Johor will fight poverty due to Covid-19 as it waits for borders to reopen with S'pore: Chief minister

Nevertheless, he believes that Johoreans can turn existing challenges into "valuable opportunities".

Kayla Wong | November 10, 2021, 04:29 PM

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The Johor state government will focus on resolving the issues of poverty and social mobility that were brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, while it waits for cross-border travel with Singaore to resume, Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad said on Tuesday, Nov. 9.

Speaking at the virtual 13th Leaders in Administration Programme organised by Singapore's Civil Service College Singapore, Hasni said the pandemic has led many households to fall into poverty or experience a drop in income.

"Many households are vulnerable to post-pandemic economic shocks, despite the cautious reopening of economic sectors and the ease of human movement," he said.

He also said the closure of borders between Johor and Singapore has impacted businesses and the livelihoods of people.

"The closure of the world's busiest border crossings is economically hurtful and socially harmful for all involved," he said.

Hasni added that he has noticed how the "once-bustling streets of Johor Bahru City Centre" are now quiet with "little or no commercial activity".

"Small traders are feeling the pinch, workers in the retail and hospitality sectors are being relieved from their jobs, sometimes with minimal compensation."

Johor has allocated more than RM550 million (S$178.5 million) through three economic stimulus packages to help provide financial relief for those who needed it, since the start of the first movement control order in March last year, according to The Star.

Stronger cooperation with Singapore amid the pandemic

Nevertheless, despite the challenges faced by some Johoreans at the moment, Hasni said he believes that Malaysia and Johor will be able to recover quickly and "turn existing challenges into valuable opportunities".

This is done through stronger cooperation with the Singapore government and various bodies in the private sector in Singapore, he said, adding that the "biggest opportunity" that came from the pandemic is to "make better use of Johor's dynamic relationship with Singapore.

He also said he looked forward to visiting the Johor Economic, Tourism, and Culture Office (JETCO) in Singapore, which will be ready by the second quarter of 2022.

In addition, Hasni said the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which is set to launch on Nov. 29, is "an excellent start" to resume the opening of the Causeway and the Second Link border crossing.

At the moment, both countries are having ongoing "detailed discussions" on a similar vaccinated travel scheme across the Causeway and the Second Link, where "good progress" is being made, according to a joint press release by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart, Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

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Top image via Hasni Mohammad/Facebook