Coronavirus pandemic

Businesses welcome cross-border travel arrangements between Singapore, Malaysia

The resumption of cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia will take place under two schemes. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Businesses on both sides of the Causeway welcomed the cross-border travel arrangements between Singapore and Malaysia, which will allow employers to travel for essential meetings and afford workers opportunities to see their families more often.

The arrangements will address the pressing travel needs of both countries, the Malaysia-Singapore Business Council said in a joint statement with the Singapore Business Federation. Applications for the Singapore-Malaysia travel arrangements opened yesterday.

The council, which promotes business and investment activities between both countries, met virtually last Thursday.

Its 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."

He noted that the council will offer feedback to the respective governments on how the 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 both sides 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 travel for essential business or official purposes between both sides for up to 14 days.

The periodic commuting arrangement allows Singapore and Malaysia residents who hold long-term passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work. They have to remain in the destination country for at least 90 days before returning for home leave, and travellers under this arrangement can enter or exit only via the two land checkpoints - at Woodlands or Tuas.

Singapore-Malaysia business ties are significant for the region, said the council's Malaysian co-chairman Nik Norzrul Thani, adding that both sides have agreed to plan for a series of webinars for the business communities to exchange ideas on the digital economy and start-ups.

During the meeting, the council discussed plans for a 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 the digital economy.

It also agreed to set up another focus group on the digitalisation of manufacturing services as well as the adoption of Industry 4.0 solutions such as robotics to strengthen each other's manufacturing supply chains.

Members also touched on initiatives such as the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project. The council highlighted that the private sector from both countries is keen to find out how it could be involved in the new plans for the project.

The council also expressed its confidence that the two economies will bounce back to pre-Covid-19 levels following the easing of measures in both countries and the availability of a vaccine.

Dr Yap said it is promising to see businesses on both sides exploring collaboration on the various fronts. "This crisis has 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."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2020, with the headline Businesses welcome cross-border travel arrangements between Singapore, Malaysia. Subscribe