Even before the announcement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin of the new measures that the government would take to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the community, the term “MCO 2.0” was trending on social media. With some knowledge of what to expect, individuals and businesses alike should seek out the opportunities during this crisis – the proverbial silver lining that comes with solving problems for consumers during challenging times.
Moving forward, what are the strategies that will grow the economy during this critical time of disruption? To understand this there is a need to look at the recent lessons learnt from “MCO 1.0”, which turned out to be a good teacher. Hindsight is 2020 and last year is purpose fit for the task.
In the first few days of the MCO 1.0, it was clear that the strategic approach driving the overall thinking was that of “survive first and thrive second”. While not an official doctrine, it can be observed that there are three circles forming a critical decision-making framework.
The inner-most circle contained medical, emergency, security, supply of food, and government communication. The second is that of critical production and services to keep the economy and supply chains functioning. The third was everything else.
As individuals seek comfort in some kind of normalcy, businesses should supply the needs of those consumers or seek to empower those organisations already operating on the two inner circles. The question remains: where to start?
Look for broken windows. The “broken windows theory” was introduced in the early 1980s by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, initially looking at how criminal behaviour would increase in neighbourhoods with visible signs of crime or anti-social behaviour. Simply put, one broken window would lead to another and eventually the whole area would see an increase in crime.
As a forward-thinking society, armed with an intelligent and innovative business sector, the approach during MCO 2.0 should be to fix as many windows as possible. This metaphor can be extended to all levels and creates a level of urgency to act as problems like a virus will spread if left unchecked. Two things that COVID-19 have brought into sharp focus is the need for increased e-government services that can operate come rain or shine and an innovative private sector nimble enough to shift gears.
The last MCO saw many companies in various sectors grow profits, attracting investors, talent and the media spotlight. They all had one element in common: they were supplying goods or services in “high-value critical supply chains” locally or internationally.
For SMEs the concept of a year or quarter as a business cycle has become obsolete. Perhaps for many it was never a thing to start with; for some it’s now or never. As much of the world is still dealing with the challenges of fighting a virus through social distancing and the shutting down of non-essential economic activities, SMEs that want to grow need to look at what will be critical to consumers, industry and governments now and in the near future.
Opportunities for governments at all levels remain: how to develop secure, effective and accessible e-government solutions available to all residents in Malaysia. The demand for government services has only increased since the beginning of the pandemic and will continue to grow with population and demographic shifts. Ultimately, e-government is about reducing time spent dealing with low-value processing and allowing citizens to be more productive. That productivity will then be reflected in wage growth and increased happiness.
The digital workspace has become the new reality; Malaysians are very adaptable and have proven productive from home or in some cases a local coffeeshop. This success has created perhaps the biggest threat to out-of-office service delivery. Cyber security has become a constant gap and often a broken window.
It’s time to find the broken window that we must fix; with the extra time not spent travelling to the office it will give us time to do so. This will ensure that Malaysia stays ahead of the development curve in ASEAN, surviving the pandemic and thriving in the post-COVID-19 economy.
Comments on this subject were also featured in the following media:
A critical approach for a successful MCO 2.0 – The Malaysian Reserve
A Critical Approach for A Successful MCO 2.0 – Astro Awani
A Critical Approach For A Successful MCO 2.0 – Thoughts
A critical approach for a successful MCO 2.0 – Focus Malaysia
The Broken windows theory – New Straits Times