A webinar co-organized by the National Youth Council shed light on how youths in Malaysia are stepping up amidst a tumultuous political climate hit hard by COVID-19.
With the third extension of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit our neighbours hard. In addition, the change of the Malaysian Government last year launched Malaysian politics into unchartered waters.
But what is the true impact of these events on both Malaysia and Singapore?
In an hour-long webinar hosted by ASEAN Youth Fellow Mr Soh Yi Da and Malaysia member of parliament Mr Syed Saddiq, topics such as how Malaysia is dealing with COVID-19 amidst political uncertainty and the prospects and areas for future collaborations between Malaysia and Singapore were covered.
Co-organised by the National Youth Council and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, the webinar was put together as part of the Asia-Ready Webinar Series, meant to shed light on events in the region.
Mr Saddiq, who serves as a member of parliament in Muar and the recent founder of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance, described the impact of COVID-19 on his relatively suburban constituency of Muar and explained how it’s further complicated by the complexities of the Malaysian political scene.
Because of COVID-19, education has moved online at an increasing rate and the need for laptops and strong internet connections have become more apparent. However, because of insufficient funding, the residents of Mr Saddiq’s constituency are facing difficulties in acquiring the required resources to facilitate proper learning.
He also added that his constituency currently lacks sufficient funding. This further complicated the situation as this lack of money hindered his ability to properly care for the residents of his constituency.
For Mr Soh, the vice president of investor relations at United Overseas Bank, the impact of COVID-19 in his field was mostly of an economic nature.
Due to an extension of the MCO, businesses began having a harder time sustaining themselves, which resulted in fewer bank loans being repaid.
Combined with a blanket moratorium imposed by the government for small businesses when the MCO was first announced, many in the investment community were concerned about the health of the Malaysian economy,
However, he feels that despite all that has happened, the Malaysian economy remains resilient and is overall optimistic with regards to the economy as he expects it to begin recovery in 2021.
Mr Saddiq then shared about how both the Singaporean and Malaysian governments collaborated to ensure minimal disruption of supply chains.
For example, both the Johor state government and the federal government worked with Singaporean authorities to ensure that although movement of people between borders were restricted, movement of goods were still able to continue.
Both governments have also signed a deal regarding the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transport System which would help facilitate travel between both countries.
“Both countries are largely interdependent on one another, not just in terms of economic activities, but even in terms of familial ties,” said Mr Saddiq.
He cited the 2018 elections where an increased voter turnout in youths saw history created, when the opposition won the majority vote for the first time in over 60 years.
He added that thanks to the support shown to him by youths, he was able to push for three constitutional amendments during his first year in office which would enfranchise even more youth voters. He feels that this will result in a huge political earthquake driven by young people in the upcoming elections as a result.
“When we were able to amend the voting age, I was able to push for three constitutional amendments in my first year serving as a minister. To reduce the voting age from 21 to 18, to reduce the age of candidacy from 21 to 18 and automatic voter registration,” said Mr Saddiq.
He spoke about how although youths may not have been as invested in politics in the past, he has witnessed how apathy can quickly turn into strong political activism.
“Youths will be the loudest voices in shaping Malaysia’s future,” said Mr Saddiq.
For Mr Soh, he encouraged Singaporean youths to be eager and quick to put things into action with regards to interactions with other Asian countries.
“For young people in Singapore, it’s important for us to go out there not just to compete but to be active pioneers in sourcing new opportunities,” said Mr Soh.
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