Malaysia Update: May 13, 2020

Malaysia Update | May 13, 2020
Authors: Kim Yaeger, Tina Jamaluddin, Emma Tabatabai, Marc Mealy, Alberto Coria, Nick Zuroski 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Vote of No Confidence Against Prime Minister Removed from Parliament’s Schedule

In a letter to Malaysia’s members of Parliament (MPs) dated May 13, Dewan Rakyat Secretary Riduan Rahmat stated that the meeting of Parliament on May 18 will be limited to solely the Royal Address, precluding the motion of no confidence by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad against current Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.  Speaker Mr. Mohamad Ariff noted that the “amendment is in line with the Parliament’s Standing Orders 11(2) and 15(2).” 

Aside from the motion of no confidence, the session was also originally set to discuss government business such as the appointment of the opposition leader, appointment of the chairman and deputy of the Public Accounts Committee, and tabling of two Supplementary Supply Bills.  Dr. Mahathir quickly criticized the Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s decision.  Parliament is set to meet again on July 13. 

Malaysia’s 2020 Q1 GDP Expands but Growth Rate Slows

In an announcement on Malaysia’s economic performance in the first quarter of this year, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM)—Malaysia’s central bank—stated that the country’s GDP grew 0.7%, contradicting predictions of contraction but lagging 3.6% growth in the fourth quarter of last year.  The growth rate is the lowest since the third quarter of 2009 during the global financial crisis. 

BNM Governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus added that the bank is not able to predict full-year economic growth in 2020 due to the inherent uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, but expects that the economy will contracts in the second quarter (which the majority of the MCO occurred in) and will gradually improve as economic sectors re-open under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).  Nor Shamsiah stated that the impact is expected to be “severe" in the first half of 2020, with unemployment likely surpassing BNM’s earlier 4% predictions.  The government is hopeful that growth will pick up during the second half of 2020 and 2021, with strong assistance from pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and equipment.  Malaysia is the world’s top producer of medical gloves, and the electrical and electronics sector is likely to benefit from “new normals” surrounding working remotely. 

BNM attributed the Q1 slowdown to COVID-19’s drain on exports and demand at home and across the globe.  Malaysia’s key export commodities, such as natural gas, crude oil, and palm oil, have seen significant declines in demand as international movement and tourism have come to a halt.  In addition, restrictions on movement and business operations in Malaysia under the March 18 Movement Control Order (MCO) have crippled usual domestic economic activity.  Chief Statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin noted that negative growth occurred in all sectors during the first quarter of this year except for services and manufacturing, which respectively grew at 3.1% and 1.5%.  This contrasts with a projected 3.9-4.2% GDP growth that would have occurred without COVID-19, according to the Malaysian government.    

Mohd Uzir stated that the services sector was the main driver of the economy in Q1, supported by sub-sectors such as finance, insurance, information and communication under new work from home protocol, and wholesale and retail.  Still, the services sector’s growth decreased by 6.2% when compared to Q4 of 2019.  The manufacturing sector declined 3% compared to Q4 of last year, but maintained positive growth due to demand for wood, furniture, and paper products, petroleum, chemical, rubber and plastic products, and electrical, electronic, and optical products.  Meanwhile, agriculture, mining and quarrying, and construction declined by 8.7%, 2%, and 7.9%, respectively.  Agriculture experienced slowdowns in demand for palm oil, forestry and logging, rubber, and fishing, while construction saw its largest decline since 1999. 

Private consumption maintained the economy’s positive trend with a 6.7% increase, but that will be difficult to sustain as unemployment rises.  In a report on May 8, the Malaysian Department of Statistics announced that the unemployment rate stands at 3.9%, or more than 600,000 citizens—the highest rate since June 2010.   

Malaysia Extends CMCO Until June 9

In a special address on May 10, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the nationwide COVID-19 CMCO will be extended until June 9, originally set to expire on May 12.  The decision came following the government’s consultations with Malaysia’s Health Ministry and National Security Council.  In his address, Prime Minister Muhyiddin noted that new COVID-19 cases have slowed down in comparison to the beginning of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18, but continued vigilance is needed to successfully manage the pandemic. 

While the extension brings another four weeks of social distancing measures, the CMCO’s protocol is much less severe compared to that of the MCO.  The MCO permitted continued business operations only in approved, essential sectors and mostly confined Malaysians to their homes.  In contrast, the CMCO has re-opened the majority of the country’s economic sectors.  It also allows gatherings of up to 20 people in anticipation of the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilftri celebration and Gawai and Kaamaatan festivals.  Interstate travel remains largely prohibited, schools will remain closed, and mass gatherings are banned.  Public and air transport are respectively required to operate at 50% and 66.6% capacity.  In addition to the previous restricted areas of activity published by the Council on May 4, pubs and night clubs and casino gambling activities are now explicitly banned. 

While some state governments originally expressed reluctance to implement the federal government’s relaxations, the majority of states are now acting in accordance with Muhyiddin’s decision, excluding some minor derogations.  Perak and Negri Sembalan will continue to ban dine-in customers at restaurants, Penang is opening up its economic sectors through a gradual schedule over the course of a few weeks, and Sarawak and Johor will abide by local Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) instead of national guidelines.  Travel between districts in Sarawak is not permitted.  

Malaysia’s COVID-19 infection rates appear to have slowed down as the CMCO progresses into its second week.  On May 13, the country reported only 16 new cases—the lowest number of new daily cases since the beginning of the MCO on March 18.  As of May 13, Malaysia had 1,387 active cases and 6,779 total cases. 

Bank Negara Malaysia Lowers Overnight Policy Rate to Decade-Long Low

On May 5, BNM lowered its overnight policy rate (OPR) by 50 basis points to 2.0%.  The current rate is BNM’s lowest since 2009 during the global financial crisis and displays the government’s wide-reaching efforts to bolster its economy during the CMCO’s re-opening of most economic sectors.  In the announcement, BNM noted that the ceiling and floor rates of the OPR corridor were now set respectively at 2.25% and 1.75%. 

Overall in 2020, BNM has lowered the OPR by 100 basis points in response to the economic slowdown created by COVID-19.  BNM cut the OPR by 25 basis points in March to 2.5% and by an equal margin in January.  BNM’s statement observed that the historic cut serves as a response to “tightened financial conditions” and a global economy that “is already contracting,” which have created the need for “substantial policy stimuli introduced by many economies.” 

Major Malaysian banks are following suit.  The same day of BNM’s announcement, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd and Maybank equally lowered their base rate (BR) and base lending rate (BLR) by 50 basis points.  CIMB also lowered its base financing rate (BFR) by 0.5%.  On May 6, RHB Banking Group and Public Bank Bhd also announced a 50-basis-point reduction in their BRs and BLRs.  Hong Leong Bank Bhd and Hong Leong Islamic Bank Bhd reduced their respective BR and Islamic Base Rate (IBR) by .50% on May 7, while Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd lowered its BR and BFR by an equal margin. 
 

 
National Affairs
Dine-in at eateries allowed in Selangor beginning tomorrow
Selayang EMCO to end today
Government extends conditional MCO until June 9
Public transport and motorbikes can travel, too
Interstate travel for those stranded due to MCO begins today
Sabah enforces phase 5 of MCO, allows certain sectors to reopen
Foreign nationals still cannot enter Malaysia
Health D-G: Covid-19 screening of Malaysia’s 2.5 million migrant workers will take time but doable
CM: MCO stays but up to cops to enforce CMCO in Sabah
Three more KL areas put under lockdown on Day Two of CMCO
Sarawak to follow CMCO but only 'suitable' SOPs will be implemented
Private vehicles allowed after 10pm, says Ismail
MITI urges state governments to follow Putrajaya's decision to relax the MCO
CMCO: Sports activities, dine-ins not allowed in Melaka
Opposition MPs call for longer parliamentary sitting after Putrajaya relaxes MCO

COVID-19
Data from Covid-19 app MyTrace kept on phone, not govt servers, says Khairy
Covid-19: ‘MyTrace’ app to help in contact tracing, says senior minister 
Rely less on workers, focus on automation, urges Azmin
‘No need to apply again’
Council hurdle for E&E companies
Stay home longer, Malaysians

Customs
Labuan Chinese Chamber appeal Customs Dept to expedite the release of containers
Malaysia’s total trade in March fell to RM148b
Malaysia posts highest Q1 export value since 2011
Malaysia’s 1Q trade numbers up slightly, but economists say outlook dim
MCO: Authorities beef up security at border checkpoints

Defense & Security
Rohingyas in Malaysia Face a Pandemic and a Possible Populist Backlash
Petronas vessel leaves South China Sea waters after standoff
US Navy sends ships to South China Sea amid China-Malaysia oil dispute

Economics
A ‘deep contraction’ in 2Q GDP forecast for first time in a decade
BNM: Govt has sufficient fiscal space for further economic stimulus
Govt to announce economic recovery plan end-May
Malaysia 1Q GDP to shrink for first time since global financial crisis — economists
Services sector’s average revenue fell nearly 40% during MCO, up to April 28
MDEC & Carousell launch RM1m initiative to assist retailers and SMEs
Half of SMEs will downsize, restructure after MCO, says survey
Sarawak forms SEAC for post COVID-19 economic recovery
Nearly 95% of stimulus package implemented
Penang hawkers to get RM500 each under RM76 mil stimulus plan
RM3bil loans approved for 6,840 SMEs
RM16bil additional liquidity as Bank Negara relaxes SRR
SMEs in Labuan to get 30% discount on land lease

Energy
Malaysia crude palm oil output to dip 1% in 2020- state agency
TNB to deploy big data analytics in Sepang LSS to boost efficiency
Malaysian utility and Envision Digital to digitalise solar operations
Malaysia's Sapura sees delay in energy projects as pandemic hits demand

Financial Services
Insurance policyholders can now claim for Covid-19 screening for emergency surgeries
Visa: Over 70% of Malaysians supportive of cashless payment
MEDAC to simplify loan procedures for entrepreneurs
Ambank, Maxis offer solutions to help SMEs Tap into e-commerce
MoF: Banks agree to waive additional charges on HP loans
Bank Muamalat adjusts base rates following Bank Negara's OPR cut
SC to facilitate capital market product distribution via e-service platforms
Bank Negara cuts OPR rate to lowest in 10 years
Maybank, CIMB reduce lending rates by 50bps
AIA waives premium, extends coverage for Covid-19

Food & Agriculture
Sabah hopes to cash in on vegetable exports
Palm oil-based biodiesel to face pressure at home and abroad
Ministry to monitor need to import agricultural goods during CMCO
Malaysia's palm oil exports plunge 42% in first month of virus curbs

Health & Life Sciences
Govt seeks new ways to cut congestion in hospitals, clinics
Govt urged to prioritise workers' health
CMCO: Don't miss out on medicine
BookDoc and WeDoctor announce strategic collaboration
Amid debate over benefits, another health group says wearing face masks key to contain Covid-19
MTUC: Govt should review decision to appoint BP Healthcare Group as sole company allowed to carry Covid-19 tests
Malaysian Medical Association: Govt must be clear on Covid-19 screening guidelines for workforce
P&G Malaysia donates over RM1mil to MoH and B40
DoctorOnCall to offer more COVID-19 test options
MoH starts testing South Korean antigen rapid test kits today
Dengue lurks in background of Covid-19 pandemic
Sabah records zero local human malaria infection since 2018

ICT
Gerak Malaysia app downloaded 1.4 mil times — Bukit Aman
MDEC: E-commerce set to see strong growth this year
MTDC introduces robotics, other technologies to assist SMEs weather Covid-19 storm
Data in Gerak Malaysia app to be deleted within 6 months of MCO
G3PNS sets up Facebook page for SMEs to sell products

Infrastructure
Projects worth more than RM16 bil in Sarawak continue during CMCO
CIDB introduces initiatives to ease burden of construction industry players
IBS technology can reduce Covid-19 outbreak in construction sites, says Fadillah
Construction of PNB's Merdeka 118 tower reaches 111 floors
Covid-19: Contractors told to monitor foreign workers' health
Ageson bags massive RM27.5bil contract from China
Developers, contractors in KL construction sites to get workers tested for Covid-19, says Annuar Musa
JKJR absorbed into RTD effective May 1
Construction sector’s MCO phase one shutdown dealt RM11.6b blow to Malaysian economy, says senior minister
Workers reluctant to return, demand more pay
Malaysia gives green light for construction to resume on East Coast Rail Link
Singapore and Malaysia delay deal on rail project to end-July
JB-Singapore RTS Link project suspended for another 3 months until Jul 31 amid COVID-19 outbreak

Manufacturing
Malaysia’s manufacturing sales falls 3% to RM110.2b in March
Industrial production dips by 4.9% in March
Ventilator experience opens up Malaysian manufacturing
Msian manufacturers under pressure in April, signs of stability seen: IHS Markit
Shift focus to manufacturing and food agriculture post-MCO, says economist

Travel & Tourism
Resorts set to recover faster than city hotels after pandemic
Air fares may rise by more than 50pct if social distancing is enforced
Covid-19: Pahang hotel industry incurs more than RM500m loss, says state tourism committee chairman
MAHB adds new SOP as domestic air travel resumes
Tourism licensing services to resume on May 13
AirAsia Malaysia starts flying again, passengers need to bring own masks
Covid-19: Budget hotels urge Malaysian government for law to help them stay open
Malaysia saw more tourists coming to Malaysia in 2019
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Dine-in at eateries allowed in Selangor beginning tomorrow The Edge Markets 12th May 2020
Dine-in at eateries will be allowed in Selangor, beginning May 12, said Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari. However he said, customers at the eateries, including restaurants, food courts, covered stalls and kiosks, must comply with the social distancing regulation. He said food outlet operators are allowed to fully operate, including for dine-ins, from 7am to 10pm but they must not place dining tables at the corridors or parking lots. Previously on May 1, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the implementation of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) beginning May 4, whereby almost all economic activities were allowed to operate. However, the Selangor state government implemented the CMCO with additional conditions including limiting food premises operations to takeaway, drive-thru and delivery services only.  Amirudin in the statement added that food truck operators and roadside stalls are also allowed to operate beginning tomorrow from 8am to 10pm, but only through drive-thru, takeaway and delivery services. He said the local authorities would study if there is a need for the traders to take turns to operate if the stalls are located too near to each other and making it difficult for customers to practice social distancing. For public markets, wet markets and private markets, the premises may continue their normal operations with no slaughtering and processing of chicken allowed in the same location. “Morning and night markets are still not allowed to operate during the CMCO until June 9,” he said, adding that a circular would be issued soon. Meanwhile, Amirudin said all parks in the state are also allowed to open for recreational activities including fishing, from 7am to 7pm, but not for camping.

