WEDNESDAY, 11 August 2021: The Center for Market Education (CME) welcomes the change in reference benchmarks for the National Recovery Plan (NRP).

“The new benchmarks based on the number of daily hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients set for states to progress from one phase to another under the national recovery plan, as announced by coordinating minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, are a step in the right direction”, said Dr Carmelo Ferlito, CEO of the Center for Market Education. “This is the recognition that a 0-cases policy cannot be pursued and we need to find a way to live with COVID-19 protecting lives not only from the virus but also from the unintended consequences of lockdowns”.

CME also welcomes the intention to speed up on the reopening of the economy to avoid the collapse of the country and heavy damages in particular to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). At this regard, the next economic indicators on GDP, inflation and employment are particularly important; under the current circumstances, in fact, CME judges as too optimistic the growth estimations presented so far, while it expects a near-flat GDP growth in 2021.

However, the Center for Market Education believes that a re-opening strategy can even proceed faster than announced if properly accompanied by a comprehensive support plan. At this regard, CME observes the following:

  1. A re-opening strategy cannot be based only on vaccination targets; such a strategy could backfire. In fact, we now know that vaccinating people can both be infected and infected others, and may be subject to a more relaxed compliance to SOPs due to a feeling of safety.
  2. The main issue is not the speed of reopening (too early or too late, too slow or too fast), but the backup plan to allow even a wider reopening program but in safety.
  3. Weekly tests at workplaces and schools should be the gold standard for a proper monitoring of the pandemic evolution with early detection aiming to minimize mortality (breath analyzers should be considered too).
  4. By avoiding lockdowns, resources can be saved for targeted investments in strengthening the healthcare system with temporary hospitals, ICUs beds, oxygen machines and so on. This kind of investments has been the big missing point in the general anti-COVID strategy implemented so far.
  5. Research on an adequate pharmacological protocol should be incentivized. 

The Center for Market Education also invites to reflect on the fact that reopening the economy and social life only for vaccinated people is discriminatory. In fact, there are people that for health or personal reasons cannot take the vaccine and we cannot think to keep them locked in the house forever. In Europe, even countries like Italy which implemented a very strict “green” pass policy, are allowing non-vaccinated people to be considered like the vaccinated ones if either they have a recent negative test or they have reached immunity by being infected. Malaysia should learn from these examples.

“In a nutshell – concluded Dr Ferlito – we want a rapid return to normalcy whereby vaccination is one of the factors kept into account, together with a sound plan to avoid the program to backfire”.

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About CME: The Center for Market Education (CME) is a boutique think-tank based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As an academic and educational institution, CME aims to promote a more pluralistic and multidisciplinary approach to economics and to spread the knowledge of a sounder economics, grounded in the understanding of market forces. In order to do so, CME is not only involved in academic initiatives, but it organizes seminars, webinars and tailor-made economics classes for students, journalists, businesspeople and professionals who wish to better understand the relevance of economics for their daily lives and activities. Economics matters and needs to be presented in a fashion in which the link with reality is clearly visible. In this sense, we look not only at theoretical economics but also at policy making, with an emphasis on the unintended consequences generated by political actions.