Simply, an excellent stimulus package by PM
Published on: Sunday, March 29, 2020
By: Datuk John Lo
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Each time when a country faces a crisis like we are now, there is an equal chance that it would be blessed with some leaders endowed with outstanding leadership or saddled with some gaffe prone ones. So far, Malaysia has not seen any of the former category but unfortunately, there are 2 federal ministers of the latter type. Hopefully, there won’t be any more. 2 is quite enough to get us nervous.

The first one is the minister of health who, on national TV, said drinking warm water would prevent/cure Covid-19 infection when the country and indeed the whole world are at a loss for an antidote. More than that, many countries have declared state of emergencies and/or lock downs. Thousands have died. And here is our minister, without backing of scientific/medical studies, claiming that warm water can do the trick.

Not wanting to be over critical, Malaysians should ask him for the scientific/medical basis of his assertion or he should apologise. Since saying it, he has kept very quiet, presumably, he cannot justify his claim. Most of us would take him as a joke but must consider the country’s reputation in the world. How would other countries’ ministers of health look at him or would they respect him. I think not. His “warm water cure” reputation will precede him where ever he goes in the world. Imagine what they would say about him behind his back – that “warm water Covid-19 cure doctor from Malaysia”?

More serious is that some Malaysians, especially those in the rural area, may take his advice seriously and refuse to be tested for Covid-19. Already the police have to use “force” to bring some of them for the test. How would the police perform their MOC duty if these people are to quote the minister of health that they have already taken “warm water?” This is life and death. The least he can do is admit his gaffe on national TV.

Just days after Putrajaya has announced masks would be a price-controlled item, the minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs announced he has gazetted new prices for masks on 21st March 2020. Price for the 3 ply ones would go up from RM0.80 to RM2.00, a whopping increase of 250pc. At time of writing, a senior minister, trying to back down, said the price would be reviewed as PM would is not agreeable to it.

Both ministers have shown professional incompetence and caused political embarrassment to the government and country. 

In different degrees, each would appear to have failed PM’s expectations of his cabinet to “realise his vision of forming a Cabinet that is competent, people driven, transparent and with integrity, focused on delivering effective services, while maintaining a solid structure system.” On the gaffe of the Domestic Trade Minister—-[a] Judging from follow up comments by a senior minister, the PM has no choice but to back track for him by saying RM2.00 is too expensive. [b] Looks like he has increased the price on his volition without consultation and approval from PM or the cabinet. [c] He has created a very adverse political image for the PN coalition. Extremely bad timing for the government to increase the price by 250pc in the present dire circumstances, severe financial difficulties and increasing unemployment for Malaysians.[d] By failing to give detail justifications for increasing from RM0.80 to RM2.00, he has unwittingly or otherwise given plenty of reasons for Malaysians, justifiable or otherwise, to conjure up many negative things—-from being manipulated [that is being kind] to self-interest benefits. [which is bad].

He could have avoided all these had he done his homework and presented it in a coherent manner. Sloppy work here. Malaysia could have saved money and lower cost of masks by —-[a] Waive all taxes on masks, all PPE and medicine. [b] Organise importation of materials and/or completed masks from China. [c] Mask manufacturers are now trying to justify price of RM2.00, citing transportation cost. The federal government can easily organize to buy all the materials on G to G from China, use one or 2 Air Asia planes to air cargo them back. After all Tony Fernandez has more than 100 planes most of them are grounded. He may even offer free as a contribution to our country.

Grappling with economic downturn+ oil price war+ Covid-19.

No economist or country has any idea on how badly hit the world economy will be or how to grapple the severity of global economic downturn + oil price war + Covid-19. China has managed to contain Covid-19. However, the whole world is now being engulfed by it. USA and much of Europe seems to be unable to contain it. The stock markets have crashed. Economic activities have come to a standstill. Interest rates may go negative soon as some central banks have reduced it to 0.1pc. All the major countries have implemented substantial stimulus packages to no avail. Many big companies are asking for bail outs from their governments. Unemployment shooting up. A major recession is already upon us. The PH stimulus package was grossly insufficient, like a drop in the ocean. The additional sum PM has announced is neither here nor there earlier. 

Let’s unite under PN’s RM250 billion stimulus package.

The domestic and global situation has gone a lot worse since the PH’s stimulus package. Notwithstanding the two gaffe prone ministers, the PM and his economic team must be congratulated for a most comprehensive stimulus package of RM250 billion on 27th March 2020. Obviously, under the circumstances, it is difficult to satisfy all parties. But it will look after all Malaysians, irrespective of race, state or geographical position, from fishermen to farmers, from SME to big business, from jobless to low income groups, from students to retirees. 

Further congratulations are in order for PM and his economic team for their courage in presenting such a huge stimulus package. RM250 billions is very hefty and is almost as large as the 2020 budget of RM297 billion.

Having said that, each and individual Malaysian, all political leaders should sink their differences and support this stimulus package. 

This stimulus package will blow a big hole in Malaysia’s coffer. Malaysians ought to understand that the Government’s sources of revenue will reduce dramatically for 2020. Therefore, don’t criticize for the sake of politics and don’t be greedy and complain not enough. We need to unite to comply with the MCO, get over the Covid-19 quickly and be ready to work triple hard for Malaysia and ourselves.

Caveat—-Lookout for implementation.

The 2020 budget is RM297 billion plus stimulus package of RM250 billion. Total is RM547 billion, by far the largest ever expenditure by any Malaysian government in history. I hope PM will be really on top of everything, keeping an eagle eye on spending this amount, on the performance of his ministers, to ensure no leakages and administrative machinery are on top gear on implementation.

Stimulus package will look after front liners.

Very gratifying that PM has provided for funds to look after the front liners and security personnel in enforcing MCO. Wish the provision for them is larger for their selfless service, risking their lives daily to look after the inflicted, endangering their loved ones with inflection. They have been working under extreme difficult conditions, made more difficult by the lack of PPE and other medical items. Their devotion is service above self and way beyond the call of duty. May the Almighty bless all of them.

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