At the time of penning this article, our Country is undergoing a further 2 weeks of the Lock Down Period, giving us a total of 1 month from commencement on the 18 of March 2020. The Nation, now caught in the intense grip of the ever-tightening coils of the CoVid-19, is reeling from a variety of implications:
1) CoVid-19 cases have just breached the 3.6k mark (as at 5 April 2020), with the death toll close to 61, with over a 120 new cases being announced daily;
2) Whilst the larger multinationals, government linked companies (GLCs) and Universities have embarked on the execution of their Business Continuity Plans (BCP), economic activity for the common man on the streets has just ground to an abrupt screeching halt;
3) The work-from-home concept (WFH) whilst fitting for some sectors of the economy is by no means a panacea for all. Significantly impacted are those in hotels, retail, aviation, restaurants, manufacturing, education and those plying an honest day’s wage such as cab drivers to name a few sectors.
4) We are now experiencing the commencement of what is termed as the “buckling of the system”. The age old paradigms, mindsets and operating models no longer work. The disruption to our daily life and business-as-usual took less then 1 month to rear its head and strike us where it truly hurts. The proverbial hatches are now bolted down and the ships are weathering immense gale force winds that they have never experienced before. Alas for some, its already too late. Especially the smaller enterprises who are the life buoys for the 5-10 worker base are already feeling the pressure of the Nation’s shutdown and the complete and utter closure of business activities.
5) The threat of unemployment has just taken a turn for the worst. Whilst its forecasted that the unemployment levels may be in the region of 180,000 employees (see NST Malaysia, 15 Mar 2020), Datuk Michael Kang, the President of the SME Association of Malaysia recently highlighted that close to 1 million Malaysians could lose their jobs due to impact of the CoVid-19 (see theSunDaily, 20 March 2020). It is honestly believed that even a 1 million unemployment mark is conservative, given the tumultuous impact on SMEs and the fact that the SME sector comprises around 1 million corporate entities which inturn employ over 70% of the Malaysian workforce. Hence the proverbial “sneeze and sniffles” within the SME Sector will have not only wide reaching, but also negative effects on the employment base as a whole.
It is envisaged that the most recent “stimulus” announced by the Government over the past week or so will do little to drive the pump priming that is crucially required by the National Economy. A “lack of urgency, business as usual perspectives and a lack of clear coherent leadership in this war against the Corona Virus” is what 3 eminent economists have termed the Package (see Malay Mail, 24 March 2020).
The policy directive by Bank Negara Malaysia on 24 March 2020 will indeed go some ways to supporting the small players. However providing moratoriums to loan repayments whilst keeping the interest clock running and there being no real opportunity to lessen this interest from sales attained or margins earned, means that the debt of the SMEs will continue to increase at a compounded rate until the inevitable happens. Namely debt restructuring, receivership or at worst case insolvency. The distant memories of the fires attributed to the Asian Financial Crisis during the mid 90s are now rekindled.
In fact, it is envisaged that the Nation has its work cut out for it. Fires storms are raging on 3 fronts: on the side of healthcare; as well as on the societal and on the economic fronts respectively. And Malaysia is not alone in experiencing this. Nations the world over, are being battered by these unprecedented storms. If history is read as it should, the work force, if unaided by an all inclusive and constructive Government Stimulus Packages, will be will bear the brunt of this.
The Year 2020 will be a year of reflection and consolidation on a mass scale. The reset button will need to be pressed, mindsets need to be realigned, and the future landscape will need to be re-imagined. Work and home life is now but a balance on a razor blade. Business owners have to change their operational model, and this will impact the way they conduct business and interact with their customers.
Quite possibly we may be at the cusp of the dawn of the “Giggers”. We see a very different work force being forged. Permanency of work, direct physical reporting and performance management and productivity have all but changed. The management of the workforce
Societal norms have been altered over a span of 4 weeks. New regulations will be needed to ensure orderly development of a new social order in all aspects of our life. Our diverse social cultures will inturn evolve as we traverse on this new journey.
All these will shape our future New World order going forward and for this, our Management, Business, Economic models and lifestyle that we have become accustomed to will also need to evolve to ensure we are prepared for the new unchartered challenges and tremendous opportunities ahead. We are now a digitally connected world and we envisage that for those who are ‘primed for success’, opportunities will return as fast as the original spread of the COV19 pandemic.
By Co Authored by Taranjeet Singh (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Steven Foong (email@example.com), who are both Members of the Regional Board of CMI Malaysia Chapter respectively. Taranjeet Singh is also the CEO of Quantum Steppe Advisory a boutique Human Capital Advisory firm with a regional presence.
a) NST Malaysia, 15 Mar 2020
b) theSunDaily, 20 March 2020
c) Malay Mail, 24 March 2020
d) “CoVid-19 Economic Impacts”, KMPG, 19 March 2020
e) “Financial Stability Review”, BNM, 3 April 2020