Johor lawmaker calls for review on opening border with S'pore

Focus should be to cut time, cost of following health procedures when crossing border, he says

JOHOR BARU • A Johor assemblyman has urged the state government to set up a task force to review the opening of the two land crossings between the Malaysian state and Singapore.

Bekok assemblyman S. Ramakrishnan said the focus should be to reduce the time period and cost of following Covid-19 health procedures while crossing the border.

"Laboratory testing facilities must be at the site of entry in view of the number of people crossing so that results can be received much faster.

"The cost of testing should also be looked at, including the possibility of it being subsidised," he said.

Bekok constituency is located near Segamat in central Johor.

Dr Ramakrishnan was commenting on The Star's recent report on Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad saying the state government was not capable of finding employment for 100,000 Malaysians who may lose their jobs because of the prolonged closure.

The borders have been closed to daily commuters since March 18, when Malaysia imposed a movement control order because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Datuk Hasni had added that the state's unemployment rate was already at a record high of 18 per cent, with 35,000 people jobless.

Dr Ramakrishnan said the large number of Malaysian workers in Singapore and Singaporeans crossing the border for shopping, entertainment and tourism was critical for the state's economy.

"Unfortunately, the state government did not show any urgency in opening the border much earlier. Knowing the urgency of the matter now, steps should have been taken to shorten the quarantine period and reduce the cost of Covid-19 tests with minimum interruption to cross-border travelling.

"Unfortunately, this matter (the border reopening) was left to the federal government to handle," he said in a statement.

Mr Hasni said that 5 per cent to 10 per cent of businesses in the Johor Baru city area had closed as a result of cash flow issues since the border closure in March.

He said development agencies such as Iskandar Regional Development Authority should be proactive and aggressive in attracting more foreign direct investments to Johor. "So far, investments from China seem focused on property development, and therefore we need more investments from other countries and MNCs (multinational corporations) focused more on non-property sectors."

He also suggested that the state government needed to develop infrastructure for the digital economy.

Mr Hasni had earlier said: "The time has come for the federal government to find a way to balance the people's lives and their livelihoods, as we do not want the scale to tip only towards lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic."

Mr Hasni said that 5 per cent to 10 per cent of businesses in the Johor Baru city area had closed as a result of cash flow issues since the border closure in March.

He also said he was in touch with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to find a way to keep the Covid-19 situation under control while moving to fully reopen the border.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2020, with the headline 'Johor lawmaker calls for review on opening border with S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe