By Sarawakian

The Covid-19 outbreak is a good barometer of governance, leadership and management. Granted that there is no one on earth alive and not senile would have had prior experience of such war like effect, the situation still shows you how things are to be seen.

On the side of comedy, let us remember some interesting fellows. One had the audacity to propose the drinking of warm water method to move it down from your esophagus to your acidic digestive tracts to kill the coronavirus. As if it is not enough of an impact in publicity, the same person suddenly mentioned that he spoke to 500 countries in a video conferencing by the World Health Organization. He later said he misspoke and meant 500 participants. I never knew we had 500 countries. I always thought we had 193 member states in United Nations with an additional two being non-member observer states of the Holy see and State of Palestine. 54 are in Africa, 48 in Asia, 44 in Europe, 33 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 14 in Oceania and 2 in Northern America. Then we also had another fellow asking wives to “Talk like Doraemon” to their husbands during the movement control order (MCO). We also had to bear with another asking the youngsters to play “Tik Tok” and compete.

Something is dreadfully wrong with the quality of our Ministers. But then again, they did come in from another angle. We have been in the Movement Control order ever since 18th March 2020. We can all remember the day when it was first announced. The PM of Malaysia made the announcement at 10pm on 16th March 2020. With only less than 26 hours, people were forced to rethink their lives and prepared to shut down. Some were less prepared and were optimistic it would last only until the 31st March 2020.

On 23rd March 2020 at 1pm, the PM of Malaysia came on TV and announced the first extension from 1st April until 14th April 2020. This started to create some anxiety but an agreed need to assist by the general population. On 10th April 2020 at 4pm, the PM of Malaysia announced the 2nd extension from 15th April until 28th April 2020. This started a split opinion between life and livelihood. Things started to look gloomy from those in business. Job security became a question mark as news of pay cuts, furloughs, retrenchments and voluntary separation schemes start to hover on many minds. Companies ceasing business became a norm.

On 23rd April 2020 at 8pm, the PM of Malaysia once again announced an extension. The 3rd extension would be from 29th April till 12th May 2020. Many had resigned themselves to a longer period and accepted the fact that the celebrations of Hari Raya, Pesta Kaamatan and Gawai Dayak would be a reason to expect another extension till at least 1st June 2020 or its first week.

On 1st May 2020 at 11am, the PM of Malaysia made an announcement which created disbelief. Why disbelief? Everyone knows that timing for any easements would have been better if planned and informed to the general public inclusive of commercial premises. It is also a feeling of disbelief that the easing was announced on Labour Day and on a Friday. This was exactly 11 days from the following Saturday of 2nd May till Tuesday, 12th May 2020.  Some business entities were delighted as they can start getting some cash flow leading to Hari Raya, Pesta Kaamatan and Gawai Dayak. Some are still fearful for such a rush to ease most of the sectors. There are required conditions for the opening and a reference to the website was made for all to check. The website crashed on the same day and for the days after. It would be better for you to download the Telegram app and get the MKN channel (Majlis Keselamatan Negara / National Security Council) for the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)

The debate of Life and Livelihood comes to mind. Which is more important? How much time is enough time for an MCO to be eased? What are the risks of timing? Some have advised that it is better for businesses to open to move the economy. The rush for this would certainly create a sea of bodies. People being people would take this possible risk taking to purchase or shop whether because of pent up feelings or revenge spending. Another group would argue that the easing is too early. It would be better to go back to the idea of having single counts daily at least for a few weeks before easing. A phased easing was previously informed by the government but now, it seemed that whatever good done before has been thrown out the window.

The question of Life and Livelihood is not an easy one to answer. Some have also argued for Livelihood as they need to work to get paid wages and salaries to survive. Others argue for life saying the need for having a healthy population to kick start the economy. A cautious phased easing would create a more stable environment in a controlled manner. To me, I think that the government erred in timeline planning and communications.

I would tend to think that we should look at life first before livelihood. Without life you would lose even before you start on reviving the economy. Many businesses would talk about sanitizing and deep cleaning their premises. The use of thermal scanners and the efforts to make you feel safe start to become something to stay for awhile. Costs would escalate definitely either way but having to be sure and steady to ensure no spikes on costs and liabilities.

Work from home and also online business and online meetings or seminars have indeed become a norm and would surely press the demand for real estate. Much real estate is overly priced and costs would be a factor of affordability. I would see the street shops replacing shopping centres, cinemas replaced by Netflix, Disney Plus or HBO Max and also grocery shopping made online. Convenience and prices would attract consumption unlike before. Leisure activities would be towards parks and beaches and places similar. Street shops would become an affordable space to trade and safety would be better coordinated with the police and community. This would also avail the opportunities for delivery services and take away. I see street shops becoming a better alternative for office spaces, retail and eateries. Enclosed malls are no longer the only safer option. Cashless is also king now. This is the new normal.

People will start to put life in a new perspective especially with issues on job security and savings. Corporations who live in the old thinking would eventually be phased out. It is the advent of a new beginning. Both Life and Livelihood is equally important. But without life you have no production. No supply no demand. Life takes precedence and a balance must be found without a rush with livelihood.

The key concerns are Safety, Security, Compliance, Enforcement and Communication. So folks let us #stayathome and #dudukrumah during this time. Please stay safe and go wash your hands often.