Selayang EMCO to end today Free Malaysia Today 12th May 2020
Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob says the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) locking down the area around the Kuala Lumpur wholesale market in Selayang and Pusat Bandar Utara will be lifted on May 12. Speaking at a press conference, he said the health ministry had screened all residents there for Covid-19. The EMCO at Selayang Baru in Gombak however will be extended to an undetermined date. Ismail also said the National Security Council had decided to end the “educational” phase of enforcing standard operating procedures (SOPs) under the conditional movement control order (CMCO). “Now the police will be given the authority to take legal action against those who flout the CMCO,” he said. He said those who violate the SOPs can be fined a maximum of RM1,000, jailed up to six months or both.

Government extends conditional MCO until June 9 The Edge Markets 10th May 2020
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has announced the fourth extension of the movement control order (MCO), currently with loosened restrictions under the conditional MCO (CMCO), for another four weeks from May 13 to June 9. The period will see several major Malaysian celebrations that usually involve the movement of people, namely Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Kaamatan Festival and Gawai Day. However, under the CMCO, Muhyiddin stressed that the restrictions on interstate travel still apply. The decision was made after being advised by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the National Security Council (NSC), he said. During the extended period, Muhyiddin said, visitations among neighbors and family members living in the same state are allowed, with any gatherings to be capped at 20 people at a time. On interstate travel, he said exceptions will be made for married couples living in different states due to work requirements. As such, they are allowed to cross states to meet their families. Those who want to apply for this extension can do so via the Gerak Malaysia app, or by directly applying for it at the nearest police station. According to Muhyiddin, out of the 1,178 districts across the country, 1,112 or 94.4% have now been categorised as green zones, whereas 62 or 5.2% are considered yellow zones. As such, there are only four red zones left or 0.34% of the total districts. A red zone is an area that has recorded over 40 infections. The four red zone areas are: Mukim Batu, Gombak, Selangor; Zon Batu, Mukim Batu, Kuala Lumpur; Zon Kampung Baharu, Mukim Bandar, Kuala Lumpur; and Mukim Pedas, Rembau, Negeri Sembilan.

Public transport and motorbikes can travel, too The Star Online 8th May 2020
Bukit Aman has decided to allow public transport and motorcycles to make journeys across state lines in Malaysia. Federal CID director Comm Datuk Huzir Mohamed said the decision was made after assessing the current situation on the roads. He said police observed and studied the movement on highways and federal roads on May 7 and found traffic to be smooth. Comm Huzir, however, said only public transportation and motorcyclists with approval from the authorities would be allowed to make the interstate trips.

Interstate travel for those stranded due to MCO begins today The Edge Markets 7th May 2020
Entering the fourth day of the implementation of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) today, the focus is certainly on the interstate travel of those who were stranded at various locations in the country since enforcement of MCO last March 18 to return home. In fact, PLUS Malaysia Bhd expects more than 300,000 vehicles, based on applications made to Gerak Malaysia, to be on the road, including its expressways, heading to their respective destinations from today until Sunday. The expressways will also be busy today with the Wesak celebration, and also of parents heading to institutions of higher learning to pick up their children who were staying at their respective colleges, now that they are allowed to return home. For those traveling long distance or on interstate travel, they are reminded that the rest and recreation (R&R) areas on all expressways, including the eateries and surau, are closed for public use. The Royal Malaysia Police has also released a four-day interstate movement schedule for those who have applied to return home after being stranded at various locations following the enforcement of the MCO last March 18. The situation is expected to create congestion on expressways, where motorists should give priority to safety by exercising courteous driving to avoid any mishaps on the road, while observing the stipulated guidelines and standard operating procedures issued by the Health Ministry to avoid Covid-19 infection. As of May 6,  Malaysa has recorded 6,428 Covid-19 cases and 107 deaths.

Sabah enforces phase 5 of MCO, allows certain sectors to reopen Free Malaysia Today 7th May 2020
The Sabah government has decided to enforce phase 5 of the movement control order (MCO) by allowing certain industries to operate. Chief Minister Shafie Apdal said, however, this would be done in stages from May 7 in accordance with standard operating procedures of the health ministry. In a statement, Shafie said that among the sectors allowed to resume operations were agriculture and the food industry, manufacturing and businesses providing logistical support such as transportation by land, jetties and ports. “The state government has also decided to allow oil palm mills and plantations in Lahad Datu, Kunak and Kinabatangan to operate provided they are certified free of Covid-19 by the state health department. The government would like to stress that the safety and welfare of Sabahans are the state’s priority,” he said.On May 6, Shafie had said Sabah would continue to observe phase 4 of the MCO until May 12 as originally scheduled, and that the state would inform which sectors could open on May 12 itself.

Foreign nationals still cannot enter Malaysia The Edge Markets 6th May 2020
The government is still maintaining its policy of not allowing foreigners to enter the country at this time, said Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. He said at this time the permission to enter the country through the country’s entry gates was open only to Malaysians. "The citizens of Malaysia can be brought in and they will be quarantined for 14 days first," he told a press conference on the MCO on May 6. He was commenting on a report on AirAsia Indonesia planning to restart flights from Surabaya to Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru on May 18. According to Ismail Sabri, he also contacted AirAsia and was informed that this was not true.

Health D-G: Covid-19 screening of Malaysia’s 2.5 million migrant workers will take time but doable Malay Mail 6th May 2020
In the face of insufficient test kits available for such a monumental undertaking, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah today assured the public that the Health Ministry will thoroughly screen some 2.5 million migrant workers in the country for Covid-19. Dr Noor Hisham again pointed out the ministry will carry on with its targeted approach based on localities within the foreign workers’ communities in the Klang Valley and Selangor red zones to ensure that they are being tested for Covid-19 even if it is time consuming. “In one go obviously we do not have enough test kits, so we need to focus in terms of targeted approach for foreign workers in Selangor and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, for example. This is our priority. With that we have the capacity. It will take time surely but at least we will be able to screen them,” he said during his daily Covid-19 press briefing. He pointed out that the main issue concerning migrant workers was that many of them resided in cramped housing accommodations with many of the residents employed in different sectors such as construction or retail. To date, the ministry has screened 22,339 non-Malaysians with 986 testing positive for Covid-19 and four fatalities recorded. Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry has thus far prioritised three focus groups — migrant workers, tahfiz schools and those from the Sri Petaling tabligh gathering cluster — as the country entered its conditional movement control order (CMCO) period earlier this week. He said new Covid-19 cases reported throughout the country remained under control, citing the effectiveness of the movement control order (MCO). “We have identified these migrant workers as one of the target groups and we will screen them, especially those from the red zones in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Our focus is that we will screen them as soon as possible.

CM: MCO stays but up to cops to enforce CMCO in Sabah Malay Mail 6th May 2020
It is up to police in Sabah whether to enforce the federal-sanctioned conditional movement control order (CMCO) or maintain phase four of the MCO as decided by the state government, said chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal. Maintaining that the state would not be lifting the economic sector as stipulated under the CMCO, Shafie said that it was not under the state’s jurisdiction to enforce other laws for movement of the people. “It’s up to them to determine. But in Sabah we don’t have red zones anymore. If there are, I’d ask them to be stricter,” he said when asked to comment on a police circular which has, among other things, lifted the ban on interdistrict travel and have a two-per-vehicle rule as under MCO phase four. “(As for having up to four people per vehicle) that’s up to the police to decide, and carry out under available laws. As we have announced before, we are preparing for May 12 when we will lift the shutters on certain sectors. Till then, we still keep certain things restricted as to uphold Act 342,” he said, referring to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988. The state had on Sunday officially made its stand on the CMCO clear and it was reported yesterday that the city district police would be complying with the state’s decision. However, a photo and circular released by police sources said that rules have been eased as per the CMCO, with people allowed to move freely within a district, and are no longer limited to buying necessities or seeking medical care within a 10km radius. Movement within districts is allowed, without permission, but those who wish to travel interstate must seek police permission to do so. Sabah, an opposition state, has been complying with the movement control order (MCO) as stipulated by the federal government since March 18, with certain stricter rules. Meanwhile, Shafie said that he will announce in detail how the state will reopen after the MCO concludes on May 12, outlining its strategies and assistance for certain sectors, under what he has dubbed “a new deal”.

Three more KL areas put under lockdown on Day Two of CMCO Malay Mail 5th May 2020
Three new areas in the city have been placed under the enhanced movement control order (EMCO). The three — Jalan Raja Bot in Kampung Baru, and neighbouring residential areas Taman Wilayah and Taman Desa Bakti in Selayang — are located in the vicinity of areas classified as red zones due to their number of Covid-19 cases. As of May 5, the operator of a local burger stall MyBurger at Taman Wilayah posted on its Facebook page indicating that the low-cost apartment compound has been cordoned off. “Taman Wilayah Selayang is officially under lockdown, hence our business has also been lockdown. We will meet after the EMCO. Stay strong,” the Facebook page wrote. A Federal Territories Ministry source has since confirmed that the three areas were placed under lockdown late last night. These three areas make up the eighth, ninth and 10th EMCO areas following the Covid-19 positive cases detected in the Jalan Raja Bot market and Selayang wholesale market. Both markets have also been ordered shut to make way for sanitization works while healthcare officers conduct screening and take swab samples from market traders, workers and family members. The Selayang wholesale market has since resumed operations, while the Jalan Raja Bot market will be shut until May 12. Malaysia is in its second day of what the federal government has dubbed the conditional movement control order (CMCO), in which all economic activities save for those relying on crowds and close contact are allowed to resume. However, as many as nine states have declined to adopt the CMCO in its entirety over concerns that it may not yet be safe for business activities to resume, leading to a federal-state standoff.

Sarawak to follow CMCO but only 'suitable' SOPs will be implemented Free Malaysia Today 5th May 2020
On May 5, Sarawak said it will follow the conditional movement control order (CMCO) but only standard operating procedures (SOPs) deemed suitable for the state will be implemented. The state disaster management committee said activities no longer prohibited by the CMCO will be carried out “in a manner that will not jeopardize the protection of public health”. “We will be studying all the SOPs (laid down by the federal government) and will only apply those that we find suitable for the state,” the committee’s chairman, Douglas Uggah Embas, said at his daily press briefing. He said authorities would announce from time to time how they were going to slowly open up economic activities in the state. Uggah also said the state government would come up with SOPs on the coming Gawai and Hari Raya celebrations.

Private vehicles allowed after 10pm, says Ismail Free Malaysia Today 5th May 2020
The 10pm travel restriction between districts for private vehicles has been removed, Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced. Under phase two of the movement control order (MCO), private vehicles including e-hailing and taxis were allowed to operate only between 6am and 10pm. Ismail, however, said this regulation had been lifted following the implementation of the conditional movement control order (CMCO) on May 4. The government has also allowed a maximum of four people in a car but the passengers have to be from the same household. Previously, only one person was allowed to leave the house and drive out to purchase daily necessities and medication.

MITI urges state governments to follow Putrajaya's decision to relax the MCO The Edge Markets 4th May 2020
On May 4, The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) urged state governments to cooperate with the federal government's decision to implement the Conditional Movement Control Order or CMCO that allows almost all sectors of the economy to resume operations after almost two months of suspension under the MCO. Failure to do so may result in the state governments facing the possibility of legal action from various parties, particularly industry players, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali cautioned in a statement today. As it is, Mohamed Azmin said various industry associations, including the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers and the Malay Chamber of Commerce of Malaysia, have issued statements calling for state governments not to stop companies from resuming their operations from today, the first day of the CMCO. The statement was issued in response to certain state governments’ decision to delay the opening up of their economies via the CMCO, which begins on March 4. He also dismissed allegations that the government had restarted the economy hastily as false and baseless. As of today, nine state governments have yet to fully open up their economic sectors under the CMCO, amid concerns that resumption of social and economic activities could cause another spike of new Covid-19 infections.

CMCO: Sports activities, dine-ins not allowed in Melaka The Edge Markets 4th May 2020
The Melaka government will not allow any sports activities to take place and restaurants to cater to dine-in customers during the conditional movement control order (CMCO) period, which came into effect on May 4. Chief Minister Datuk Sulaiman Md Ali said that only the manufacturing industry is allowed to fully operate during the period and it would have to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) and guidelines set by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Operations of the economic sector, including retail and other social sectors, were being finalised and would be decided by the Covid-19 special committee today and announced in one or two days, he added.

Opposition MPs call for longer parliamentary sitting after Putrajaya relaxes MCO The Edge Markets 4th May 2020
As the federal government relaxes the movement control order (MCO) from May 4 to allow nearly all economic sectors in the country to open for business, opposition leaders are calling for Parliament to be allowed to sit for at least two weeks starting May 18, and not just one day. "In view of the fact that Parliament has decided on the SOP to allow the May 18 sitting to proceed, and given that many activities are now allowed to commence with conditions, there is no reason for Parliament not to sit for more than the one day that was announced," the leaders of Pakatan Harapan, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) said in a joint statement. The statement was issued by Bersatu's Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu (also known as Mat Sabu) and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng. Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said the Dewan Rakyat session on May 18 is best left as a one-day sitting to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection. He said the decision takes into account the government’s stand that mass gatherings are not conducive for the time being.

