JOHOR BARU: Malaysians are looking forward to 2022, which they hope will be a better year as they bid adieu to the challenges and uncertainties of 2021.

Electrical shop salesman-cum-technician Tai Kien Pin hopes the economy would improve next year after it was badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

He said a microenterprise like the one he is working with could not afford to experience another round of movement control order (MCO).

He said this resulted in consumers reducing their spending on electrical goods in 2020 and 2021, hence affecting earnings of small businesses.

Non-governmental organisation (NGO) treasurer and director of activity Elisha Indhumathi urged the government to address environmental-related issues in the country.

“The major flood which hit the Klang Valley recently is a wake-up call for the government on the mismanagement of the environment in Malaysia,’’ she said.

Elisha said while it was easy to blame Mother Nature for any catastrophe, the government should look at the weaknesses and failures of agencies and departments tasked to handle all matters related to the environment.

Hotel sales manager Mohd Yusof Ab Rahman had looked forward to the reopening of the border between Johor and Singapore for fully vaccinated visitors.

He said although the Vaccinated Travel Land-Land (VTL-Land) for long-term pass holders was implemented on Nov 29, followed by VTL-Land for non-long term pass holders on Dec 20, the move did not bring much impact.

“As a border town, the local economy is largely dependent on thousands of Malaysians working in Singapore and visitors from the republic,’’ said Yusof.

He added that thousands of Malaysians who were stranded in Singapore, had helped boost the economy by spending their salaries – earned in Singapore currency – in Johor Baru.

Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association (Perusim) secretary Hussein Ibrahim said everyone had high hopes that the pandemic would end in 2022.

He described 2020 and 2021 as mankind’s most horrible period as no country was spared from the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the Johor state government needed to act fast to attract domestic and foreign investors to invest in Johor which would create many job opportunities.

“Johor is facing intense competition from other states in terms of attracting investors and Malaysia also has to compete with other countries in the region,’’ he said.

He said both Malaysia and Singapore should consider opening the Second Link Crossing in Tanjung Kupang, Gelang Patah for the VTL-Land next year.

Malaysian Association Hotels (MAH) Johor Chapter chairman Ivan Teo said the hospitality sector still needed support from the Federal and Johor governments as the economy would take time to fully recover.

He said the temporary suspension of the VTL-Land during the Christmas period, had affected the festive mood in the hospitality sector in the state.

“The sombre mood is likely to continue until next year’s Lunar New Year as we don’t know whether the suspension will be extended after Jan 20, 2022,’’ said Teo.

He said unlike Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru as a border town was badly affected due to the prolonged closure of the border with Singapore since March 18, 2020, under MCO 1.0.

Teo said Johor should step up discussions with the Federal Government on the opening of VTL-Air with other countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Opening the VTL-Air will reduce Johor’s dependency with Singapore under the VTL-Land,’’ he said, adding that marketing and promotional efforts must be intensified to attract more Sabahans and Sarawakians to fly to Johor Baru.

Safe Johor River founder Poh Paik Yik said Johor must address environmental issues especially with regard to polluted rivers in the state.“Dead and dirty rivers are serious problems in Johor and they have been an issue for many years,’’ he said.

Poh said rivers were the main source of raw water supply and failing to keep them clean could lead to severe water problems.

“We should have learnt from Selangor where frequent water disruptions occurr due to river contamination,’’ said Poh.

He added that the major flash flood which hit certain districts in Selangor this month was a lesson for Johor to start looking at its flood mitigation system.