KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 9): The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has urged the government to open up all economic sectors under the recovery phase and do away with the “approval letter” requirement and just base it on the vaccination rates and the digital certificate as the criteria and strictly following the standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

The FMM also urged the government to standardise the thousands of SOPs into “activity based” SOPs such as indoor or outdoor in this regard. 

Its president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said the fact however remains that businesses cannot be sustained if operations continue to be closed or are reduced in capacity for a prolonged period as it will lead to negative knock-on effects in the economy due to the extensive supply chains and networks involved in manufacturing.

“If industries remain closed for too long, it could cause economic stagnation and irreparable damage including possible exodus of foreign investors and reduction in domestic investments,” he said during a session titled “Working Together to Achieve the NRP”, in conjunction with The National Recovery Summit “Winning the War against COVID — The Road to Recovery” today.

Soh noted that the industry understands the need for the government to institute the lockdowns to break the chain of infections, which were rising exponentially and also putting a great strain on the national healthcare system, but the lockdown had been for too long and the too-many Movement Control Orders had a devastating impact.

“We know that the manufacturing sector is one of the main sectors allowed to operate amidst the ongoing National Recovery Plan (NRP) given its significance to the economy. 

“As evident from the last year’s fourth quarter (4Q2020) economic performance, the manufacturing sector has been the pillar of economic growth where it was the only economic sector with a positive growth of 3%, and this performance continued in this year’s first quarter (1Q2021) with stronger growth where manufacturing led all other economic sectors with a growth of 6% and again in the second quarter (2Q2021) where the sector registered a growth of 26.6%.

“In addition, the sector has continued to contribute around 23% of gross domestic product (GDP) including 86% of total exports and is the main source of demand for output from the other economic sectors. The operations of the essential sectors especially the food, beverages and healthcare products have ensured that the rakyat continue to have supply of food and medical supplies during the lockdowns,” he said.

Amidst the resurgence and spike in cases, Soh said the industry has been doing its part to ensure continued strict adherence to the SOPs which have now been ingrained as the new normal of business operations since last year. 

“The industry also continues to enhance preventive measures including testing of workers to ensure that the workplace remains safe for all employees. However, it has become more challenging to manage the entry of infections into the factory or hostels due to the asymptomatic sporadic cases which now make up the majority of cases.

“It is also unfortunate that the categorisation as workplace clusters whenever positive cases are detected at the entry of the premises has led to the wrong perception that factories are the main source of infections. Regardless, the industry continues to take all the necessary steps to ensure that cases are detected early and swiftly to ensure minimum infections at the workplace,” he said.

Soh added the industry understands the necessity to have a comprehensive National Recovery Plan as an effective exit strategy for the Covid-19 pandemic which has continued to plague the nation since early 2020. 

“Worker safety and health are always a top priority as without the workers, no business can function,” he said. 

Soh pointed out that employers in the manufacturing sector through the Public-Private Partnership Covid-19 Industry Immunisation Programme (PIKAS) have been aggressively ramping up their companies' level of vaccination to ensure the safety of their workers to return to normalcy in business operations and sustainability.

Citing data, Soh said 935,123 employees under the PIKAS programme have received their first dose while 772,363 have received two doses alongside the others who have also received their vaccination via the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) as of Sept 7, 2021.

More than half or 50.5% of Malaysia’s population had been fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic as of yesterday (Sept 8) as the country's daily number of administered vaccine doses rose to 320,452 from 313,751 on Tuesday (Sept 7), according to the country's Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV), citing data from the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF).

“It is globally evident that fast rollout of vaccination is the key to reopening and revival of economies regardless of the continued threats of resurgence of cases.

“These are most encouraging numbers towards achieving the targeted herd immunity and further easing of restrictions for business and economic recovery,” Soh said.

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