COVID-19

Data from Covid-19 app MyTrace kept on phone, not govt servers, says Khairy The Star Online 8th May 2020
Data collected by the MyTrace application used for Covid-19 contact tracing is kept only on the phone and not on government servers, says Khairy Jamaluddin (pic). The Science, Technology and Innovation Minister (Mosti) said the authorities would be publishing the source code for the application soon so that people could see for themselves. MyTrace is a contact tracing app that uses Bluetooth to measure how long a user’s phone has been in proximity to other MyTrace users. If a MyTrace user is diagnosed with Covid-19, this would allow the government to track and contact those who might have contracted it from them. The data stays on the phone for 21 days. The application only works if the user’s Bluetooth is turned on.

Covid-19: ‘MyTrace’ app to help in contact tracing, says senior minister MalayMail 3rd May 2020
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) has developed an application called MyTrace to help the government trace individuals who may have gone near anyone carrying the Covid-19 virus, said Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. He said MyTrace, which was developed in collaboration with local experts, would complement the MySejahtera launched earlier and would use the Bluetooth technology for contact tracing. The data collected will be kept for 21 days in the handphones of users. Ismail Sabri said the consumer data gathered would be anonymized and MyTrace was not meant to collect geolocation information.

Rely less on workers, focus on automation, urges Azmin Free Malaysia Today 2nd May 2020
International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said the business community needs to adapt to the “new normal” and rely less on the labour force when reopening in the coming weeks. He said companies need to focus more on automation and use of technology in these times when the country is facing Covid-19. Azmin also said for companies which still relied on their labour force for operations, the employers must not forget to ensure the workers’ health and cleanliness in the workplace.

‘No need to apply again’ The Star Online 29th Apr 2020
PETALING JAYA: It’s full throttle for economic sectors that are allowed to operate earlier as the nation enters the fourth phase of the movement control order (MCO) today.

Council hurdle for E&E companies The Star Online 28th Apr 2020
JOHOR BARU: Some major electrical and electronics (E&E) companies in the country are losing millions as they are unable to operate at full capacity due to conflicting conditions imposed by various local councils.

Stay home longer, Malaysians The Star Online 24th Apr 2020
PETALING JAYA: The movement control order (MCO), which is supposed to end on April 28 after two extensions, will continue to May 12 with the possibility of a further extension, says Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Customs

Labuan Chinese Chamber appeal Customs Dept to expedite the release of containers Malay Mail 10th May 2020
The Labuan Chinese Chamber of Commerce (LCCC) has appealed to the Royal Malaysian Customs Department to expedite the release of containers worth millions of ringgit still held up at the Labuan Liberty Wharf since February this year. Its president Datuk Wong Kii Yii said if the issue remains unresolved, all five companies which imported the containers would have to cease their business operations. According to him, over 40 containers of alcoholic drinks could not be moved to their destinations due to a delay in the issuance of valid liquor import license by the Customs Department. Kii Yii reiterated the problem arises as the Customs Department has yet to renew the import license for the consignments. “A letter replied by the Customs Department in Putrajaya on April 30 did not resolve the issue but dragging it on to the extent of their losses,” he said adding that, the importers usually submitted applications to renew the import license about three months before the expiry date. Should there be any queries by the Customs Department in relation to the license renewal, it should be brought to the attention of the applicants well before the license expired, he said. “The importers are our members whose cargoes are stuck at the port. They had informed the chamber after they brought the issue to the Customs’ attention via a letter of intervention on April 8, where they were asked to submit certain documents to support their import license renewal applications, but there was no communication at all when they received the renewal application,” said Kii Yii. He said the importers are not new but had been in the business for more than three decades and were well-versed on the procedures to renew liquor/tobacco import license.

Malaysia’s total trade in March fell to RM148b The Malaysian Reserve 5th May 2020
Weaker exports of electrical and electronics (E&E) and commodities dragged Malaysia’s total trade in March to RM147.9 billion or 3.8% lower year-on-year (YoY), according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM). Chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said both exports and imports registered a decrease of 4.7% YoY to RM80.1 billion and 2.7% YoY to RM67.8 billion respectively. “Trade surplus in March 2020 was valued at RM12.3 billion, shrank by 14.2% compared to March 2019. The decrease in exports was driven by domestic exports, which declined by 8.7% to RM62.9 billion. Meanwhile, re-exports picked up by 13.4% to RM17.3 billion,” he said in a statement on May 4. Lower exports in March were registered to Thailand (-RM2 billion), India (-RM1.4 billion), the European Union (EU) (-RM1.1 billion) and Vietnam (-RM966.2 million), while lower imports were mainly from Singapore (-RM 1.9 billion), the EU (-RM1.5 billion) and Thailand (-RM1.2 billion). “The main products which contributed to the decline in exports were E&E products (-RM4.4 billion), liquefied natural gas (-RM518 million), timber and timber-based products (-RM293 million), crude petroleum (-RM101.6 million), palm oil and palm oil-based products (-RM48.8 million) and natural rubber (-RM29.6 million),” he said. However, higher exports were recorded for refined petroleum products (RM2.2 billion), said Mohd Uzir.

Malaysia posts highest Q1 export value since 2011 NST Online 4th May 2020
Malaysia's trade grew 1.2 per cent to RM440.38 billion year-on-year in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020. Higher trade was recorded with Indonesia, the United States, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, the International Trade and Industry Ministry said in a statement on May 4. Exports increased 1.1 per cent to RM238.68 billion, the highest export value recorded for Q1 thus far, the ministry said. Imports rose 1.3 per cent to RM201.69 billion. Trade surplus in Q1 2020 was valued at RM36.99 billion, rising 0.1 per cent from the same period in 2019. "This was the largest trade surplus recorded for Q1 since 2011. Compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, total trade, exports and imports contracted by 8.1 per cent, 7.4 per cent and 8.9 per cent respectively," the ministry said. Trade surplus had expanded 1.5, it added. In March 2020, Malaysia's trade was valued at RM147.9 billion, a decrease of 3.8 per cent compared to March 2019. Lower trade was recorded with Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Germany and Singapore. Nevertheless, higher trade was registered with Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan. Exports contracted 4.7 per cent to RM80.12 billion and imports declined by 2.7 per cent to RM67.78 billion. Trade surplus in March 2020 was valued at RM12.34 billion, dropping 14.2 per cent from March 2019. This was the 269th consecutive month of trade surplus since November 1997. Compared to February 2020, trade, exports and imports rose 8.5 per cent, 7.6 per cent and 9.6 per cent, respectively while trade surplus was down by 2.2 per cent.

Malaysia’s 1Q trade numbers up slightly, but economists say outlook dim The Edge Markets 4th May 2020
A mild improvement was seen in Malaysia’s first-quarter (1Q) trade performance, but economists say the outlook for the next two quarters is dim as a result of the movement control order (MCO). Data released by the Department of Statistics Malaysia on May 4 showed exports and imports rising by 1.1% and 1.3% year-on-year during the first quarter of the year. However, for the month of March, exports dropped to a four-month low, falling 4.7% from a year ago, on lower export volume across all three export sectors following the adverse impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and Malaysia’s imposition of the MCO. IHS Markit’s latest Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index for Malaysia also affirmed this with the index plunging to a record low of 31.3 in April from 48.4 in March. MIDF also anticipated a weaker performance in the second quarter, and forecast both export and import growth to contract further in 2020 at -8.3% and –7.8% year-on-year respectively.

MCO: Authorities beef up security at border checkpoints Malay Mail 2nd May 2020
Tight border control is a key measure necessary to keep at bay imported cases of Covid-19 even as the government eases the movement control order (MCO) to allow the restart of economic activities on May 4. The border control factor has been emphasized over and over again by Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the director-general of health, at almost all his Covid-19 daily updates to the media since Malaysia came under the MCO on March 18. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador and Chief of Defence Forces Gen Tan Sri Affendi Buang have kept their word and beefed up security at the numerous border checkpoints. The security personnel are also keeping a sharp lookout for anyone trying to sneak into the country through the numerous rat trails, illegal routes across forests and plantations that are also used for smuggling. It is not an easy task policing the entire international border, about 3,000km on land alone, and a coastline of over 4,600km, that Malaysia shares with its neighbours, namely, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in an address to the nation on May 1, said the tight border control is one of the six criteria that has been taken into account to implement the Conditional MCO to allow the restart of economic activities on May 4. Kedah/Perlis Op Wawasan commanding officer Supt Abd Razak Md Din said the 18th Battalion General Operations Force (PGA) based in Pengkalan Hulu, Perak, has increased the number of personnel and stepped up patrols along the Malaysia-Thailand border in Perlis since taking up the task on April 1. Perlis Police chief Datuk Surina Saad said the police constantly conducted intelligence work to obtain information on the possible entry of illegal immigrants. Kedah Immigration director Zuhair Jamaludin said only individuals who get through the screening conducted by the Ministry of Health can come to the Immigration counter. Patrols have been stepped up in Pengkalan Hulu, Perak, which shares the Malaysia-Thailand common border with Betong in the Yala province of southern Thailand.

Defense & Security

Rohingyas in Malaysia Face a Pandemic and a Possible Populist Backlash The Diplomat 12th May 2020
In Malaysia, the Rohingya refugee community is dealing with a double-pronged disaster. As is true for everyone, the pandemic has fundamentally upset daily life and fears of both infection and the loss of income permeate. And now the community must also contend with a sudden turn in support from wider society.  Initially, this turn was linked to would-be boat arrivals of refugees entering Malaysian waters in recent months, but it has escalated dramatically online after potentially faked comments from a self-styled community leader created a deep division. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose social media postings still carry great influence, has made the most marked about-face. As the Rohingya crisis re-emerged in 2016 under his tenure, Najib aligned himself with the Muslim-majority Rohingyas as a great defender and took on Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi. His critics at the time suggested it was a cynical ploy to turn the crisis into an opportunity to prove his Muslim credentials, similar to the country’s stance on Palestine.  Now, perhaps sensing the change in the air among the broader community, Najib has withdrawn support for the cause. On Facebook, he said Malaysia’s refugee community has already been given a lot of support by the governments of the day and further support is an obligation that should be shared by other ASEAN states. Acknowledging he does not want to be “cruel,” he added “but until when do we need toresolve this problem which began in the 1990s?” A boat carrying 200 Rohingya refugees intercepted by Malaysian authorities earlier this month was turned back, with officials citing fears of COVID-19 infection. News wires report the Air Force gave food to the boat before refusing to allow it to dock and escorting it from territorial waters. The boat is reportedly one of many. Later, activists reported dozens of deaths from starvation following weeks at sea.

Petronas vessel leaves South China Sea waters after standoff Free Malaysia Today 12th May 2020
An oil exploration vessel contracted by Petronas, involved in a standoff with a Chinese survey vessel in the South China Sea, left the disputed waters on May 12, three security sources and the vessel operator said. Petronas had been conducting exploration activities near an area claimed by Malaysia and Vietnam as well as by China since late last year. In mid-April, the Haiyang Dizhi 8 — a Chinese government survey vessel — started operating in the area, escorted by coast guard and China maritime militia vessels. Three American warships and an Australian frigate conducted a joint exercise near the site of Petronas’ operations amid the standoff last month. The West Capella, the vessel contracted by Petronas, left the waters as it had finished its exploration activities in the area, the sources said. Petronas’ contract for the vessel with offshore drilling company Seadrill was scheduled to end this month. Seadrill’s communications director Iain Cracknell confirmed that the West Capella had left the area after completing its planned work. The Chinese government vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, was still in the area — 371km offshore Borneo, data from ship tracking website Marine Traffic showed. The data showed the vessel has been moving within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone in a hash-shaped pattern consistent with carrying out a survey, as it did during a tense standoff in Vietnamese waters last year. The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) has said the China-Malaysia standoff has been going on for months. China has denied reports of a standoff, saying that the Haiyang Dizhi 8 was conducting normal activities. The incident prompted the United States to call on China to stop its “bullying behaviour” in the disputed waters. China claims almost all of the energy-rich South China Sea, also a major trade route. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

US Navy sends ships to South China Sea amid China-Malaysia oil dispute Daily Mail 9th May 2020
The United States Navy has deployed two patrol ships to the disputed South China Sea where China and Malaysia have competing claims over a maritime region known to have valuable resources. American officials said on May 8 that the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery and the replenishment ship USNS Cesar Chavez were sent to conduct a ‘presence operation’ in the South China Sea near a Panamanian-flagged drill ship West Capella. The move sends a strong message to Chinese ships, which have reportedly spent weeks harassing the commercial vessel.  The drill ship is under contract to conduct surveying operations in an area of the South China Sea where Malaysia lays claims to maritime sovereignty. The West Capella has been contracted to drill for oil reserves by the Malaysian state-owned oil company Petronas. In recent weeks, the Chinese People Liberation Army Navy has also deployed warships to the region. This is the second time in the last month that US Navy ships have been sent to the area to to deter Chinese vessels who have been accused of harassing neighboring countries. In late April, the American military deployed the USS Bunker Hill, a guided-missile cruiser, to sail alongside the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Parramatta.

Economics

A ‘deep contraction’ in 2Q GDP forecast for first time in a decade The Edge Markets 13th May 2020
Central bank governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus on May 13 cautioned Malaysians to expect a “deep contraction” in gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter April to June, owing to a near shutdown in the economy under measures taken to counter Covid-19 pandemic. The contraction would be the first since the Global Financial Crisis, when the Malaysian economy shrunk by 1.1% in the third quarter of 2009.The central bank will announce its revised full year GDP forecast in the second half of the year, when there is more clarity in the data and outlook. Although the local economy did not contract in the first quarter of the year, the mininal 0.7% expansion underscored the initial impact of Covid-19 as well as the implementation of a movement control order (MCO) towards the end of the quarter.  OCBC Bank economist Wellian Wiranto believes the local economy could shrink by as much as 6% y-o-y in 2Q20, before eking out some gains in the second half of the year, to minimise full year GDP contraction to 0.5%. “Having implemented a 100bps rate cut this year, we see Bank Negara keeping its powder dry and leaving the OPR unchanged at 2%, if such baseline scenario holds,” he said. However, Wiranto expects BNM would not hesitate to cut the rate further below the present historic low to 1.5%, should there be any indication that growth momentum would suffer more deeply even after easing the MCO. Despite his gloomy forecast, Wiranto cautioned that his projection depends on a number of caveats, including the non reimposition of restriction orders or a further extension of the current MCO which is scheduled to end on June 9. “With political temperatures rising yet again ahead of the reopening of Parliament, any further uptick will inadvertently hurt the path towards recovery, as well,” he pointed out.

