Emergency is right move as public health takes precedence, says economist

Economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam says the government made the right decision to implement a state of emergency as issues affecting health must take precedence.

“The health threat is serious … If you have life, you have hope (to survive). If your health is affected, you can’t work and you can’t move about freely,” said the former deputy secretary-general of the Treasury.

“It is better to take tough, preventive action like this rather than let it continue … and the economy gets hit even worse.

“Unfortunately, this tough action has to be taken. Otherwise, we will lose control,” said Navaratnam who was also formerly president of Transparency International Malaysia.

However, Navaratnam agreed that the emergency would have serious implications on the country’s economic growth and employment rates while income would be affected.

He added the hardest hit would be small and medium enterprises.

“Public health is of paramount importance when you consider the threat to our health.

“My advice to these companies is simple. Follow the guidelines set by the government as they are not unreasonable,” he said.

Malaysia declared a state of emergency this morning to stem the spike of Covid-19 cases nationwide. The emergency will remain in force until Aug 1, 2021.

In his announcement, among others, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said despite the emergency, economic activities will continue in line with SOPs to ensure people can continue to work.

However, Navaratnam advised the people to tighten their belts and cut down on consumption as income would be affected.

“Sadly, there is no alternative. This is a challenging situation, and the government has no choice but to do this. It must be prepared to make modifications (to the emergency) and follow the best practices around the world,” said Navaratnam.

Separately, he said people should not panic over the word “emergency” as it is not a military coup and that everything will continue as normal.

“This is not similar to the emergencies we had in the past. The military is not in power.

“Perhaps people are also panicking as they can’t see the enemy and are worried about food supply.

“I’ve lived through the other emergencies. Let me assure you there is nothing to worry about,” he added.