Time to get our priorities right, and that means giving jobs back to the people

WITH foreign tourist arrivals dropping by 68.2% to 4,252,997 for the first half of 2020, we are looking at a projected 83.5% plunge for the year. We can only expect 4.3 million tourist arrivals in 2020 compared with 26.1 million in 2019.

These grim figures translate to an anticipated loss of some RM60 billion in foreign tourism receipts, according to Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang.

The crippling effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are hurting the services sector in many countries and could send economies into a tailspin.

The services sector is still the key growth driver in many countries, including ours. With tourism out for the count this year, we have to fall back on domestic consumer spending.

According to the World Bank, our services sector employs 61.8% of the population and it accounts for 53% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The earnings are mainly from the healthcare services, transport, distributive trade and tourism.

Comparatively, agriculture’s contribution to our GDP is 11% while industry provides 27.2%.

To fuel growth through the services sector, we need to look at reopening all services and businesses.

The retail sector that employs 1.7 million people has seen a healthy rebound and this points to a reboot of our domestic economy.

However, the same cannot be said about the entertainment industry. So far only clubs, pubs and bars that serve food along with alcohol are allowed to resume operations until
midnight under the recovery movement control order (RMCO).

The operators of these businesses could breathe a sigh of relief but they only represent half of the 6,600 nightspots nationwide.

Businesses that serve only alcohol remain shuttered.

The opportunity to continue to work in a trade or business of choice is a right that cannot be denied, more so at such a critical time. And we are talking about an industry with multiplier effects.

Incidentally, the United Arab Emirates has loosened its laws governing alcohol sales and possession of liquor to regain its economic footing.

Ultimately, good sense must prevail so that the livelihood of thousands is not further impacted adversely.

Humanity has to be at the heart of all businesses. There should be no bias against what we may feel is non-economical in value or non-essential in nature.

Whether these businesses are essential or not is not the issue. On top of ensuring that their reopening does not lead to more Covid19 infections, it is important to realise that every Malaysians’ livelihood is essential.