BNM: Govt has sufficient fiscal space for further economic stimulus The Edge Markets 13th May 2020
With its proven track record of continuous commitment to the medium-term fiscal consolidation path, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus said the Government has the fiscal space for further economic stimulus. “In the event there is a need for further economic stimulus, the Government could opt to issue additional borrowings within the space it has built up over the years,” Nor Shamsiah said in a virtual media briefing held on May 13. She added that the gradual fiscal consolidation over the years is what has allowed the Government to build the fiscal space needed to support the economy during the periods of economic slowdown. The Government had embarked on fiscal consolidation in 2010 and since then Malaysia’s fiscal deficit has declined by nearly half from 6.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009 to 3.4% of GDP last year, said Nor Shamsiah. Notably, the Government has rolled out an RM260 billion stimulus package to keep the economy afloat following the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) from March 18. The subsequent Conditional MCO has now been extended to June 9. The stimulus measures are expected to widen the fiscal deficit to 4.7% in 2020, as against 3.2% projected late last year. Noting that sovereign ratings on both advanced and emerging markets have been revised due to weaker prospects and fiscal position, Nor Shamsiah said rating agencies should “not be overly-focused on headline figures for fiscal deficit”.

Govt to announce economic recovery plan end-May The Malaysian Reserve 13th May 2020
The government will be announcing a six-month economic recovery plan by the end of this month to resuscitate the country’s economy post-COVID-19. International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali (picture) said the pandemic has impacted global markets, including Malaysia. “Businesses have been brought to a grinding halt and unemployment has spiked. Like other economies, we are mitigating the consequences (of the pandemic),” he said while addressing a webinar by the Electrical and Electronics Productivity Nexus today. Among all the sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector took the hardest hit with cumulative losses estimated to be at RM7.28 billion, while losses in imports are expected to amount to RM29.12 billion, said Azmin. He noted that the local E&E ecosystem is part of the global supply chain and remains as a significant contributor to the country’s gross domestic product and the backbone to the economy. Azmin said to mitigate the pandemic’s adverse impact on the economy, the country has resumed almost all of its economic activities. He also called upon businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises to look at the present challenges as an opportunity to accelerate digitalisation, as that is the best way forward. “COVID-19 has shown why digitalization is the way forward especially in business."

Malaysia 1Q GDP to shrink for first time since global financial crisis — economists The Edge Markets 12th May 2020
Malaysia's economy is expected to have contracted for the first time in more than a decade in the first quarter (1Q) as the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on private consumption and external demand.   The median forecast from a poll of 21 economists was for gross domestic product (GDP) to decline 1% in January to March from a year earlier, the first contraction since the third quarter of 2009 during the global financial crisis. Individual forecasts ranged from a GDP growth of 1.3% to a decline of 4.2%. The GDP data is due to be released tomorrow. DBS senior economist Irvin Seah expects Malaysia to dip into a recession this year, starting with a subdued GDP growth of 0.8% in the first quarter. In an economics note, Seah said Malaysia’s first-quarter GDP data due tomorrow will likely look awful, mainly because of factors such as sharp plunge in oil prices and implications of the Covid-19 pandemic which are expected to exert a significant toll on the economy. With the domestic engines barely grinding ahead, coupled with immense external headwinds, Seah expects Malaysia’s full-year GDP growth to be -0.5% in 2020. While Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) had forecast the economy to either shrink by up to 2% or grow marginally by 0.5% this year due to the pandemic, many others offered a far grimmer projection. The prospect does not bode well, especially with the government deciding to extend the conditional movement control order (CMCO) for another four weeks. CGS-CIMB research head Ivy Ng wrote in a note today that although the event was partially expected, it will continue to weigh down on travel-related industries, such as casinos and hotels, given the loss of business in the holiday season period.

Services sector’s average revenue fell nearly 40% during MCO, up to April 28 The Edge Markets 11th May 2020
The services sector generated an estimated revenue of RM83.29 billion during the first three phases of the Movement Control Order (MCO) up to April 28, representing a drop of 38.6% in its estimated average monthly revenue. The Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) said the wholesale and retail trade subsector, which posted the highest revenue at RM63.5 billion, saw a 36.6% slump. “Wholesale trade is expected to record revenue of RM34.77 billion or a 28. cent, followed by retail (RM27.76 billion, -32.4 per cent) and motor vehicles (RM0.97 billion, -90.9 per cent),” the department said in a newsletter focusing on the MCO’s impact on the services sector. Meanwhile, the transport and storage subsector posted RM2.66 billion in revenue, a sharp fall of 69.9%. The services subsectors that suffered the largest percentage drop were the arts, entertainment and recreation segment (RM0.75 million or a decline of over 90%) and food and beverages (RM0.80 billion, -86.4%). During the MCO period spanning March 18-April 28, all services subsectors recorded less revenue except for information and communications, which reaped RM11.92 billion or an increase of 2.0%, DOSM said. The department noted that during the first two phases of the MCO (up to April 14), services subsectors that were allowed to operate were information and communications, transport and storage, financial, health, food and beverages, accommodation, wholesale and retail trade, and utilities. For phase three, the government allowed several more economic activities to operate.  DOSM pointed out that in Malaysia, the services sector was the largest economic sector. It contributed RM771.9 billion or 56.7% of the gross domestic product in 2018.

MDEC & Carousell launch RM1m initiative to assist retailers and SMEs The Edge Markets 7th May 2020
Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and classifieds marketplace Carousell have launched the #TetapBuka Carousell Business Grants initiative worth RM1 million to support Malaysian retailers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the continuing Movement Control Order (MCO). In a statement, MDEC chief executive officer Surina Shukri said the Covid-19 pandemic is fast-tracking the digital transformation and bringing mass digital adoption in businesses, and it is MDEC’s ongoing mission to empower these Malaysian businesses to be digitally-powered businesses and succeed in the digital economy. The #TetapBuka Carousell Business Grants are open to all local retailers and SMEs registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM), who are not presently advertising on Carousell. The #TetapBuka Carousell Business Grants will provide the following benefits to local retailers and SMEs: free access to CarouBiz lite package (worth RM500) with 5,000 coins that can be used to give listings more visibility; safe & secure digital payment via Carousell Protection (zero fee for Sellers); and the opportunity for their business to be advertised in the main page of Carousell app & website.

Half of SMEs will downsize, restructure after MCO, says survey Free Malaysia Today 7th May 2020
More than half of the country’s SMEs will either downsize or restructure their businesses when the movement control order (MCO) is lifted. A recent survey by the SME Association of Malaysia found that 23% of SMEs would downsize their businesses after the MCO while 28% said they would restructure – with only 19% believing they would be able to resume operations as usual. “This will definitely affect the economy if the government doesn’t come up with support programmes,” SME Association of Malaysia president Michael Kang told FMT. “Those who are not able to continue their business in the next three to six months will close down,” he warned. Implemented on March 18 to stem the spread of Covid-19, the MCO is scheduled to end on May 12. However, businesses have been allowed to operate under strict standard operating procedures (SOP) under the conditional movement control order (CMCO), which came into effect on Monday. A total of 4,280 SME representatives from across the country participated in the survey titled “Voices of the Malaysian SMEs on Sustainability & Survival during MCO”. Other key findings from the survey show 57% of the businesses reporting zero income during the MCO and 40% stating their revenue had dropped by at least half. Around 36% of the SMEs said they had enough cash flow to last until the end of May, 21% until end of June and 17% until July. Among the initiatives to alleviate short-term cash flow problems faced by SMEs during this period include the Special Relief Facility (SRF), for which Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has allocated RM5 billion. Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz today announced that as of May 5, loans totalling RM3 billion had been approved for 6,840 SMEs under the government’s various financing schemes rolled out to help SMEs, with the majority of the amount from the SRF. However, 51% of the businesses in the survey said they did not apply for the SRF.

Sarawak forms SEAC for post COVID-19 economic recovery The Malaysian Reserve 6th May 2020
On May 6, The Sarawak Government announced the formation of a Sarawak Economic Action Council (SEAC) to formulate economic agendas for the state after its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the SEAC’s post COVID-19 exit economic strategy would run up to 2030. Nevertheless, he said the council would first seek the views of the various sectors involved. “We cannot determine now (the capital for the implementation of the strategy) because it would be based on the actual policy (to be devised eventually by the SEAC) and our economic strength,” he told a press conference. Besides the State Cabinet, he said members of the SEAC comprise Sarawakian academicians and other professionals as well as representatives from the various chambers of commerce. “The council would then study the details of the propositions they had gathered (and) would be submitted to the government by September 2020,” he said. Judging by the current situation, he said Sarawak’s economic, social and governance sectors by 2030  would be anchored on digital economy and environmental sustainability, raising the importance of data centers as the driving force for innovation in digital applications. “Sustainable environment will feature prominently in our future development plan. We will ensure that Sarawak achieves a clean, healthy and resilient environment for the current and future generations,” he added. 

Nearly 95% of stimulus package implemented The Malaysian Reserve 6th May 2020
Almost all the measures under the RM260 billion stimulus packages have been implemented, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz (picture) said in his weekly brief on May 5. The spending package — which accounts for 18% of the country’s GDP — has so far included billions of ringgit worth of cash aid to eligible households and individuals, soft loans for affected businesses and a RM50 billion guarantee scheme via state-owned credit guarantor Danajamin Nasional Bhd. The latest measure that the government is currently implementing is the Prihatin Special Grant (PSG), which now accepts applications from micro small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in need of financial assistance. The special grant is a one-off financial assistance amounting to RM3,000 per company set to benefit some 700,000 micro SMEs. The application will be open until May 15 and a decision will be announced in the first week of June with payment expected to be by June-end. Other updates on the stimulus package are as follows: Phase 1 of the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) cash payment has benefitted 7.78 million recipients with total amount disbursed at RM5.5 billion. Phase 2, which began on Monday, will involve a payment of RM3.7 billion to 8.3 million recipients in the bottom 40% and middle 40% income quadrant. As of April 29, the government received nearly two million new applications and appeals for BPN which require an additional fund of RM1 billion. The initial allocation for BPN is RM10 billion. Payment for successful applicants and appeals will be made in mid-May. As of May 3, the Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) i-Lestari programme, which allows workers to make partial withdrawals from their Account 2, approved over 3.5 million applications involving RM1.66 billion worth of funds. The payment will be credited into the receivers’ bank accounts between May 4 and May 18. As of April-end, the amount of reduction from the lowering of the contribution rate to EPF from 11% to 7% is estimated at RM977 million a month. The measure is expected to add RM1.1 billion worth of disposable income in April. As of May 3, the scheme saw banks approving about RM3 billion worth of funds to help support 6,840 SMEs. The bulk of the amount was from the Special Relief Facility by Bank Negara Malaysia where SMEs can apply for loans up to RM1 million with a 3.5% interest rate. Eighty percent of the amount is guaranteed.

Penang hawkers to get RM500 each under RM76 mil stimulus plan Free Malaysia Today 6th May 2020
The Penang government today announced another RM76 million in one-off cash aid and other forms of relief as part of its second economic stimulus package today, bringing the amount to a total of RM151 million to date. Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today said the assistance, named Penangite Aid Package 2.0, was to boost the state’s economy while it opens up gradually from a Covid-19 lockdown from May 8. Among the highlights of the stimulus package is a RM500 one-off aid for 9,000 registered and unregistered hawkers. Last month, 14,000 licensed hawkers were given a one-off payment of RM500. Also announced were rebates in assessment fees for Penang Island and Seberang Perai city councils worth RM47.3 million for 600,000 ratepayers. Rental for PPR low-cost flats under the state has been waived for another two months. Shoplots under state low-cost flats have also been exempted from rental for three months from this month. A total of 645 welfare and education department-registered child daycare centers will receive RM500 each this month.

RM3bil loans approved for 6,840 SMEs NST Online 5th May 2020
Loans totaling RM3 billion have been approved for 6,840 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) under the government's easy financing scheme until May 5, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz said. The amount was an increase from RM1.5 billion extended to 3,363 SMEs until April 26. He said the majority of the amount came from the Special Relief Facility (SRF) where SMEs could apply for up to RM1 million in financing at a 3.5 per cent interest rate, of which 80 per cent of the total funding is guaranteed. "The response to this facility has been very encouraging and I hope it will be utilized to the fullest," he said when presenting the Unit for the Implementation and Coordination of National Agencies on the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package's (Laksana) fourth report on May 5. Tengku Zafrul said for the Micro-Credit Loan Scheme, as of April 29, 2020, of the RM700 million micro-credit loans offered at zero per cent interest rate by Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) and TEKUN Nasional, RM132 million had been approved. Of the amount, BSN approved RM90 million for 2,000 Micro SMEs, while TEKUN Nasional approved RM42 million for 5,000 Micro SMEs. As for the Wage Subsidy programme, as of May 3, a total of RM1.9 billion of wage subsidies have been approved for the benefit of 235,000 employers involving 1.7 million workers. This is an increase from 195,000 employers involving 1.5 million workers in last week's report. For the Employment Retention Programme (ERP) under the Social Security Organisation (SOCSO), the government has agreed to increase the allocation by RM120 million to double the amount to RM240 million. The programme is aimed at providing a financial aid of RM600 a month for six months to workers on unpaid leave. The ERP was approved on March 16 by the Economic Action Council with an allocation of RM120 million. Until the end of April, the financial aid had been approved for more than 52,000 employees.

