While Singapore may recently celebrate its rise to # 1 in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Rankings as the world’s best and safest during the pandemic, the issues for the globally interconnected city-state are far from over. because it does not only depend on itself, but also on everyone’s performance.
However, the recent spike in locally transmitted cases has prompted the government to be cautious which has reimposed some restrictions, particularly on outdoor dining and the operation of gyms. Regardless, the situation in Singapore remains very good with around 20-30 cases transmitted locally per day.
In contrast, Malaysia sets new records with more than 6,000 cases recorded on Wednesday, May 19, with reports of missing beds in local hospitals, especially intensive care units (ICUs) in the Klang Valley.
Although the city-state has ties to virtually the entire world, it is most closely linked to neighboring Malaysia.
About 400,000 people crossed the border between the two countries daily, commuting between Johor and work in Singapore before the pandemic. As the crossings are still effectively closed, thousands of Malays are either stranded in Singapore and away from their families, or stranded in Malaysia and unable to find employment in the city-state.
This has already posed significant challenges for Singaporean businesses – for which Malaysians constitute the largest labor pool, especially in lower-paying jobs (which often tend to be quite large nonetheless). We are talking about skilled renovation workers, cleaning, kitchen or retail staff.
As Singapore has largely reopened its economy, thanks to effective preventive measures that have brought the local spread of the virus under control, the pressure for a return to cross-border normality is increasing as the economy depends on hundreds of thousands of foreign workers.
Return to normal is impossible without vaccines
As long as distancing rules are in place, returning to normal work will be difficult. The only way to beat the disease is to resort to mass vaccinations.
Unfortunately, the vaccination campaign in Malaysia is far behind compared to Singapore. While the city-state – one of the leaders in Asia – has managed to fully immunize around 25% of its population, for Malaysia the figure is only 3%.
Johor state aims to vaccinate at least 100,000 Malays who are employed in Singapore by June, but at current vaccination rates, that goal may not be achievable. After all, the two doses require an interval of at least three to four weeks.
As a result, Singaporean businesses could very well be hampered by delays across the border for many months.
In the first quarter of 2021, Singapore recorded very modest positive GDP growth of just 0.2%, although the Monetary Authority of Singapore is confident that it could post a result exceeding expectations of more than 6% for any given year. the year.
This projection is, however, based on the expectation of a global rebound from the second quarter.
For Singapore, that means its larger neighbor would have to follow suit, or its problems could stifle Singapore’s ability to take full advantage of the improving global situation.
Let’s not forget that besides reliance on Malaysian labor, commercial and leisure travel between the two countries was also very high – the air route between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore being the busiest. in the world in terms of the number of air operations.
As long as Malaysia is unable to catch up, it will have negative effects on Singapore as well.
Given how interconnected and dependent the city-state is on interactions with the outside world, through commerce and work, its rebirth after Covid will largely depend on how everyone does – and the element le most important of this process is Malaysia. .
Featured Image Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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