Johor’s chief minister, Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad, believes the two land borders between Singapore and Malaysia at Johor Bahru should reopen as soon as possible.
He says it should be done for the sake of the 100,000 Malaysian nationals who may lose employment if the borders remain closed longer.
He says the state government of Johor can’t find jobs for these people should this scenario arise.
Johor’s unemployment rate is already at 18 per cent, an unprecedented high. There are currently 35,000 people in Johor who are jobless.
Additionally, between 5 to 10 per cent of business in the city area have closed as a result of the border shutdown last March because of the pandemic.
Some businesses have experienced as much as a 70 per cent decline in revenue after the border was closed.
Datuk Hasni adds, “The time has come for the federal government to find a way to balance the people’s lives and their livelihoods, as we do not want the scale to tip only towards lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The state, which used to have a quarter of a million people going back and forth from Johor to Singapore each day, has been especially affected by the border closure, the chief minister says, adding, “Johor’s trade, among the highest in the country for five years since 2013, has also been badly affected. Some 100,000 Malaysians may lose their jobs if the closure is prolonged.”
He also says he is communicating regularly with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to discuss ways to control the spread of Covid-19 even as steps to fully reopening the border are moving forward.
Johor has been a green zone for over one month time now, which makes a full reopening all the more possible.
Datuk Hasni has suggested that students should be allowed to commute freely to Singapore first, followed by workers.
In answer to a query about Singapore’s endeavour to lift restrictions slowly after September 1, the chief minister replies, “The Malaysian side should always reciprocate and coordinate the SOP (standard operating procedure) with its Singaporean counterpart, as I believe the health departments of both countries are constantly in touch.”
R Vidyananthan, Johor’s Health and Environment Committee chairman, agreed on the timeliness of opening the border, albeit in stages.
“We feel that blanket SOP cannot be applied here; Johor and Singapore should follow a different criterion. The Johor government has given our suggestions on the SOP to the federal government and hope they will be taken into consideration and implemented soon for economic considerations,” he said.
Responding to the chief minister saying that the border should reopen soon, Bekok assemblyman S. Ramakrishnan has urged for a task force to review the opening of the two land crossings.
He said, “Laboratory testing facilities must be at the site of entry, in view of the number of people crossing, so that results can be received much faster. The cost of testing should also be looked at, including the possibility of it being subsidised.”
“Knowing the urgency of the matter now, steps should have been taken to shorten the quarantine period and reduce the cost of Covid-19 tests with minimum interruption to cross-border travelling,” the Bedok assemblyman added.—/TISG