RM16bil additional liquidity as Bank Negara relaxes SRR NST Online 5th May 2020
Bank Negara Malaysia says government debt securities can be used by banking institutions to fully meet the Statutory Reserve requirement (SRR) from May 16. The flexibility to use Malaysian Government Securities (MGS) and Malaysian Government Investment Issue (MGII) was available until May 31, the central bank said in a statement on May 5. The measure would release about RM16 billion of liquidity into the banking system, Bank Negara said, adding that the SRR ratio remained unchanged at 2.00 per cent. "This measure is part of Bank Negara's continuous efforts to ensure sufficient liquidity to support financial intermediation activity," it said. The SRR is an instrument to manage liquidity and is not a signal on Bank Negara's stance of monetary policy. Bank Negara said the Overnight Policy Rate was the sole indicator used to signal the stance of its monetary policy.

SMEs in Labuan to get 30% discount on land lease Free Malaysia Today 4th May 2020
Labuan Corporation is giving a 30% discount on the lease of 108 lots of land that are leased to 85 companies engaged in oil and gas, logistics, commercial, civil engineering and tourism activities in Labuan. Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa said the discount is given to ease the burden of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as micro enterprises in Labuan that are affected by the movement control order (MCO). “It is in line with the federal government’s initiative under the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (Prihatin) in addressing this global catastrophe,” he said. The move will affect 95 agreements. The duration of the discount is for five months from March to July with the total cost, amounting RM987,292.82, to be borne by the government. Annuar said there are 78 agreements for lease rates below RM10,000; 17 agreements for lease rates ranging from RM11,000 to RM50,000 and one agreement for lease rate exceeding RM100,000 a month.

Energy

Malaysia crude palm oil output to dip 1% in 2020- state agency Reuters 8th May 2020
Crude palm oil output in Malaysia, the world’s second-biggest producer, will drop in 2020 by 1% from a year earlier because of drier weather last year limiting yields and the country’s lockdowns this year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Output this year is expected to drop to 19.7 million tonnes from a year earlier, state agency and industry body the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) said. "This is based on the impact of low fertilizer application in 2019, dry weather in the middle of 2019 which is resulting in diminished oil palm fruit yields and also a brief suspension of Sabah oil palm estates and mills due to COVID-19 pandemic," MPOC wrote on its website, referring to the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Sabah, Malaysia’s largest palm oil producing state, temporarily shuttered some plantations and mills during a six-week partial lockdown that started in March to contain the coronavirus outbreak. MPOC said the partial lockdown also interrupted harvesting, milling and created a manpower shortage and logistics issues that will also dent palm oil production. According to data from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, fresh fruit bunch yields in the first quarter of 2020 fell 21% to 3.37 tonnes per hectare (1.36 tonnes per acre), compared to 4.28 tonnes per hectare in 2019. The MPOC forecast Malaysian palm oil stockpiles at the end of 2020 to dip to 1.9 million tonnes from 2 million tonnes last year. MPOC’s Chief Executive Kalyana Sundram told Reuters on May 7 that global demand for the world’s most widely-used vegetable oil may have bottomed out after being hammered by the pandemic and is now set for a slow recovery.

TNB to deploy big data analytics in Sepang LSS to boost efficiency NST Online 6th May 2020
Tenaga Nasional Bhd's (TNB) is deploying big data analytics applications in its large scale solar (LSS) farm in Sepang to improve energy productivity and operational efficiency. TNB said its wholly-owned TNB Renewables Sdn Bhd had appointed Envision Digital International Pte Ltd to do the task. TNB said the 50 megawatts (MW) solar farm is one of the largest in Malaysia with 238,140 solar panels generating more than 110,000 megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy in its first year of operation in 2019. TNB Renewables managing director Mohd Yusrizal said the company was constantly seeking for innovative technology solutions that will help accelerate its growth in the renewable energy sector. "The solar farm in Sepang is our first LSS project in Malaysia. By adopting cloud- based solutions, we can monitor and analyse the solar farm's performance remotely and achieve better returns on investment. The project with Singapore-based Envision Digital will involve the deployment of its cloud-based digital analytics applications, including EnlightTM Solar, EnsightTM Solar, and Forecaster. Since the beginning of this project in March 2019, both organizations begins to collaborate on multiple initiatives revolving around new energy and digital transformation. Eventually, TNB Renewables will build a digital renewable energy platform leveraging Envision's EnOS AloT Operating System, to connect various renewables assets and applications, such as biogas, biomass and mini hydro. The platform will not only provide asset operation and performance visibility to the company, but also allow the integration and synergized operation among various renewables energies.

Malaysian utility and Envision Digital to digitalise solar operations Smart Energy International 5th May 2020
Malaysian utility Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) has announced the planned deployment of big data analytics applications for its large-scale solar facility in Sepang. Working in partnership with Envision Digital, the project will improve energy productivity and operational efficiency. The 50MW solar farm is one of the largest in Malaysia with 238,140 solar panels generating more than 110,000MWh of energy in its first year of operation in 2019. The project with Envision Digital will involve the deployment of its cloud-based digital analytics applications. Powered by Envision Digital’s AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) operating system, EnOSTM, the applications will strengthen TRe’s ability to actively contribute to the growth and use of renewable energy sources across the company’s portfolio of energy assets. The end-to-end solution will help TRe’s operations team to have quick, real-time access to the farm’s operation status, generation performance, power output, and accurate power forecasts. This will improve operational and maintenance efficiency, and ensure TRe can manage grid supply and demand effectively.

Malaysia's Sapura sees delay in energy projects as pandemic hits demand ETEnergyworld.com 30th Apr 2020
Malaysia's largest oil and gas services company Sapura Energy said on April 30 that it expects a delay in projects due to the historic rout in oil prices and as widespread coronavirus shutdowns hit demand. "Delays are inevitable," Chief Executive Shahril Shamsuddin said in an earnings conference call, adding that it could take 18-24 months for the oil market to recover due to high inventory levels. Sapura is aiming to lower operating costs by at least 500 million ringgit ($115.90 million) per year to adapt to the drop in demand and oil prices, Shahril said, adding that the company was budgeting for a long-term oil price of $40 to $45 per barrel. Brent crude rose around 10 per cent to $24.90 a barrel on April 30, though not too far from a more-than-20-year low hit earlier this month. Demand has been hit by movement and business curbs implemented to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers have announced output cuts. On April 29, Sapura posted a loss from continuing operations of 4.23 billion ringgit ($979.62 million) for the fourth quarter ended January, wider than the 2.23 billion ringgit loss last year. Revenue slumped 25 per cent to 1.11 billion ringgit. The losses included impairment charges of 3.04 billion ringgit and a 438.8 million ringgit provision to account for project delays. The Malaysian firm had announced salary cuts and job cuts earlier this week. The company is also looking to refinance loans by the end of the year, Shahril said.

Financial Services

Insurance policyholders can now claim for Covid-19 screening for emergency surgeries The Edge Markets 13th May 2020
Policyholders with medical and health insurance are now entitled to be reimbursed up to RM300 if they are required to undergo screening for Covid-19 before an emergency or semi-emergency surgery. The RM300 can be claimed from the RM8 Million COVID-19 Test Fund (CTF) that was established by The Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (LIAM), Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia (PIAM) and the Malaysian Takaful Association (MTA). In a joint statement, the associations said the reimbursement will apply to emergency and semi-emergency surgeries conducted from March 27, 2020 to June 30, 2020 or earlier, if the fund is fully utilized. The reimbursement follows the associations' decision to broaden the eligibility criteria for the fund to include the requirement for a Covid-19 test before hospital admission for emergency and semi-emergency surgeries. The term emergency refers to a situation where a patient requires immediate and life-saving intervention, whereas the term semi-emergency refers to a high-risk patient whose condition could easily deteriorate or who has symptoms of a condition requiring time-sensitive treatment.

Visa: Over 70% of Malaysians supportive of cashless payment The Edge Markets 12th May 2020
More than seven in 10 Malaysians are supportive of the country becoming a cashless society and 62% believe it can be achieved within the next five years, according to a study by Visa Inc. The top three benefits cited by consumers in opting for a cashless society are that it will ease the tracking financial records, remove the hassle of having to queue at banks, and enable the country to become more efficient, Visa said in a statement. The study also showed that 69% of Malaysian respondents are planning to use cashless payment methods more often, and move away from cash. This trend is more apparent among the affluent segment, where 77% indicated interest to do so. Visa said the top reasons for the potential increase in digital payment usage are convenience and wider acceptance of digital payments in the country. On top of that, nearly two in five respondents stated that they were carrying less cash compared to two years ago. About 69% of respondents cited this was due to more merchants adopting cashless payments, and 65% indicated it was due to safety concerns when carrying cash. Contactless card payments are also gaining momentum in the country, Visa country manager for Malaysia Ng Kong Boon said in the statement. He said Malaysia is one of the fastest-growing countries in Asia-Pacific in terms of contactless penetration. Based on the study, 65% of Malaysian respondents have used contactless payments, and 85% of them make contactless payments at least once a week. Meanwhile, 82% of respondents have also been using contactless payments more frequently compared to two years ago, said Visa.

MEDAC to simplify loan procedures for entrepreneurs The Edge Markets 11th May 2020
Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Ministry (MEDAC) will simplify lending procedures for entrepreneurs, following various standard operating procedures (SOPs) they need to face in order to start their business. Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this was due to many companies being affected by the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the Conditional MCO which ends on June 9. "We have opened two bank channels and one cooperative as a financial source namely Bank Rakyat, SME Bank Bhd and Tekun Nasional. When the economy is fully open, entrepreneurs can operate their businesses as quickly as possible," he said. To date said the minister,  SME Bank Bhd has received about 1,000 loan applications and this indicates that many companies are keen to source financial resources provided by the government. "Many of the required methods and procedures have been simplified including the withdrawal process, and I have also advised Tekun Nasional not to delay the approval of loan applications," he said. Noting that many women entrepreneurs were also affected, Wan Junaidi said his ministry has distributed RM80 million to assist the group through Tekun Nasional.

Ambank, Maxis offer solutions to help SMEs Tap into e-commerce The Edge Markets 7th May 2020
AmBank and Maxis have introduced SME-in-a-Box, a one-stop solution offering comprehensive and simple financing and digital solutions for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that leverages the potential of e-commerce. SME-in-a-Box comes with services to help SMEs that do not have an e-commerce platform to launch one quickly, the two companies said in a joint statement today. “We recognize the need for SMEs to be digitally ready and e-commerce has relevance for their businesses, now more than ever. Ever since the Movement Control Order (MCO) started, SMEs have had to adapt to a steep learning curve,” AmBank Group chief executive officer Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir said. He said the main aim is to ensure SMEs have the ability to tap into a new source of business growth in the form of e-commerce. The statement said services within the solution include a designated hunting line, SMS advertising services to push promotions and drive more sales, as well as mobile security to protect employees’ mobile services against online threats while working from home.

MoF: Banks agree to waive additional charges on HP loans The Edge Markets 6th May 2020
Banks have now agreed to waive the additional interest or profit charges imposed on installments for hire-purchase loans for the six-month moratorium announced by the government. Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz said his ministry has reached an agreement with the banking industry on this matter, following the government’s call to the industry to waive the additional charges. He said borrowers are therefore required to resume paying their installments as usual, based on the terms of agreements with their respective banks including with an extension of six months in the repayment period, if they chose to take up the moratorium. The minister’s announcement today is expected to put a stop to the heated debates that started over the weekend, on whether banks should impose additional charges for the six-month period from April 1 to Sept 30. Some quarters, including the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, accused Bank Negara Malaysia and commercial banks of being inhumane and placing more focus on profit than helping the rakyat. They pointed out that the moratorium was introduced because some borrowers are facing a hard time paying their loans during the Movement Control Order. Zafrul subsequently suggested that the financial institutions waive any accrued interest or profit imposed with respect to the moratorium period. On May 3, Agrobank, a development bank under the purview of the Minister of Finance Inc, announced it would do exactly that for all eligible individual and small- and medium enterprise customers, during the six-month period.

Bank Muamalat adjusts base rates following Bank Negara's OPR cut The Edge Markets 6th May 2020
Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd will be lowering its base rate (BR) and base financing rate (BFR) by 50 basis points (bps) following Bank Negara Malaysia’s cut in the overnight policy rate (OPR) on May 5. That means Bank Muamalat's new BR will be reduced from 3.31% per annum to 2.81% per annum, while its BFR will go down to 5.81% per annum from 6.31% per annum. The changes will take effect on May 13, the bank said in a statement. The rate adjustments will affect all its floating rate financing packages pegged to the BR and BFR, Bank Muamalat said. Its FTA-I deposit rates will also be reduced by 50bps. Other banks that have announced similar rate adjustments following the OPR cut are: RHB Bank Bhd, Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank), Public Bank Bhd and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. Tuesday's OPR cut is BNM's third this year, bringing the OPR to its lowest level in 10 years.

SC to facilitate capital market product distribution via e-service platforms The Edge Markets 5th May 2020
The Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) says it will facilitate online distribution of capital market products, such as unit trusts, through e-services platforms like e-wallet or e-payment service providers. This follows the amendment to the SC’s Guidelines on Recognized Markets which now include a new chapter on e-service platforms. The chapter details the registration requirements and ongoing obligations for e-service providers. “This amendment will allow operators of e-wallet or e-payment applications to partner with Capital Markets Services License holders to distribute capital market products to investors,” the SC said in a statement on May 5. The commission said e-wallet or e-payment operators, which are currently subject to the oversight of another sectorial regulator, will be required to obtain that regulator’s approval before submitting their application to the SC. SC chairman Datuk Syed Zaid Albar said the commission will continue to facilitate the development of innovative digital solutions to improve access to investments for all participants of Malaysia's capital market. During a virtual press conference held on April 16, the SC said there had been an increase in the number of online trading accounts being registered. At the same time, it said there had also been a shift among license holders towards using digital channels to distribute capital market products and services. “Interested operators will have to register with the SC as recognized market operators and may submit their applications from today onwards,” it added.

