SINGAPORE - Businesses on both sides of the Causeway welcomed the cross-border travel arrangements between Singapore and Malaysia, which would allow employers to travel for essential meetings and afford workers opportunities to see their families more often.
The arrangement will address the pressing travel needs of both countries, the Singapore Business Federation and the Malaysia-Singapore Business Council said in a joint statement. Applications for the cross-border travel arrangements can be made from Monday (Aug 10).
The council, which was established in 2004 to promote business and investment activities between both countries, met virtually last Thursday.
The council's Singapore co-chairman Robert Yap said: "Singapore businesses welcome the bilateral cross-border travel arrangements, as they allow us to travel to Malaysia for important meetings, and our employees can travel more easily between Malaysia and Singapore to see their families."
Dr Yap, who is also the Singapore National Employers Federation president and logistics group YCH executive chairman, added that members will offer feedback to the respective governments on how the cross-border travel arrangements can be improved to better serve the needs of businesses and employees.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 300,000 travellers used the Causeway every day. Among these were about 100,000 Malaysians who commuted daily between Singapore and Malaysia.
The resumption of cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia will take place under two schemes: the reciprocal green lane for travellers on shorter visits, and the longer-term periodic commuting arrangement.
The reciprocal green lane facilitates short-term travel for essential business or official purposes between both sides for up to 14 days, while the periodic commuting arrangement allows Singapore and Malaysia residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work.
Travellers coming in via the reciprocal green lane must take measures such as a pre-departure Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at accredited laboratories within 72 hours of departure. They must obtain a certificate of having tested negative for Covid-19.
Another swab test will be done on the traveller upon his arrival. After the swab test, travellers must remain in isolation until negative test results are released.
Those entering Singapore under the periodic commuting arrangement are required to serve a stay-home notice (SHN) of at least seven days and take a Covid-19 PCR swab test. The employee can commence work only after serving the SHN and testing negative for the coronavirus infection.
Singapore-Malaysia business ties are significant for the region, said Dr Nik Norzrul Thani, chairman of Kuala Lumpur-based law firm Zaid Ibrahim & Co.
He added that both sides agreed to plan for a series of webinars for the business communities on both sides to exchange business ideas on the digital economy and start-ups.
During the meeting, the council, which provides the business communities of both countries with a platform to initiate joint projects, discussed plans for a dedicated focus group to collaborate on various areas such as digital connectivity, fintech and e-commerce in a bid to tap the fast growth of digitalisation and digital economy.
Its existing digital free trade zone focus group will be folded into this new group.
It also agreed to set up another new focus group on the digitalisation of manufacturing services and adoption of Industry 4.0 solutions, such as robotics, to strengthen each other's manufacturing supply chains.
At the meeting, members also touched on initiatives such as the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project. The council highlighted that the private sector from both countries is keen to find out how they could be involved in the new plans for the project.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had on July 30 expressed hope that the two countries will come to a conclusion by the end of the year on the HSR project.
The council also expressed its appreciation for the various economic stimulus packages delivered by both governments in helping businesses tackle the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
It stated its confidence that the two economies will bounce back to pre-Covid-19 levels following the easing of measures in Malaysia and Singapore and the availability of a vaccine.
Dr Yap said it is promising to see businesses on both sides exploring collaboration in areas such as digital economy, start-ups, and manufacturing and Industry 4.0 solutions.
"This crisis offered very good opportunities for enterprises to think of how to transform their business models and develop new strategies to position themselves for a post-Covid new normal environment," he added.