have a job. Do not give a reason to your bosses to render you unemployed. Jobs and opportunities are scarce. There are already sufficient grab drivers and online delivery workers. Forget about opening a stall or a restaurant as current hawkers and F&B operators are suffering like you have never seen before.
Consumers are advised to support their local hawkers and small business operators. For those who can afford it, don’t ask for discounts but instead leave some change or tips. We should help these small businesses who have received little help from the government.
Forecasting sales is no more an art nor based on previous track records. You have a much better chance at predicting four-digit draws which by the way have been completely banned across the nation during the MCO.
Thank goodness, the beer factories have been allowed to operate unlike the last MCO. Even if you cannot drink in the pubs, you can still enjoy a can or two at home. If you are lonely, just toast to yourself facing a mirror and count your blessings that you have survived 2020. Wish yourself Happy Chinese New Year.
Follow our Health DG’s advice – stay at home, wash your hands and stay away from the virus. Be safe.