Bank Negara cuts OPR rate to lowest in 10 years Free Malaysia Today 5th May 2020
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has slashed the overnight policy rate (OPR) by 50 basis points to 2%, its lowest level since 2010. In a statement, the central bank said the ceiling and floor rates of the OPR corridor have been correspondingly reduced to 2.25% and 1.75% respectively. Earlier on May 5, Bloomberg reported that the OPR rates were set to be reduced from 2.5% based on a survey of economists. BNM said Covid-19 and measures to contain its spread had affected global and local economic conditions and disrupted economic activities. “The movement control order (MCO), while necessary to contain the spread of the virus, has also constrained production capacity and spending. Labour market conditions are also expected to weaken considerably. Economic conditions will be particularly challenging in the first half of the year.” It said Putrajaya’s fiscal stimulus measures would offer some support to the economy while the easing of MCO restrictions should allow the slow improvement of economic activity. But, it said, the outlook for growth remained highly uncertain due to developments surrounding Covid-19, while inflationary pressures are expected to remain muted.

Maybank, CIMB reduce lending rates by 50bps NST Online 5th May 2020
Malayan Bank Bhd (Maybank) and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd have become the first banks to immediately announce a reduction in their lending rates following Bank Negara Malaysia's move to cut its Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) on May 5. Both banks said in separate statements that they would reduce their base rate (BR) and base lending rate (BLR) by 50 basis points (bps). Maybank and CIMB said the move was in line with the reduction in the OPR by 50bps to 2.00 per cent. Maybank said effective from May 8, its BR would be lowered from 2.50 per cent per annum to 2.00 per cent per annum, while its BLR from 6.15 per cent to 5.65 per cent. Similarly, the banks's Islamic BR and Base Financing Rate (BFR) would be reduced from 2.50 per cent to 2.00 per annum and from 6.15 per cent to 5.65 per cent respectively. Maybank Islamic's fixed deposit rates will also be adjusted downwards by 50bps. The last revision in Maybank's BR was on March 5 when it was revised to 2.50 per cent from 2.75 per cent. Meanwhile, CIMB Bank Bhd and CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd will effect a corresponding 50bps reduction in their BR and fixed deposit/fixed return income account-i board rates. CIMB said all financing facilities based on BLR and BFR would be reduced by 0.50 per cent to "help achieve the corresponding effect of monetary policy transmission intent by Bank Negara's Monetary Policy Committee." All rate changes would take effect on May 13, said the bank.

AIA waives premium, extends coverage for Covid-19 Malay Mail 8th May 2020
AIA Bhd is offering premium/contribution waiver, additional 50 per cent death coverage and extend the period for additional insurance and takaful coverage for Covid-19 to its customers at no additional cost. The company said it would waive the premium/contributions for the first three months to new customers who sign-up for A-Life ProtectTerm or participate in A-Life Kasih Famili in May. “On top of that, customers will also receive free additional hospitalisation and death coverage as well as complementary medical advice on Covid-19 until Sept 30 and June 30, respectively,” it said in a statement on May 8. The offer is open to new customers who sign up between May 6 and May 31 or until the first 50,000 policies/certificates are taken up, whichever comes first. AIA said the additional 50 per cent death coverage due to Covid-19, provided until Dec 31, is offered to all new customers who signed up for selected conventional life insurance, takaful and bancassurance plans, including the newly launched A-Enrich Wealth insurance savings plan, between May 6 and May 31 this year. “This means, if an insured/person covered passes away due to Covid-19, an additional 50 per cent of the basic amount covered will be paid to his/her beneficiary, up to a maximum of RM100,000 or RM250,000 per life depending on the plan,” it said. AIA has also extended the free additional insurance coverage for Covid-19 to Sept 30, 2020 from June 30, 2020 in view of the ongoing pandemic. The additional coverage, announced in February, comes with a hospitalization benefit of RM200 per day up to 30 days of hospitalization if the insured/person covered is diagnosed with Covid-19 and kept in quarantine at any of Ministry of Health Malaysia’s designated hospitals. “An additional lump sum of RM10,000 will be paid to his/her beneficiary, if the individual passes away due to the pandemic,” it said.

Food & Agriculture

Sabah hopes to cash in on vegetable exports Free Malaysia Today 11th May 2020
The Sabah authorities are drawing up plans for the state to become a major supplier of vegetables and fruits as a result of the business shutdown since March 18, which had led to 1,800 tons of vegetables being shipped to Sarawak and Brunei. Plans are now also being drawn up to export cabbage and fruits to markets in Kuala Lumpur. Sabah state agriculture minister Junz Wong said the overabundance of vegetables and fruits was the result of a sudden drop of regular domestic consumption. Wong admitted that the excess of produce had come about because a distribution glitch caused by a miscommunication between the authorities and transporters. Many transporters did not realise that they are considered an essential service. An inter-district travel ban had caused the supply to pile up, especially in areas like Kundasang, Ranau, some 92km from here. The Kundasang area produces over 30% of the vegetable supplies in Sabah. He said 35,000kg of cabbage would be sent to Kuala Lumpur from Kundasang, and three tons of pomelos and a ton of watermelons from Tawau. Junz said the business shutdown because of the Covid-19 crisis had caused a 40% drop in regular consumption as restaurants, schools and tourism venues were closed. In normal times, Sabah produces more than 3,600 tons of vegetables and fruits a month: domestic consumption stood at only 2,800 tons a month. Sabah also produces 2.6 million chicken eggs every day, 2.8 million tons of fresh chicken meat and 800,000 litres of milk every month but the supply is only enough to cover domestic needs.

Palm oil-based biodiesel to face pressure at home and abroad The Edge Markets 6th May 2020
Demand and production of palm oil-based biodiesel is expected to remain under pressure at home and abroad owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and its wide disruption of economic activities and global trade. S&P Global Platts Agriculture Analytics Business Analyst Loren Puette noted Malaysia’s implementation of a Movement Control Order (MCO) in the past seven weeks will likely lead to a decline in biodiesel production in the country – an effect likely to also unfold in Thailand which has also imposed a quarantine and social distancing measures. On the other hand, Indonesia’s production of palm oil-derived biodiesel is expected to remain above 2019 levels for now, buoyed by the country’s B30 biodiesel programme. Puette said at the Asia Biofuel and Diesel Market - Impact of COVID-19 webinar today. Malaysia’s biodiesel blending rate is expected to stagnate this year at 9.6%, before rising to 20% in 2024. Consumption of biofuel this year is forecast at 15 million barrels a day (mbd), and reaching 35 mbd by 2024. Another issue is the Government’s postponement of the implementation of a B20 biodiesel mandate until further notice, which could extend beyond the third quarter of the year. At the same time, biodiesel demand in the country is expected to fall in tandem with all other types of fuels, as economic activities grind to a halt because of lockdowns imposed by governments across the globe.

Ministry to monitor need to import agricultural goods during CMCO Malay Mail 3rd May 2020
The Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry will review the need to import agricultural products especially from Thailand when the economic sector resumes operation during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) starting May 4. The ministry’s Deputy Minister II, Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi said during the Movement Control Order (MCO), the demand for import was not so strong because local agricultural supply was sufficient. “The dependence on import may not change much but we will look at the need when several sectors in the economy commence operation again,” he said. Earlier, Che Abdullah inspected the processing of agricultural goods including vegetables, fruits and seafood from Thailand to meet the demand of Malaysians.

Malaysia's palm oil exports plunge 42% in first month of virus curbs Successful Farming 29th Apr 2020
Palm oil exports from Malaysia, the world's second largest palm producer, plunged 41.7% during the first month of a partial lockdown to contain the coronavirus, its plantation industries and commodities minister said on April 26. Crude palm oil and refined palm oil exports fell 636,847 tonnes during the March 18-April 14 period to 890,331 tonnes from the year before, minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said in a statement. Exports of palm oil products fell 34.8%, or 793,257 tonnes, to 1.49 million tonnes during the same period. Malaysia imposed restrictions last month until mid-May that include shutting most businesses and restricting movements, although essential services including the palm industry were allowed to operate with reduced staffing. Mohd Khairuddin said the ministry has identified new markets to strengthen exports, including Myanmar, Egypt, Djibouti, and Uzbekistan. "The market estimate for the region is 2 million tonnes a year," he said.

Health & Life Sciences

Govt seeks new ways to cut congestion in hospitals, clinics Free Malaysia Today 12th May 2020
The health ministry is studying new ways to reduce congestion in clinics and hospitals to make it easier for social distancing to be observed to curb the spread of Covid-19. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this includes staggering appointments and getting patients to wait in their vehicles until it is time to see the doctor. Noor Hisham said the ministry is also running “virtual clinics” and delivering medications to patients. “And now, we are looking at delivering certain services for stroke patients, for example, and bringing such services to the community. This way we can reduce congestion in hospitals and only then can we introduce social distancing.” He also said Malaysia was worried about a second wave of Covid-19 infections, following reports of renewed outbreaks in China and South Korea.

Govt urged to prioritise workers' health NST Online 11th May 2020
The government has been urged to prioritise workers as the nation shifts into high gear to accelerate the reopening the economy The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is hopeful that for the remaining duration of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), the government would give top priority to resolving the issues surrounding the Covid-19 screening for workers. Its secretary-general J. Solomon said it is imperative that the outstanding issues are resolved and practical measures put in place for health checks, as new clusters of Covid-19 found in Kuala Lumpur and Negri Sembilan over the past week involved workers at construction site, security guards at a mall and employees at a chicken processing plant.

CMCO: Don't miss out on medicine NST Online 11th May 2020
Medication compliance ensures positive health outcomes, especially for patients who are suffering from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes or asthma. To help patients abide by the MCO, and also maintain "social distancing", the Pharmaceutical Services Programme highly encourages the use of Pharmacy Value Added Services (VAS). The VAS is a ground-breaking initiative that was introduced to improve the pharmacy outpatient services and to address any possible difficulties faced by patients whilst collecting their medicines. It is made up of a variety of innovative methods, and patients can choose any one of the VAS offered by their respective healthcare facilities.

BookDoc and WeDoctor announce strategic collaboration BioSpectrumAsia 11th May 2020
Since the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, BookDoc has been working tireless with Ministry of Health, Malaysia to halt coronavirus contagion via its COVID-19 digital mobile platform by offering free virtual health advisory to the public, enable them to order COVID-19 screening test, access to the latest COVID-19 news & updates and uberisation of healthcare via webinar. With governments scramble to deal with rising cases of COVID-19 and The World Health Organization called on the region to scale up aggressive measures to prevent wider transmission, BookDoc has joined hands with WeDoctor, one of China's biggest, and the world leading technology-enabled healthcare company to introduce the Global Consultation and Prevention Center (GCPC) which supports English-Chinese bilingual languages, brings together medical resources from home and abroad, and offering 24/7 real-time online medical services to fight the lethal invisible attacker.

Amid debate over benefits, another health group says wearing face masks key to contain Covid-19 Malay Mail 11th May 2020
More health groups have joined the chorus calling for people to wear face masks in public amid debate over its benefits in containing the spread of Covid-19 spread. The Malaysian Thoracic Society is the latest to urge the government to encourage the use of face masks as the government eased some restrictions to allow the population adapt to life with Covid-19 post-lockdown.

MTUC: Govt should review decision to appoint BP Healthcare Group as sole company allowed to carry Covid-19 tests Malay Mail 11th May 2020
The Malaysia Trade Union Congress (MTUC) today urged the government to review the appointment of BP Healthcare Group as the sole company to carry out Covid-19 tests on migrant workers in the country. MTUC Secretary-General J. Solomon said BP only has 10 diagnostic labs to carry out the screenings which has created a bottleneck in the screening process. BP Healthcare Group is the only healthcare provider authorised by the Social Security Organisation (Socso) to provide free Covid-19 tests for its members.

Malaysian Medical Association: Govt must be clear on Covid-19 screening guidelines for workforce Malay Mail 10th May 2020
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N. Ganabaskaran today urged respective ministries to clarify policies and guidelines with regards to Covid-19 testing for the Malaysian workforce. Following the announcement of the conditional movement control order (CMCO), Dr Ganabaskaran said there have been flip-flops in policies with no clear guidelines on the testing of the workforce before businesses resumed operations. “This has left business owners, employees and even the general practitioners (GPs) confused and frustrated.

P&G Malaysia donates over RM1mil to MoH and B40 NST Online 8th May 2020
Procter & Gamble (P&G) has donated over RM1 million in cash and products to selected Health Ministry hospitals and relief organisations for the B40 community. This included personal care products worth RM500,000 to three hospitals namely Sungai Buloh Hospital, Selangor, University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) in Kuala Lumpur and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

DoctorOnCall to offer more COVID-19 test options BioSpectrumAsia 8th May 2020
With Malaysians settling into the next phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the new normal, access to digital healthcare services is increasingly important. To ensure more Malaysians have convenient access, DoctorOnCall has entered into a Partnership with Shopee Malaysia. In the DoctorOnCall official store on Shopee Mall, users are able to purchase COVID-19 real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) tests. They will also be able to buy vouchers on Shopee, that allow them to purchase medication and have them delivered safely, via the DoctorOnCall platform. In coming months, Shopee will work with DoctorOnCall to extend usage of the vouchers to book online consultations too.

MoH starts testing South Korean antigen rapid test kits today The Edge Markets 5th May 2020
The Ministry of Health (MoH) started training its respective healthcare workers on May 5 to utilize the antigen rapid test kits procured from South Korea. MoH director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the respective teams had performed some initial tests with the new kits, the results of which will be reported within the next two days. "The respective centres received the test kits today, and they are in the process of training [workers to use them]. We will get the results probably by tomorrow or the day after tomorrow," he said during his daily Covid-19 press briefing. He added that another batch of 100,000 units of the test kit will arrive by the end of this week.  Previously, Noor Hisham said the ministry had received the first batch of 50,000 test kits procured from South Korean firm SD Biosensor Inc.  He said 10,000 units were distributed to Sabah, 10,000 to Sarawak, 15,000 to Johor for the Singapore-Malaysia border and another 15,000 to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and klia2.  The test kits were obtained to complement Malaysia’s reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) screening in order to boost the maximum capacity of Covid-19 tests per day. On April 16, Noor Hisham announced that the MoH had approved the use of antigen rapid test kits from South Korea to help Malaysia boost its Covid-19 testing capacity. The test kits met the ministry’s accuracy requirement with a sensitivity rate of 84.4% and a specificity rate of 100%.  Malaysia has so far been relying on RT-PCR tests to diagnose the presence of Covid-19, which take a relatively long time as the samples need to be sent to laboratories. In comparison, Noor Hisham said previously, antigen rapid test kits would yield test results within 30 to 45 minutes and 15 tests can be done simultaneously. 

