Kuala Lumpur – Businesses in Johor Bahru have urged the Malaysian government to reopen borders to Singapore as they continue to struggle amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has been nine months since Malaysia imposed the movement-control order (MCO) which began on Mar 18. With the MCO in place, travel between Malaysia and Singapore has been greatly reduced. An estimated 400,000 to 500,000 Malaysians and Singaporeans that travel between countries for work have stopped coming to Johor Bahru.

According to a mothership.sg report, an estimated 40 per cent of the nightclubs, bars and massage parlours in JB are shutting down. Food and beverage and entertainment sectors have been hit the hardest as a result of the MCO.
They heavily rely on foot traffic coming from the Causeway, which is considered one of the busiest land crossings in the world.

All the while, businesses were expecting for borders to fully reopen after Aug 31, but the MCO has since been extended until Dec 31.

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The Malaysian Insight reported that businesses have called on the Malaysian government to begin talks with Singapore to reopen the border as soon as possible.

Adviser to the SME Association of South Johor, Teh Kee Sin, highlighted in their appeal that many SMEs are currently worried about cash flow since the government-provided loan moratorium has ended. He added that the government in Putrajaya must commence its negotiations with Singapore to allow people into Johor.

“I guess business owners in Johor Bahru can write off this year since it has been a very challenging year for all of us,” said Mr Teh as quoted by the Malay Mail.

The state Malaysian Budget Hotels Association chairman, Mr Jarod Chia, seconded Mr Teh’s sentiments, noting only the hotels on islands and beaches see a hint of recovery ever since Malaysians were allowed to travel domestically. Hotels in the city centre continue to struggle despite the attempt to reduce prices to attract guests.

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“We are basically at a loss. We have to survive this period of time. If we lower the prices, it will actually mess up the entire market,” said Mr Chia.

On Sep 10, Johor chief minister Mr Hasni Mohammad announced that the Johor state government has begun processing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and submitting working papers to Malaysia’s foreign ministry regarding the issue.

Furthermore, Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said on a Dec 10 Facebook post that he had discussed the matter with Mr Hasni.

“We discussed reopening borders for different groups of cross-border commuters, but with the priority on safeguarding public health on both sides,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

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ByHana O