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May the 4th Be With Malaysia

As Malaysians got ready to go back to work on 4th May 2020, some may find they actually have no office or workplace to go back to. The Prime Minister had shared a compelling reason to re-open the economy – a staggering RM2.4 billion in losses daily during the MCO.

For many Malaysians, those numbers are translating to deficit business cash flow, loss of their jobs and livelihoods and bills piling up.

The hotel industry as well as airlines industry are hard hit, not just in Malaysia, but the world over. These are just two examples of high-touch industries which emphasise a lot of of interaction and/or contact with customers. According to the Malaysian Association of Hotels, over 2000 individuals have lost jobs in the hotel industry as of end of March.

Something that became abundantly clear for certain industries during this pandemic, is the importance of cashflow. Different industries have different revenue streams that they need to protect because it brings in what they need to keep paying salaries, keep the lights on and continue operations.

Airlines like Air Asia have no revenue coming in, with 97-percent of its fleet grounded and likely in long-term hibernation mode. They have asked their staff to accept pay cuts, as Malindo Air and MAS have done as well.

The hotel industry, which generally depends on tourism to bring in the people to stay at hotels, has declined rapidly along with tourism because there are no airplanes full of tourist passengers taking off. Many hotels in Malaysia have already had to close down, and some permanently, despite having established themselves with a few decades of history in the country.

The overall scene on 4th May, 2020

If you ventured out during this conditional MCO, expecting to have your favourite breakfast, lunch or dinner at your favourite kopitiam, it may not be there anymore. Walking around the commercial area in your neighbourhood, some shops have opted not to open for reasons we can only speculate about, while others take the opportunity to do spring cleaning.

There are visibly more cars on the road now than during the MCO, so petrol stations start to crowd with customers again, and on Facebook, Renault Malaysia has started to post car ads again which tout their “subscribe to use” promotion at lower monthly rates for the first six months at least.

So, it’s not just the small mom and pop stalls and shops that are affected. Bigger businesses have had to close operations, too. Esprit has decided to close retail stores in Asia and has moved to online e-commerce platform Zalora. Esprit informed customers that its loyalty programme is discontinued, 2 days before it came into effect.

Blu Inc Media which publishes 20 magazine titles has closed down, citing added pressure from the MCO to their existing business woes from digital disruption, despite investments into their own digital capabilities, there was no clear cut proof that Blu Inc Media was gaining traction.

Ironically, the Edge Financial Daily which has a print run of 13 years, ceased to exist in print form as it moves fully towards being a digital edition. It also cites the onslaught of digital media and the coronavirus pandemic, as its reasons for doing so.

Many businesses have had to close down either permanently or temporarily, or they have implemented some form of austerity measure that sees employees either being furloughed, let go, or have their salaries cut. As of early April, a survey discovered that nearly 50-percent of self-employed Malaysians are out of work. There is an estimated 20,000 respondents who are self-employed.

Conducted by the Department of Statistics, the week-long survey recorded responses from nearly 170,000 respondents above the age of 15.

Out of 4,877 employers, nearly 24-percent have lost their businesses. Nearly 30-percent employers experienced an income reduction of 90-percent, and over 70-percent are not financially ready for an extended MCO.

Who knows what the final tally of ‘casualties’ are on 4th May, or even at the end of 2020.

IT BYTES BACK! SAYS: The first signs of a new normal in Malaysia can definitely be described as ‘different’. May the Force be with you, Malaysia!