MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Friday, June 30, 2023

A break to break the economy


We used to look forward to a Friday or Monday public holiday.

That means a long weekend. We make plans to “balik kampung” or visit friends and relatives.

Otherwise, we check in at a beach hotel with the kids so they can have two or three days of fun in the sun.

But these three-day weekends are no longer long enough.

We now want our public holidays to fall on a Tuesday or Thursday. After all, the government is very likely to declare Monday, or Friday as the case may be, a holiday as well, thus extending the break to four days.

This time, the people of Selangor got lucky. The state government decided earlier in the week that today should be a holiday as well, so state civil servants could have an extra day to celebrate Hari Raya Haji.

No one can deny that there are economic benefits to be derived from a four-day break.

Hotel rooms that would otherwise remain vacant would be filled with unexpected guests.

Eateries would likely see a boom in business, and so would shopping malls and retail outlets.

So what is the downside?

For businesses, an impromptu holiday leads to disruptions in their operations.

Productivity drops, business meetings have to be rescheduled, deliveries are delayed, dealings with government offices have to be postponed, employees who are asked to return to work have to be paid extra … the list goes on.

As a result, the country’s economy incurs a huge loss.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Soh Thian Lai was quoted in several reports just over a month ago as saying that the nation loses an estimated RM3 billion for every ungazetted public holiday.

For an economy that is still recovering from two years of lockdown, it is a cost we can ill-afford.

Malaysia already has many gazetted public holidays each year.

On average there are 12 scheduled national holidays, counting the Chinese New Year, Christmas, Hari Raya and Deepavali celebrations.

Then there are others such as Labour Day, Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day.

Over and above that, each state has its own holidays to mark the respective birthdays of their sultans or governors, or cultural festivals unique to them, such as the Gawai and Kaamatan celebrations in Sarawak and Sabah.

All in, the average Malaysian could look forward to 15 or 16 public holidays in a year, among the highest in the world. Our next door neighbour Singapore has 11.

As those in Selangor celebrate the extra day off today, perhaps businesses can take comfort in the knowledge that there are no more public holidays that fall on a Thursday or Tuesday for the rest of the year. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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