Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic and Governance in Malaysia: With Lessons from the 1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis is written in such a fashion as to document the crises’ impacts on peoples’ lives and how the respective governments of the day-initiated measures to turn around the situation with the resources and political discourse prevalent at the time. The impacts of the crises are described through a multi-dimensional lens, dissecting the events from the perspectives of social consequences, livelihoods, government assistance, stimulus packages, public healthcare systems, education, indigenous communities, and migrant workers. Overall, the arguments evaluated the status of governance, leadership, and human development, in dealing with the shocks to the systems in the country.
The grim reality is that humanity is exposed to global pandemics today more than ever. In Malaysia, we are faring no better. COVID-19 cases are surging while the vaccination programme had just started at the end of February 2021 with the front-liners to be followed by the high-risk groups. We are very concerned not just with the health aspects of the pandemic but also with the socio-economic impacts on human development. Underlying all these is the question of governance and leadership which is so critical in managing the crisis and bringing it under control, and building a better future.
This book sets out elements in the socio-economic impact assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in Malaysia and examines it with special reference to the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-1998. The two studies used different methodologies in keeping with the situation. The Asian Financial Crisis study undertaken from October to December 1998 used the rapid participatory assessment approach that could produce quick but evidence-based outcomes. Using this approach, the research team engaged in face-to-face interviews with 188 respondents from selected sectors throughout the country who were impacted in various ways by the crisis, besides holding focused group discussions, and interviews with key informants including those from relevant government agencies, to obtain primary data from the ground. To complement this, secondary data from the official source and information from media reports were also obtained. Being a rapid assessment study on the impact of the crisis for policy purposes, time and speed—besides accuracy and objectivity—are of the essence because of the urgency of the problem, and the timeliness of the report.
For the COVID-19 pandemic crisis study, because of the dangers of COVID-19 infectivity and the restrictions of the Movement Control Order, it was impossible to replicate the Asian Financial Crisis study methodology. Hence, the COVID-19 pandemic crisis study was done completely as a “desktop research” with a slightly longer time frame by about one to two months, The team went through many official documents for data and analysis, read reports by relevant Malaysian government agencies, the World Bank, IMF, and rating agencies, as well as books and journals for theoretical and analytical insights, and sieved through many hundreds of media reports available mainly online, for debates and information. Being inundated with loads of data and information (in fact, almost an ‘over-load’), the authors had to be circumspect in selecting and evaluating the data and information, collate and analyse them as systematically and consistently as possible, according to themes and issues pertaining to human development. We have tried to put them in the perspective of governance and leadership in periods of turmoil and to draw experiences and lessons from it.
Enhancing human development, strengthening social protection measures, and addressing social inequality and social inclusion from the perspective that no individual or community, especially the poor and vulnerable groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is left out, is very critical in Malaysia. This book has been prepared with this objective in mind, and the authors hope it is taken in the spirit it is written.