Another total lockdown would be ‘very detrimental’ to Malaysia’s economy: FM

KUALA LUMPUR (CNA) – Malaysia cannot afford another total lockdown as it will be “very detrimental” to the country’s economy, said Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz.

Speaking to CNA in an exclusive interview, he said the current nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) that has been enforced in all states except Sarawak until February 4 has made it harder to achieve the targetted growth forecast of between 6.5 per cent and 7.5 per cent this year.

“The (growth) projection we made was based on assumption that there is no MCO,” he said.

“I must admit it is going to be a challenge now (to meet the forecast). Probably in the lower range of 6.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent, depending on how long the MCO will be and how long it takes for us to win against COVID-19.”

The 47-year-old minister added, “I believe we as a country cannot afford a total lockdown of economic sectors. The long term impact, the economic scarring will be very detrimental.”

He prefers a more targetted approach, with the authorities tightening the screw on labour-intensive sectors that have contributed to the rise in cases.

The more automated sectors such as pharmaceutical, aeronautical and automotive should be allowed to operate as per normal, subject to standard operating procedures, he said.

When Malaysia was first placed under the MCO last year, almost all economic activities ceased, except for essential services such as food and beverage outlets and pharmacies.

The lockdown saw the country reduce its COVID-19 cases to single digits in the first half of 2020.