Get Your Own Vaccines For Workers Economist Tells Sabah Govt
Speeding up vaccinations for the estimated 1.9 million workers in the state will get them back to work and enable them to cross districts too, says UMS lecturer.KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government can actually alleviate unemployment in the state by purchasing the Covid-19 vaccine on its own instead of waiting for supplies from the federal government, an economist said.
James Alin, of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), said the state government is in a healthy financial position to procure the vaccines and thus speed up the immunisation programme for the estimated 1.9 million workers in the state.
Speaking during the “Sabah from the Ground: The 2020 Elections and the Politics of Survival” online forum yesterday, Alin said the state must give priority to workers.
“This is so they can go out and get back to work, and be free to cross districts.
“The state government’s financial position is strong. They are running a budget surplus, meaning the state is selling things to the rest of the world more than it is buying, so we have enough resources to purchase our own vaccines,” he said.
Alin said, for example, if two doses of the vaccine cost RM100, then it would mean the state has to spend some RM190 million to vaccinate the 1.9 million workers statewide.
“This is a very small amount and is not something impossible. It is just a matter of wanting to do it or not. If they don’t, that means our workforce will be affected and more people are going to lose their jobs.
“At the moment, businesses are returning but things are not back to normal. It is no longer like before and many people are still suffering, looking for jobs,” he said.
He added that he has not seen any concrete measures by the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) state government to reduce unemployment in the state, in the six months they have been in power.
Alin pointed out that this unemployment issue, partly inherited from the previous government, was exacerbated by the pandemic which has cost a lot of people their jobs.
For instance, he said mountain guides and vegetable growers in the Kundasang highlands in Ranau have been severely affected by Covid-19.
He added, however, that there is no policy or programmes to retrain or give these groups, all native residents, new skills so they can source for an alternative livelihood.
Meanwhile, expanding on the unemployment issue in Sabah, Alin said the previous Warisan-led state government only achieved half of the objective they set for themselves to settle the issue.
According to Alin, Warisan had targeted to solve the problem within five years after taking over the Sabah government.
He said among the reasons they failed to fulfill the target was that Warisan’s timing in taking over the reins of government was not right as the state’s economy was already facing a recession.
But at the same time, he said the party could still have done better in addressing unemployment if not for “erratic and hasty decisions”.
For example, he said, the Warisan administration terminated contracts for water treatment plants, imposed a blanket ban on log exports and, controversially, did not renew business licences of outlets with slot machines which resulted in the loss of many jobs.
“The economy was already not well, but the Warisan government made it worse. They did not do the right things,” Alin added.
“That is why at the end of their administration, the number of unemployed persons in Sabah increased maybe by about 20,000 or 30,000 more.
“And of course, the new GRS government inherited the problem when they came into power.”
He added that at the end of Warisan’s rule, there were about 120,000 unemployed Sabahans, which was about a quarter of the total number of unemployed persons in the country.
Alin said, moving forward, GRS must introduce a comprehensive package to solve the unemployment issue, noting that rolling out its own vaccine supplies could be one of the solutions.
These and other arguments by Alin are highlighted in the book called “Sabah from the Ground: The 2020 Elections and the Politics of Survival”, in which he co-authored one of the chapters.
The book is the first in-depth study of the Sabah election, featuring scholars, journalists and activists to examine Malaysia’s first election held during a pandemic, and how its outcome shaped the country. - FMT
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