Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad told CNA that the Malaysia federal government and Singapore’s Ministry of Health have been invited to sit down to evaluate a new proposal seeking to allow some 30,000 travellers to make trips between the neighbouring countries daily.
Third scheme proposed after earlier schemes working out
The exclusive interview published on Sunday, Nov. 22 is the first time such a plan has been hashed out in public in finer details.
It comes after Singapore and Malaysia have put in place, since August 2020, two arrangements for limited number of travellers to cross borders.
The Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) initiatives between Singapore and Malaysia was hailed by Hasni as good first steps to allow people to move freely between both countries.
Hasni said in the interview a third proposal has been put forth and it is down to both countries' authorities to discuss and evaluate terms.
RGL is for business people with official reasons to cross borders, while PCA is for Singapore and Malaysia citizens or permanent residents (PRs) who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes
30,000 daily travellers
Hasni said testing procedures and screening processes can be put in place to facilitate movements of more people.
The Johor state government has reportedly proposed the Daily Commuting Arrangement (DCA), a third scheme that would allow up to 30,000 commuters per day to make trips between Singapore and Johor.
Under this scheme the state government would, for example, issue travel passes every 10 days.
Commuters could then use the passes to travel across the border for around three times within that period.
The Johor state government also mooted the idea of having nine accredited laboratories capable of carrying out Covid-19 testing for the travellers.
Local health professionals will be invited to step up testing and screening procedures.
Hasni said this third scheme would benefit students and Malaysians employed in Singapore who need to commute to and fro every day.
The CNA interview let on that the state of Johor is suffering during this pandemic due to the lack of cross-border travellers.
The chief minister told CNA the third scheme will be a boost to Johor’s economy, which has been badly impacted by Covid-19.
He previously said in October that the state of Johor is collecting a lot less in taxes due to the shortfall in Singaporeans going up north.
Before border restrictions were implemented in March, around 300,000 Malaysians would commute across the border daily for work.
Many Malaysians are now jobless as a result of the lockdown of the borders.
Malaysia experiencing third wave
However, Malaysia is grappling with a third wave of the pandemic -- a development that is putting a dampener to any talks about allowing mass travel soon or again.
The latest figures out of Malaysia in the third week of November saw the number of new Covid-19 cases on most days above 1,000.
There are now more than 53,000 cases in Malaysia.
Federal government not going to make decision quickly
Just a week before this CNA interview with Hasni was put out, the foreign ministry in Malaysia washed its hands off deciding on whether the third scheme will go through.
The Malaysia foreign minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the decision on the matter could only be decided by the National Security Council (MKN), Immigration Department (JIM) and Health Ministry (MOH), as it was a matter of national security and public health safety.
Hasni's persistent reiteration on reopening borders with Singapore has been playing out since March 2020:
Top photos via Andrew Koay & Johor Menteri Besar’s office