It is estimated that some 580,000 businesses, representing 49% of the MSME sector, are at risk of failing by October, if they are not allowed to open up their operations by then.

Malaysia's Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives (MEDAC) has submitted a set of proposed enhanced SOPs to the government, in efforts to speed up the opening of the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector, particularly the FCLO (First to Close, Last to Open) category, safely.

Per a media release on Tuesday (27 July), the enhanced SOPs proposed focus on six economic activities under the FCLO categories, which are in food and beverages (F&B dine-in), shopping malls, watch shops, pedicure and manicure (grooming services), beauty parlours/salons and; barbers/hair salons.

Almost half of the business activities identified, MEDAC noted, are owned by women entrepreneurs, among the groups most affected by the nationwide lockdown. "The SOPs entail a comprehensive set of guidelines from handling of customers, managing staff, operating hours as well premises maintenance to ensure all comply to the post COVID-19 safety requirements."

The mandatory procedures proposed include the following:

  • Business owners and workers must complete the two doses of COVID-19 vaccination jabs;
  • Business owners and workers must go for weekly COVID-19 swab test and;
  • Immediate closure of premise, for sanitisation purposes, should there be any case COVID-19 detected.

MEDAC Minister Dato Sri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said while the Ministry fully supports the opening of more economic activities, "it is indeed crucial to have a clear SOPs in place so that businesses are able to operate as usual - in a safe and controlled manner."

Based on discussions with members of the industry, he said many have expressed willingness to operate under stricter SOPs and will give full cooperation with the authorities and enforcement team.

"In fact, they (industry members) are very proactive and cooperative in this. The enhanced SOPs prepared by MEDAC is actually a collaborative effort between the ministry and members of the industry where they too have given input," he added.

Dr Wan Junaidi had earlier highlighted that Malaysia’s MSME sector, which accounts for close to 40% of the country’s GDP, is "on the brink of collapsing should the current nationwide lockdown continue indefinitely."

Based on a MEDAC survey, it is estimated that some 580,000 businesses, representing 49% of the MSME sector, are at risk of failing by October, if they are not allowed to open up their operations by then.

"The closure of these businesses, which are mostly in the FCLO category, would also mean that more than 7mn Malaysians are expected to be unemployed. Assuming that each worker has an average of two dependents, it will mean that another 14mn people will be affected by this situation."

Apart from business operations, mental health is also suffering. Based on another survey conducted by MEDAC, of 6,664 business owners across the country in June, Dr Wan Junaidi shared that mental issues are among the areas of concern, where nearly 60% entrepreneurs suffer from at least one form of mental health condition during the lockdown.

As such, the top three factors affecting mental health condition of the entrepreneurs are a decline and loss of income, debt and financing issues, as well as risk of business closure. 

Photo / 123RF

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