Dreaded annual haze may return

Just as most Malaysians are heaving a sigh of relief that the country is in the recovery stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, another problem is looming – the annual haze. The haze which normally occurs between June and October may make a comeback if neighbouring countries and Malaysia fail to control open burning that is the cause of transboundary haze. Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said risk groups such as children and the elderly who are Covid-19 positive will face enhanced respiratory problems if the haze occurs. “I would advise people to continue using a face mask, before, during and after the haze,” he said. The Environment Department has issued a strong warning to all landowners to monitor their land, especially in vulnerable and often burned areas such as peatlands, farms, construction sites, landfills including illegal dumping sites, forests, shrubs and industrial areas. On July 1, Reuters reported that the Central Kalimantan province in Indonesia declared a state of emergency until Sept 28 after identifying over 700 fires. (The Star Online)

Singaporeans set to decide on new government in the face of COVID-19

Singaporeans begin to cast their votes for the 2020 General Election as 1,100 polling stations open throughout the republic at 8 a.m. today. The 18th General Election for Singapore and the 13th since independence in 1965 are being held in a “new normal” with safe distancing regulations and restrictions amidst the prevailing COVID-19 situation. A solo independent candidate and 11 political parties including the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), are competing for 17 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and 14 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) to fill 93 parliamentary seats. In the 2015 general election, which saw all seats contested for the first time since independence, PAP swept 83 out of 89 seats, winning 69.9% of the popular vote. (Bernama)

Singapore voters heading to the polls (Source: CTV News)

E-wages system, Socso contribution among proposals for foreign workers

The introduction of an e-wages system and Social Security Organisation (Socso) contribution are among the proposals being considered by the Ministry of Human Resources for foreign workers in the country post-COVID-19. Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said the e-wages system was being studied and discussed with the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure that foreign workers received their salaries as promised by employers. Saravanan said it was also proposed for foreign workers to contribute to Socso for their own safety. He said the proposals were discussed with representatives of the Bangladesh High Commission, who were satisfied with them. No foreign workers would be allowed into the country in the near future except for those in certain sectors such as mining and domestic workers, until the existing foreign workforce here had been streamlined. (Bernama)

Uncertain future for 200,000 Malaysian retailers nationwide

At least 200,000 small businesses that could not operate during the movement control order (MCO) are now facing an uncertain future. About 90% of these were stall-based businesses, according to a report in The Malaysian Reserve. Retail Group Malaysia (RGM) managing director Tan Hai Hsin said in the report he was uncertain if these businesses which represent 61% of total retail outlets and 63% of retail sales in the country have resumed business or closed permanently. He also said it will take longer for retail spending to return to pre-Covid-19 levels because foreign tourists are still not allowed to enter Malaysia under an ongoing travel ban imposed by the government. Based on RGM’s figures, non-essential retailers were looking at a total operating cost of RM14.3 billion while their outlets remained closed. The expenditure includes rent, staff cost, utilities, insurance, taxes, advertising and promotional expenses, repair and maintenance costs and third-party professional services. According to RGM, it also foresees the industry suffering a decline in sales of 9.3% in the second quarter of 2020 (2Q20). (Malay Mail)

AirAsia get banks’ nod for RM1b funding

AirAsia Group Bhd, which plans to shore up its liquidity to ensure sufficient cashflow, has received support from certain financial institutions for its funding request of more than RM1bil. Its CEO, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said of this debt funding, a certain portion would be eligible for the government guarantee loan under the Danajamin Prihatin Guarantee Scheme in Malaysia. “Other than Malaysia, our Philippine and Indonesia entities are currently in various stages of bank loan applications,” he said. Fernandes said it had been presented with proposals in various forms of capital raising, be it debt or equity, and are in ongoing discussions with numerous parties, including investment banks, lenders, as well as interested investors in seeking a favourable outcome for the group. (The Star Online)