JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Several business groups have given their full support to Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad's call to reopen the border with Singapore now that Malaysia has rolled out its vaccination programme.
Johor Tourist Guides Association honorary chairman Jimmy Leong said both countries depend on each other not only in terms of economy and trade, but also in terms of cultural and social aspects.
"Families on both sides have been separated for almost a year since the border was closed," he added.
Mr Leong said the International Air Transport Association is developing a digital health pass to support the safe reopening of borders.
"Having a health pass which indicates that a person has received the vaccination will facilitate cross-border travel," he added.
Johor Youth Council president Md Salleheen Mohamad urged the authorities in both countries to come up with a systematic standard operating procedure before reopening the border to ensure smooth travel.
"Thousands of people from Johor and the island republic are expected to commute once the border is open," he added.
Johor Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar said the state government should initiate an in-depth discussion with Singapore on reopening the border.
"Many people think Singaporeans enter Johor to do leisure activities such as shopping while Malaysians only go there to work.
"However, there are also Malaysians who support Singapore's economy by investing and shopping, which is good for its retail sector, and also using the Changi International Airport (for outbound travel)," he said.
Johor South SME adviser Teh Kee Sin said Malaysia may need a bit more time to get its people vaccinated because of its larger population.
Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association secretary Hussein Ibrahim urged the federal government to give priority to Johoreans to get the jabs first.
"This will help convince Singapore to reopen the border to facilitate travel into the Republic through the Causeway and Second Link.
"This will rejuvenate businesses, especially in the city area, that have been badly affected for almost a year due to the closure," he said.
On Tuesday (Feb 23), Datuk Hasni said the state government hopes that the national Covid-19 immunisation programme will help spearhead efforts to reopen cross-border travel between Malaysia and Singapore.
The border with Singapore has been closed since Malaysia's movement control order (MCO) was first implemented on March 18 last year.
Only commercial vehicles ferrying goods can go across the land border.
On Tuesday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the island republic will be discussing vaccine certification with interested countries as a way to resume travel.
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said the vaccination programme is expected to bring gradual economic recovery once the pandemic is contained, allowing economic sectors to reopen, especially the services and tourism-related industries.
"The vaccination is expected to be implemented in stages and will finish by early 2022. With the launch of the national Covid-19 immunisation programme, the economy is expected to return to positive growth this year, in line with other economies that are generally dependent on the vaccine roll-outs to increase the confidence of employers and consumers.
"Enhancing the confidence of consumers is critical because it will boost consumption and growth in the local market," he added.
But he also warned of the potential risk to economic growth if the vaccine deployment is not done based on the timelines to control the infection.
"We will not be able to control the consequences that could lead to another MCO, more political uncertainties and our international borders remaining closed," he added.