Economist: Is imposing MCO the best way to control Covid-19?

Jomo Kwame Sundaram – Picture from Wikipedia

By John Isaac

KHAZANAH Research Institute research adviser Jomo Kwame Sundaram has questioned whether Malaysia’s movement control orders (MCO) were the best solution in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic and protecting the people’s welfare.

This is as there were countries successfully fighting the pandemic without resorting to similar measures, Jomo said.

“If we look at the situation in other countries, not every country has implemented MCO or something similar, such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Kerala in India, and even China.

“All of them did not implement an MCO or something similar, where people were forced to stay home and not leave for a certain period of time,” he said.

The economist added that the public tend to think there was only one way to control the pandemic which is through an MCO. However, other countries have used other methods which were “far more effective”.

According to Malaysiakini, Jomo was speaking at an online forum last night titled “Budget 2021: Moving Towards Recovery” organised by the International Islamic University Malaysia. His fellow panelist was Kangar MP Noor Amin Ahmad.

The economic downturn in Malaysia was not inherently because of the pandemic, Jomo pointed out, but was because of lockdown measures taken by the government.

He said if Malaysia had effectively implemented other measures to control the spread of the virus, then the MCO may not have been necessary.

He believed that is why the public is now questioning the efficacy of the MCO in stopping the spread of the pandemic.

This also shows a trust deficit in the government among the people, Jomo added.

“In the beginning, the support for Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was very strong, but now that trust and confidence in him has deteriorated a lot.

“Because of that, even though this is a government with the biggest cabinet in Malaysian history, with more than 70 members, we find that it is as if the left-hand does not know what the right-hand is doing in the government.

Only six per cent students have access to a laptop and internet

He also said the measures taken in Malaysia in terms of continuing education under the pandemic largely depended on the student’s access to a laptop and Internet.

However, only six percent of school students in Malaysia have access to laptops, he said.

“So why aren’t there other methods to ensure the children’s education is not too left behind? Why not utilise TV or radio broadcasts?

“We find that the measures taken do not seem to involve the entire government and it seems like there are no efforts made to convince and get cooperation from the rakyat.

“If we do not get the support and cooperation of the rakyat, we will find that many will be left behind,” Jomo added.

He used the recent work-from-home orders as another example of confusing measures taken by the government.

“Cooperation at the state government level is also very important.

“I find that even the Perikatan Nasional state governments are not included in the discussions or negotiations, let alone state governments from the (federal) opposition such as what happened to Selangor,” he said.