ADUN SPEAKS | The world and our nation are facing a situation that has not been experienced before by a vast majority of this generation. The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged our government, economic and social systems.
Experts in various fields have predicted that even if this pandemic were to end, the world would see drastic changes in what we once considered normal and change into new situations.
For example, how we move around, the way we interact with one another, the way we do business and so on. All these would change.
After more than a month and Malaysia now in its third phase of the movement control order (MCO), the efforts of various parties have finally come to fruition.
Although our country, in general, is still recording new cases of Covid-19 every day, the rate of increase is lower than during the first two phases of the MCO.
In Penang, the incidence of Covid-19 per capita cases, is the second-lowest among all the states and I am thankful that, as of April 18, Penang has recorded zero positive cases for four consecutive days.
Special thanks must be given to the rank and file of the Health Ministry (MOH) and all frontline members who have been working hard to ensure the health and safety of all Malaysians.
Nevertheless, as I have stressed before, we should not relax for now. Continue to obey the MCO until we are all truly safe.
The initial strategy is already showing results
While we are still struggling with the Covid-19 virus, the state government is also preparing for the new situation that we will face in the future.
Countries across the world including Malaysia are now revising the rate of their economic growth for this year. The unemployment rate will rise drastically in developed countries such as the US.
In fact, in some countries, there would be inadequate medical equipment. Just recently in Malaysia, our Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (below) himself said that we are in need of additional medical equipment such as PPE.
In Penang, the state government has made sure that the people and the state are protected from the Covid-19 pandemic as best as we can.
I still remember that certain parties criticised the state government when we did not distribute the face masks during phase one of the MCO. At that time, I have stated that the state government’s strategy was to ensure that our frontliners were adequately protected first.
Our strategy proved to be right. To date, the state government as well as other donors through us, have provided 309,700 pairs of gloves and shoe covers, 30,510 sets of PPE and about one million face masks to our Penang frontliners.
Furthermore, there are also those who disagreed with the state government’s prudent approach in ensuring the compliance of the MCO. The MCO is a new experience for all of us.
As such, the mere use of strict enforcement methods will be ineffective. Instead, we need to educate and enlighten the public on the Covid-19 pandemic so that the people will act on knowledge and awareness and not just out of fear for the law.
Based on these, the state government has been aggressively carrying out large-scale awareness campaigns. We use all existing channels, posters, billboards, the internet, social media, the traditional media and so on.
The elected representatives and members of the Majlis Pengurusan Komuniti Kampung (MPKK) were mobilised to educate and to implement social distancing at public markets.
Thankfully, all these approaches are also followed by the enforcement by the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), the city councils, the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), RELA and others have shown overall effective action in breaking the Covid-19 infection chain in Penang.
There were also those who criticised the early stages of the Penang Aid Package that it did not include all the groups who were in need of assistance. If we can recall, Penang was the first state which announced an economic stimulation package, one day prior to the implementation of the MCO.
The state government’s objective was to provide confidence and hope to the people to stay afloat even in times of crisis.
The Penang Aid Package valued at RM75 million comprises of 15 target groups with an estimated 400,000 direct recipients in Penang.
We are also the first state to distribute financial aid on 1 April 2020 and now almost all the target groups, including those in the federal list, have received their aid, except for a small number who may have not sent in their complete particulars.
To overcome this, each elected representative irrespective of their party affiliation was allocated RM30,000 to be used as emergency aid relief for the people in their respective constituency.
In general, having gone through a month of the MCO, we can now more or less see the results of our joint efforts. However, it is undeniable that we will soon face future challenges that may be greater than what we are experiencing right now. The state government, therefore, will never rest on our laurels of what we have done so far.
The first impact is currently being addressed, the second impact should be given due attention
The first impact of Covid-19 is on our health while the second is on our economy. While the first impact directly affects human lives; the second one, if not controlled well, will have the same effects on our lives and livelihood.
Earlier, I announced the ‘Penang Next Normal Strategies’. The state government has begun to move towards ensuring that our state is prepared to face new situations as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic especially on aspects of our economy.
The closure of the Esquel factories in Penang and Kelantan as well as Pan Apparel in Penang and Perak certainly affects Malaysians and Penangites in particular.
On our part, the Penang Career Assistance and Talent Centre, or CAT Centre, has taken steps to contact the Esquel human resources department and later on, Pan Apparel, to handle the matching and relocation of jobs for their staff members in Penang.
In fact, the Penang economy is still able to provide employment opportunities to the people of the state. From January until September 2019, Penang recorded RM13.3 billion in the form of approved investments in the manufacturing sector. This represents about 23 percent of the total investment in Malaysia’s manufacturing sector.
The implementation of this investment has already begun and InvestPenang (iP) estimates the creation of some 13,000 new jobs.
In the economic sector, we are aware that Penang and Malaysia may not be as dynamic as China where global market spending has been balanced by its domestic market expansion.
Hence, economically, the two-pronged focus of ‘Penang Next Normal Strategies’ is to ensure the economic growth of Penang through the implementation of public projects as well as strengthening our SME sector.
I will be making further announcements of the state government’s public projects in the near future.
SMEs in the ‘Penang Next Normal Strategies’
In terms of strengthening the SME sector, Penang is aiming for a new thinking framework that has actually been carried out in recent years.
FIRST, the economic digitalisation of Penang. Last year, the state government established Digital Penang as the catalyst for this transition. The current crisis has accelerated the digitalisation process.
At the same time, the state government is also aiming to establish the first Digital Free Trade Zone in Penang by next year.
On 20 April 2020, Digital Penang will be hosting a virtual roundtable talk to bring together technology players to discuss technology solutions to the new ‘Next Normal’ situation that we shall be facing.
SECOND, to strengthen Penang’s position in the medical equipment sector. For the past 10 years, the state government has been actively expanding this sector and now, some of the leading players in the global medical device are in Penang.
We can be proud that the medical equipment industry in Penang is also involved in the production of essential equipment to combat the current Covid-19 pandemic.
THIRD, to refocus the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector to diversify their products from consumer electronic products to industrial application products such as telecommunications system, Industry 4.0 equipment, medical equipment and so on.
FOURTH, to expand the global shared services sector. Currently, Penang has over 60 companies involved in the sector with the provision of high-value jobs to 12,000 employees.
Among the services offered include finance, supply chain management, trade, analysts, research and development, logistics and so on. These facilities, coupled with the availability of existing mature supply chains, have created a high-efficiency and low-cost ecosystem to attract multinational companies to come to our state and country.
FIFTH, to reposition our state in global supply chain shifts due to recent crises such as the US-China trade war and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The state government has directed InvestPenang to form a ‘Penang Next Normal economic taskforce’ to identify and develop new strategies as well as direction for the state, country, regional and global economic development in order to attract new investments.
The state government intends to act in advance to ensure the benefits of this global economy will benefit our state and nation.
Economic strategy is one of the three branches of reform in the ‘Penang Next Normal Strategies’ which are institutional, economic and social reforms of Penang.
I hope the mapping of this economic strategy will give the people of Penang and the general market, confidence, that the state government is always planning ahead to ensure the interests of the people and the state of Penang are well-taken care of.
Let’s continue with our efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to develop this beloved nation of ours.
Penang Fights Covid-19!
CHOW KON YEOW is the Penang chief minister and is the Padang Kota state assemblyperson.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
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