Dengue lurks in background of Covid-19 pandemic NST Online 5th May 2020
With the country's attention and resources geared towards battling the Covid-19 pandemic, medical experts warn of the looming risk of dengue amid the rainy season in Malaysia. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), despite a risk of dengue infection existing in 129 countries, 70 per cent of the actual burden is in Asia with Malaysia having one of the highest number of cases. Over the last two years, dengue has been on the rise in Malaysia, registering 80,615 cases (147 deaths) in 2018 and 130,101 cases (182 deaths) last year.

Sabah records zero local human malaria infection since 2018 www.thesundaily.my 26th Apr 2020
Sabah has not recorded any case of local human malaria infection since 2018, said Sabah Health director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi. With that zero case, she said the Sabah Health Department is confident that with the cooperation of various agencies and all levels of the society, it would also be able to curb the spread of the Covid-19 infection.

ICT

Gerak Malaysia app downloaded 1.4 mil times — Bukit Aman The Edge Markets 6th May 2020
The Gerak Malaysia app has been downloaded 1.4 million times and 503,276 applications for interstate travel have been made through it, said federal CID director Datuk Huzir Mohamed. He said 143,516 of these applications have been approved while police stations throughout the country have received 13,069 manual application forms for interstate travel as of May 5. “The public have been advised to update the details on their originating and destination addresses in the app on May 4, 5 and 6. This is the final step before the implementation of the interstate travel from tomorrow (May 7) until May 10,” he told a press conference at Bukti Aman here today. “Before this, I had said that those wishing to make interstate travel only needed to apply and update their information and no approval would be required,” he said. However, approval in the form of QR code had to be implemented now because early statistics showed that 503,276 people had submitted applications for interstate travel, he said. This travel facility is only meant for those who have been stranded in their hometowns to return to their places of residence between May 7 and 10, he said. Huzir said police were using the QR code for several reasons including to facilitate planning for deployment of personnel to ensure smooth traffic flow in the interstate journeys. “Apart from this, it will also cut down on inspection time when (a motorist is) stopped at roadblocks. Therefore, the public should show their QR code to the policemen on duty." He said the QR code could also be used to help the Health Ministry and the police in conducting contact tracing should any of the interstate travelers be subsequently identified as COVID-19 positive. He advised all who would be embarking on their interstate travel, including those whose manual applications have been approved, to stick to the travel dates set for them.

MDEC: E-commerce set to see strong growth this year The Edge Markets 5th May 2020
E-commerce’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to rise this year on increased consumer confidence in digital transactions amid the Movement Control Order, said MDEC chief operating officer Ng Wan Peng. She noted that under the National e-Commerce Strategic Roadmap, e-commerce was estimated to record a 20% growth rate this year to RM170 billion.“We believe that this (growth) may be higher due to the change in consumer behaviour. Even after the MCO, consumer behavior should still remain as it is — people would still prefer to buy online — so we are poised to achieve our target,” she told reporters at the e-Dagang Expo (eDX) virtual press conference on May 6. In 2018, e-commerce made up only about eight per cent of the GDP, amounting to RM150 billion, and it has grown since, especially during the MCO period.

MTDC introduces robotics, other technologies to assist SMEs weather Covid-19 storm The Edge Markets 5th May 2020
Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC) is introducing robotics, autonomous robotics, 3D printing and drone technologies as production solutions to support the local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief executive officer Datuk Norhalim Yunus said MTDC was currently running programs on behalf of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) to look at these technologies to assist the SMEs. The RM6 million Innovative Transformation Seed Fund will encourage newly established start-ups involved in digital or business innovation to commercialize their ideas via a clear business model. Norhalim said post-Movement Control Order (MCO), a lot of automation would be required among SMEs; therefore, MTDC was currently working with all its fund recipients and tenants to see what they could do to bring up the SMEs along the technology value chain. Meanwhile, he pointed out that 3D printing technology played a crucial role amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as the technology could be used to print out things that were expensive and difficult to source at an affordable cost. He said MOSTI had set up a joint community with some ministries such as the Health Ministry and International Trade and Industry Ministry on how 3D printing communities could contribute in assisting the frontliners to fight against COVID-19 in the country. Norhalim disclosed that currently, MTDC was working with a group of companies to deploy autonomous robots in a pilot project at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS), which serves as a COVID-19 facility. Moving forward, he said its investee companies would also look at how to deploy these robots to other sectors, particularly the agriculture sector, as well as developing drone entrepreneurs focusing on the agriculture sector.

Data in Gerak Malaysia app to be deleted within 6 months of MCO Free Malaysia Today 5th May 2020
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) today assured that the personal details of those using the Gerak Malaysia app will not be kept beyond six months after the movement control order (MCO) ends. In a statement, it said the data would be used to assist the police in managing interstate travel as well as the health ministry in conducting contact tracing. “After six months, all the data collected will be deleted,” it said. The data collected through the app includes users’ names, mobile phone numbers, MyKad or passport numbers, home address and email address although the last is optional. MCMC said Gerak Malaysia would collect data on users’ locations and record each place visited through the permission to access their travel log given during registration for the app. Because it involves personal privacy, it said, the details will only be used to carry out contact tracing once a confirmed Covid-19 case is reported. “It is aimed at curbing the transmission of Covid-19 which could increase the death rate,” it said, urging users to register their home addresses and destinations by May 5, before interstate travel is allowed from May 7 to 10.

G3PNS sets up Facebook page for SMEs to sell products The Edge Markets 4th May 2020
In a bid to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) continue to operate during the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Sabah Coalition of Hawkers and Petty Traders Association (G3PNS) has recently taken the initiative to launch the official E-Market & Bazaar Facebook page. G3PNS president Datuk Noortaip Suhaili said the Facebook page, which brings together traders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), would allow micro SME entrepreneurs trading from home, markets and farmers markets to sell their products online. “So far, more than 700 SME traders have registered on E-Market & Bazaar, while over 5,000 have registered with G3PNS from districts and sub-districts in Sabah, including from Tuaran, Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Lahad Datu, Sandakan and Tawau,” he told Bernama. All those delivering goods are advised to undergo health screening and tests to ensure they are in good health, he added. In line with the E-Market & Bazaar programme, G3PNS also plans to provide a manufacturing process and marketing network platform at a SME complex in Tuaran. The two-storey complex, built on a five-acre (2.02 hectares) piece of land, is currently undergoing renovation and upgrading.

Infrastructure

Projects worth more than RM16 bil in Sarawak continue during CMCO The Edge Markets 7th May 2020
The Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) has identified 101 projects worth RM16.828 billion on which works have continued during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period. Its chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said of the total, 42 projects costing about RM16.6 billion involved allocations from the State Government, Federal Government, people's projects and alternative funds. "These projects have been identified and filtered by a special task force for the green zones headed by State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion," he said at a press conference on May 7. According to Uggah, another 59 Rural Transformation Projects (RTPs) worth RM22.8 million have been identified for continued implementation during CMCO, and one of the requirements is that the projects must be in green zones. As of now, 28 of the 40 districts in the State are in green zones. Uggah, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, said the SDMC imposed several conditions for works on these projects to continue, including the fact that the projects must be located in green districts and should not involve the entry of workers, building materials and machinery from outside the green zone.

CIDB introduces initiatives to ease burden of construction industry players The Edge Markets 7th May 2020
The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) has introduced several initiatives to ease the burden of contractors and construction industry players affected by the Movement Control Order following the COVID-19 pandemic.In a statement, Senior Minister (Infrastructure Cluster) Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, who is also Works Minister, said the board had reviewed the processes and transactions related to industry players and had introduced several changes for both the short term and long term. Among the initiatives are a two-month deferment of levy payment for private sector projects announced between Jan 1 and May 31, 2020; relaxation of contractor registration conditions by exempting the requirement for Continuous Contractor Development points for new registrations for the April-December 2020 period; postponement of the MCORE evaluation requirement for G1 contractors until 2021; and waiver of Management Efficiency Certificate and Integrity Course requirements for the period of April 1 to Dec 31, 2020. In addition, the Construction Personnel Skills (Local) training will be provided free of charge until year-end. The fee for local workers to participate in the Skills Competency Assessment exam has also been waived while assessment fee for foreign workers will be discounted by 50 percent until year-end. Moreover, the Certificate of Approval fee has been reduced from RM1,000 to RM750 effective from May 15 to Dec 31, 2020. According to the statement, CIDB will also give a 50 percent discount for training under its supervisory and management programs and has extended the validity of the Temporary Construction Personnel certificate from two months to six months.

IBS technology can reduce Covid-19 outbreak in construction sites, says Fadillah Malay Mail 5th May 2020
The use of the Industrialised Building System (IBS) technology is seen as the best way to reduce the risk of Covid-19 outbreak in the construction sector, said Senior Minister (Infrastructure Cluster) Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof. He said the use of the IBS technology could also reduce manpower, especially that of less-skilled labour, as construction components were manufactured directly in factories.

Construction of PNB's Merdeka 118 tower reaches 111 floors NST Online 4th May 2020
Permodalan Nasional Bhd's (PNB) Merdeka 118 tower is 50 per cent completed, reaching 111 floors prior to enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18. PNB president and group chief executive officer Jalil Rasheed said construction was halted during the first three phases of the MCO but preparations had been made to resume work, which should begin this week.

Covid-19: Contractors told to monitor foreign workers' health NST Online 4th May 2020
Contractors operating during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) must comply with standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the National Security Council (NSC) or face action. Senior Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said authorities will not tolerate those who defy the SOPs which are crucial in ensuring workers' safety and deter Covid-19 transmission at construction sites and surrounding areas.

Ageson bags massive RM27.5bil contract from China NST Online 4th May 2020
Ageson Bhd claims to have secured an order worth a whopping RM27.5 billion from Guangzhou Kaishengda Industrial Co Ltd (GKI). Ageson, in a Bursa Malaysia filing today, said its subsidiary Esa Pile Sdn Bhd Eould would supply river and sea sand to GKI for 15 years at a value of 44.8 billion renminbi.

Developers, contractors in KL construction sites to get workers tested for Covid-19, says Annuar Musa The Star Online 3rd May 2020
DEVELOPERS and contractors in Kuala Lumpur who have active project sites in the city have been instructed to get their workers tested for Covid-19, says Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa. He added that employers must ensure that their workers undergo Covid-19 testing at private clinics and labs, and said that the expenses are to be borne by the employers themselves. At his life-streaming Facebook session on Sunday (May 3), Annuar said following a recent case at a construction site on Jalan Ampang, employers at the sites must ensure that the site is kept clean and free of diseases and to get their workers tested as soon as possible.

JKJR absorbed into RTD effective May 1 NST Online 30th Apr 2020
The roles and functions of the Road Safety Department (JKJR) will be absorbed into the Road Transport Department (RTD) effective May 1. The Transport Ministry in a statement today said the decision was made in an effort to empower all government agencies under the ministry. Despite the absorption, the ministry assured that no JKJR employees would be retrenched.

Construction sector’s MCO phase one shutdown dealt RM11.6b blow to Malaysian economy, says senior minister Malay Mail 30th Apr 2020
Malaysia’s economy suffered about RM11.6 billion in losses, after the construction sector was shut down during the first phase of the movement control order (MCO), Senior Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said. In an interview with Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) last night, the works minister said that the government has therefore decided to strike a balance between saving lives and ensuring people’s livelihoods continue, to prevent a more devastating effect.

Workers reluctant to return, demand more pay NST Online 30th Apr 2020
Employers are facing a new set of problems following the Movement Control Order (MCO) as the government mulls to reopen the nation's economic sectors. In the construction sector-- even with green light given to return to full capacity—companies are facing problems in purchasing building materials. Penang Master Builders and Building Materials Dealers Association president Datuk Lim Chee Tong said construction sites might be facing a lack of materials from their existing supply chain.

Malaysia gives green light for construction to resume on East Coast Rail Link The Straits Times 28th Apr 2020
Construction work has resumed on Malaysia's biggest mega project, the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), after the government gave its approval, the project's main contractor said on Tuesday (April 28). The RM44 billion (S$14.3 billion) project was suspended when movement restrictions were put in place on March 18 in Malaysia to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The movement control order (MCO) shut the country's borders and non-essential businesses and work.

Singapore and Malaysia delay deal on rail project to end-July The Star Online 3rd May 2020
Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to delay finalising an agreement on a US$736mil train project connecting Malaysia's southern state of Johor with the city-state to the end of July, their transport ministries said on Sunday (May 3) The countries agreed to extend the deadline for three months to July 31 after talks on the scheme, known as the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link, were hit by curbs on movement to stem the coronavirus, Malaysia's Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said in a statement. In a separate statement, Singapore's transport ministry said it hoped to wrap up discussions with Malaysia soon, adding that it would be the final extension.

JB-Singapore RTS Link project suspended for another 3 months until Jul 31 amid COVID-19 outbreak CNA 2nd May 2020
The suspension of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project has been extended by another three months until the end of July, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said on Saturday (May 2). Singapore COVID-19 "circuit breaker" measures and Malaysia's movement control order have "affected the pace of our discussions", said the ministry.  Malaysia’s Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong had said earlier on Saturday that bilateral discussions with Singapore on the project have been impacted by measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus on both sides of the Causeway. This is the third extension of the suspension at Malaysia's request.

