2022 started with some hope that the year will be better than 2021, but alas the realities of the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns started to kick in. By 1st April, 2022, Malaysia entered the endemic phase, most companies started to allow a !exible hybrid of work from home and on-site office, but many businesses struggled to reopen and are nowhere as profitable or ‘normal’ near the days of pre-COVID.
Malaysia’s industrial economy relies heavily on cheap migrant labour which is currently in short supply. Many migrants returned home to their home countries during the pandemic, and even after the opening of our borders, many have not returned. This is affecting our labour intensive industries such as plantations, construction and manufacturing. While some of this is due to lack of interest in workers returning, the current bureaucratic confusion of new regulations in place and unresolved issues with Indonesia and Bangladesh, two countries whom we rely heavily on for labour, contribute to the matter. However a question that needs asking is, why are Malaysians not wanting to #ll in the void? Are these jobs not up to par or the wage is just too low?
Malaysia is also feeling the impact of the Ukraine-Russia war, just like other countries. The rising prices of basic household goods, food and petrol are hitting communities hard; it’s unfortunate that we import most of our basic goods, which is why there are concerns of a rise in smuggling, which according to enforcement authorities have been increasing in the past two years despite border lockdowns and COVID-19!
The Southern Thai peace negotiations have finally resumed this year and hopes are high that tangible results will come soon especially after the recent Ramadhan truce, the most peaceful in years. Questions on the future of the peace process still remain, and what Malaysia as the key facilitator will do to help in moving the negotiations forward for all parties involved remains to be seen.
Therefore, as a summary of the past six months, this year’s first Advisory will cover three issues: Malaysia’s dependency towards foreign migrant workers, Sabah security and how it has fared through COVID-19 and the ongoing Southern Thai peace negotiations.
I hope that this advisory issue will provide a meaningful read and help better understand the country and region.