Juita Mohamad was quoted in Fee Malaysia Today article.
by Robin Augustin, 17 February 2021
PETALING JAYA: An economist has urged the government to lift all movement restrictions and avoid resorting to lockdowns, even partial ones, again.
Ahamed Kameel Mydin Meera said lockdowns were the single-largest factor affecting the economy and gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
He was commenting on Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research’s slashing of the GDP growth forecast for Malaysia from 10% to just 4.9%, citing the third wave of Covid-19 infections and the movement control order (MCO).
Kameel told FMT the Covid-19 vaccination programme would help to some extent, but that lockdowns were damaging and did not produce the desired results.
“While the Covid-19 infection numbers may be high, the lethality of the disease is comparable with existing diseases, so it does not justify lockdowns anymore.
“This is why we need to end the lockdowns and treat Covid-19 like any other disease. Treat those who are ill, and quarantine those who are positive but asymptomatic. Let the rest of the country operate as usual.”
Kameel said the country’s borders should also be opened to those who had received their Covid-19 vaccine.
Moving forward, he said, the government should look to quantitative easing measures for economic recovery and avoid borrowing more money which would worsen the debt situation.
Juita Mohamad, of think tank Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis), said Fitch’s projections were more “grounded” than the finance ministry’s estimate of 6.5% to 7.5%, which was “optimistic”
As a trading nation, she said, Malaysia’s economic growth was intertwined with global value chains which were tied to externalities, including global demand, trade tensions, and energy prices.
“Given these externalities, it is possible that a v-shaped recovery will be difficult to achieve this year. The best-case scenario would be for Malaysia’s growth to reach its pre-Covid growth of less than 5%, which is in line with Fitch’s projections.”
Malaysian Institute for Economic Research’s Shankaran Nambiar, meanwhile, said it was still too early to make projections, though he felt it would likely be in the range of 4.5% to 5.5%
He said this number could even rise to 6% if the vaccination programme went according to plan and cases plateaued.
“What is important is that the government has to have a clear and consistent policy based on science. Some amount of damage is inevitable.
“As an example, trying to go against the grain and encourage the tourist industry at this point would be a waste of the government’s resources. The people in that industry will have to be supported until the sector can be rebuilt,” he said.
This article was first published in Fee Malaysia Today on 17 February 2021