Manufacturing

Malaysia’s manufacturing sales falls 3% to RM110.2b in March www.thesundaily.my 12th May 2020
Malaysia’s manufacturing sales fell 3% in March 2020 to RM110.2 billion as compared to RM113.5 billion a year ago, due to the decrease in transport equipment & other manufactures products (-7.4%), food, beverages & tobacco products (-5.9%) and electrical & electronics products (-5.7%). Month on month, sales plunged 0.9% (RM1.1 billion) while on seasonally adjusted terms, sales decreased 9.5%. Chief statistician Malaysia Datuk Seri Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the number of employees engaged in the manufacturing sector in March 2020 was 2.26 million persons, an increase of 1.2% as compared to 2.23 million persons in March 2019. Salaries & wages paid amounted to RM7.46 billion, up 1.8% in March 2020 as against the same month of the preceding year. Simultaneously, the sales value per employee declined 4.1% to RM48,815 as compared with the same month in 2019. Meanwhile, the average salaries & wages per employee was RM3,303 in March 2020. In the first quarter 2020, manufacturing sales grew 2.2% to RM339.4 billion as compared to the same period of 2019. The number of employees engaged during the period grew 1.2% to 2.26 million persons while salaries & wages paid increased 3.4% to RM22.7 billion. The sales value per employee rose 1% to RM150,368. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Industrial Production Index (IPI) dropped 4.9% in March 2020 as compared with the same month of the previous year, contributed by the decrease in all indices, which were index of manufacturing (-4.2%), index of mining (-6.5%) and index of electricity (-7%). Mohd Uzir said on a year-on-year basis, the manufacturing sector output dropped 4.2% in March 2020 after increasing 6.2% in February 2020. The major sub-sectors contributing to the decrease in manufacturing sector in March 2020 were electrical and electronics products (-5%), non-metallic mineral products, basic metal and fabricated metal products (-9.8%) and food, beverages and tobacco (-9.9%).

Industrial production dips by 4.9% in March Free Malaysia Today 12th May 2020
Industrial sectors suffered a 4.9% dip in production for March 2020 compared with the same period last year, the Department of Statistics Malaysia said on May 12. Chief Statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the decline was attributed to a drop in production in the manufacturing, mining and electricity sectors. “The decline in the Industrial Production Index in March 2020 was contributed to by the decrease in all indices, namely the index of manufacturing (-4.2%), index of mining (-6.5%) and index of electricity (-7.0%).” The department also reported that the manufacturing sector output dropped 4.2% in March year-on-year after recording an increase of 6.2% in February. The largest contributors to the drop of production in the manufacturing sector were electrical and electronics products (with a 5% decrease in output), non-metallic mineral products, basic metal and fabricated metal products (9.8% decrease in output) and food, beverages and tobacco (9.9% decrease in output). As for the mining sector, the negative growth was due to a 6% decrease in natural gas production and 7.1% decrease in crude oil and condensate production. However, the department said industrial production still grew 0.4% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. “This positive growth was contributed to by the increase of 1.3% in the manufacturing index. Meanwhile, the electricity index and mining index recorded a reduction of 0.4% and 1.8% respectively.”

Ventilator experience opens up Malaysian manufacturing eeNews Europe 4th May 2020
Production of ventilator components and respiratory sub-systems in Malaysia has been a key factor in managing supply chains during the Covid-19 outbreak. Some production has been allowed, but only for essential components for medical equipment such as ventilators. Swiss contract manufacturer Escatec makes these ventilator components at a plant in Penang, and its experience with the lockdown has allowed it to start making other sub-systems that are not regarded as essential. Implementing strict hygiene and social distancing measures has allows it to be one of the first manufacturing companies in Malaysia to be allowed to resume normal operations of non-essential products as lockdown measures ease. An aspect of uncertainty for customers of manufactured goods as products start shipping again has been the China/US trade war, that has meant that items made in China have been targeted with import duties. Strong compliance understanding enabled Escatec’s export team in Malaysia to prepare Certificates of Origin to ensure that there is no interruption to shipments or unnecessary tariff costs.

Msian manufacturers under pressure in April, signs of stability seen: IHS Markit NST Online 4th May 2020
The Malaysian manufacturing sector came under heavy pressure in April as measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19 caused firms to either suspend production or operate well below full capacity. The headline IHS Markit Malaysia Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a composite single-figure indicator of manufacturing performance, stood at 31.3 last month. This was down from 48.4 in March and pointed to a sharp decline in business conditions that was by far the strongest since data collection began in 2012. IHS Markit chief business economist Chris Williamson said it was no surprise to see that measures taken to contain the Covid-19 outbreak had led to a sharp fall in manufacturing activity in April. He, however, said was reassuring to see only a modest fall in employment, as the vast majority of firms held on to staff to safeguard longer term production capacity. Williamson said business expectations for the year ahead had also ticked higher, as more companies saw prospects improve. "In that respect, with increasing numbers of governments looking at ways to ease Covid-19 restrictions, it is likely that we will soon see the rate of export decline moderate, helping drive a recovery in production. A recovery is nevertheless likely to be sluggish, as global demand looks set to remain relatively subdued for some time," he said in a report on May 4. Meanwhile, IHS Markit said new orders had fallen sharply in April as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic, which had resulted in lockdowns being implemented at both domestically and overseas. Some companies indicated that key clients had shut down. Latest data also signaled a substantial and survey-record decline in export demand during April, with 83 per cent of companies reporting lower orders from abroad. Supply chain delays also impeded manufacturers, with firms recording the sharpest month-to-month lengthening in delivery times since data collection started almost eight years ago.

Shift focus to manufacturing and food agriculture post-MCO, says economist Malay Mail 1st May 2020
Post-movement control order (MCO) Malaysia could adopt a new economic strategy by focusing on sectors such as manufacturing and food agriculture (agri-food), said economist Nungsari Ahmad Radhi. The former Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) chairman said that the emphasis on oil and gas as well as commodities that has been in place since the 1970s will not create the labour demands that are needed to ensure better job security and opportunities as more and more of the country’s workforce are affected by the Covid-19 fallout. He said that Malaysia’s existing infrastructure would allow a head start in the manufacturing and agri-food sectors that feed the global supply chain. “The disruption of the supply chain in the new normal will have a little bit of reverse globalization that opens up opportunity. One is in manufacturing and the other is in agri-food where we may have a chance and related to those will be the logistics and financials and the processing that goes towards supporting both,” he said in a Webinar titled Parliamentary Roundtable #1 — Next Normal for Jobs (Labour Day Special) organised by Institut Darul Ehsan today. The former Balik Pulau MP said Malaysia could take advantage of the current disruption in the global supply chain as Multinational Corporations (MNC) might be looking to relocate their companies from China. Nungsari said Malaysia is also well placed in terms of demographics and technical know-how in agriculture, especially food-related products. This could allow it to move away from just planting commodities to providing a wider array of jobs in supporting sectors, he added.

Travel & Tourism

Resorts set to recover faster than city hotels after pandemic The Malaysian Reserve 13th May 2020
Resorts will recover faster than hotels in the city post-coronavirus pandemic, fueled by Malaysians who are eager to return to normality and holiday routines. The hospitality and tourism industry sank as people are ordered to stay at home, businesses come to a halt, airlines cancel flights, borders are locked and gatherings are banned in the last few months. Tradewinds Corp Bhd group CEO and MD Muhammad Zainal Ashikin Muhammad Rejab said resort hotels are banking on domestic travelers who will consider a staycation, subsequently helping the speedy recovery of these establishments after the pandemic. However, he said business and city hotels are less fortunate as they largely depend on meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tours. “MICE activities have come to a virtual standstill as borders are closed. Even wedding receptions cannot be held in hotels or anywhere," Zainal told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview. He said a hotel’s banquet business accounts between 15% and 25% or even more of its revenue, depending on the size of the property. “But now that has gone down to zero with the pandemic.” Zainal said resorts also have certain advantages as they are purposely built to provide domestic tourists with staycations and holiday experiences unlike hotels in the cities. Thousands of staff working in hotels and related businesses are expected to be sacked in the coming weeks. Many hotels have already implemented salary reductions or fewer working days. Industry observers do not expect the sector to return to pre-Covid-19 days in the next 12 months.

Air fares may rise by more than 50pct if social distancing is enforced NST Online 12th May 2020
Malaysian carriers warn that passengers will likely have to pay over 50 per cent more for air fares if social distancing is imposed on board aircraft in light of Covid-19. Malaysian Airlines Bhd and Malindo Air concurred with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that the proposal to require social distancing among passengers would spike air fares by up to 54 per cent. Malaysia Airlines said this was seen in Thailand after its government regulated empty seating between passengers, raising domestic fares by over 50 per cent. Malindo Air said its fares would likely increase by about 50 per cent, depending on selected routes and capacity demand. Malindo Air chief executive officer Captain Mushafiz Mustafa Bakri said the new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the airline industry might compress players' margins by about 50 per cent. Mushafiz said competition between airlines would be more intense as demand gradually increases but with less seats available in the local market. "This will affect our fares as we need to cover revenue losses and higher opex due to the sanitation process and social distancing on aircraft to ensure the safety of both passengers and crew," he told the NST. IATA said imposing social distancing would fundamentally shift the economics of aviation by slashing the maximum load factor to 62 per cent. This would be well below average industry breakeven load factor of 77 per cent.

Covid-19: Pahang hotel industry incurs more than RM500m loss, says state tourism committee chairman Malay Mail 6th May 2020
The hotel industry in Pahang has recorded an income loss of RM500 million throughout the four phases of the movement control order (MCO) following the Covid-19 pandemic, said Pahang Tourism, Environment and Plantations Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin. He said the loss was incurred when three, four and five stars hotels offering more than 38,000 rooms, unable to operate as usual during the MCO period. Budget hotel operators also lost about RM60 million of income following the pandemic, he said. “We expect that this industry could only be revived, at the earliest, in the third quarter of next year since large gatherings and tourism activities are not encouraged at least for six months after MCO is lifted,” he said. Mohd Sharkar said this at a media conference after announcing the February winner for “Pahang Simply Awesome” short video contest organized by Tourism Pahang in conjunction with Visit Malaysia 2020 on May 6. In relation to that, Mohd Sharkar urged people to travel domestically after it is safe to do so in order to help revive the tourism industry. According to him, more than 1,000 tourism industry players in Pahang, specifically daily wage earners such as tour guides and boat drivers at the National Park, who are affected by the MCO, received assistance in the form of basic necessities and cash.

MAHB adds new SOP as domestic air travel resumes The Malaysian Reserve 5th May 2020
Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has stepped up its standard operating procedures (SOP) by implementing additional precautionary measures to ensure the safety of passengers as domestic air travel resumes. The new measures include making the use of face mask compulsory when entering the terminal building, the airport operator said in a statement on May 5, adding that those without face masks would not be allowed to enter the premise. “With the resumption of some domestic flight routes, we will be expecting some increase of passengers in the coming weeks. We would like to remind passengers to adhere to the safety measures that have been enforced at all our airports,” said MAHB, adding that it would facilitate the Health Ministry in carrying out rapid tests at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). MAHB said it has enforced limited entry and exit points at KLIA, where it has stationed its Aviation Security team to screen the passengers to ensure the use of the face masks as well as to check their body temperature. The check points include the ERL entry from the north entrance and the link-bridge, Level 2 at the short-term car park of main terminal building as well as at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) main entrance and the [email protected] shopping mall. MAHB also said only passengers with a valid flight ticket or boarding pass would be allowed to enter the terminal, and all meeters and greeters would not be allowed into the terminal. “All departing passengers will have to go through temperature screening before being allowed to enter the terminal building. Passengers with a body temperature of more than 37.5 degrees celsius will not be allowed to continue their journey,” it said, adding the one meter gap must be observed while being in the terminal. MAHB assured passengers that the airports have been disinfected, and sanitization activities have been consistently carried out since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tourism licensing services to resume on May 13 Malay Mail 4th May 2020
The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) has postponed all matters relating to over-the-counter services at the Tourism Licensing Division and all its state offices until May 12. Motac, in a statement, said among services involved were matters concerning tourism licensing such as travel agencies, tour guides, tourism training institutes and the star rating on the tourism accommodation premises, spa and foot massage centres. Online application will continue as usual and will be processed after the CMCO period ends.

AirAsia Malaysia starts flying again, passengers need to bring own masks The Star Online 29th Apr 2020
AirAsia returns to the skies with domestic flights in Malaysia starting April 29 but passengers will need to follow Covid-19 safety measures. Any guest without a mask will be denied boarding. AirAsia chief safety officer Captain Ling Liong Tien said the carrier is stepping up all precautionary measures to ensure a safe journey. Other Covid-19 safety measures include a baggage allowance of only one piece (instead of the usual two), not exceeding 7kg, and earlier arrival at the airport – at least three hours – before departure.

Covid-19: Budget hotels urge Malaysian government for law to help them stay open The Star Online 28th Apr 2020
The government needs to draft an act to protect hotel operators and owners from the impact of Covid-19, says the Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA). Its national deputy president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel said the Special Relief Fund (SRF) announced by the government is "not friendly towards the hotel industry”. Under the SRF, RM5bil is allocated by the government to provide relief assistance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) affected by the coronavirus crisis. Based on a survey involving 324 hotels in the country, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said 15% might consider closing down permanently, with 35% considering a temporary closure.

Malaysia saw more tourists coming to Malaysia in 2019 The Star Online 27th Apr 2020
Malaysia welcomed 26,100,784 international tourists last year, contributing a total of RM86.14bil in tourist receipts to the country’s economy. The number of international tourists marked a small growth of +1.0%, compared to 25,832,354 tourist arrivals in 2018. Meanwhile, tourism performance also saw growth in terms of per capita expenditure, rising by +1.3% to RM3,300. Tourists stayed longer too with the average length of stay climbing by +0.9 nights to 7.4 nights. The top 10 international tourist arrivals last year were from Singapore (10,163,882), Indonesia (3,623,277), China (3,114,257), Thailand (1,884,306), Brunei (1,216,123), India (735,309), South Korea (673,065), Japan (424,694), the Philippines (421,908) and Vietnam (400,346).