In the last few days, the Movement Control Order (MCO) has awoken many to the fact that supply chains that we assume work without question have now become highly critical.The establishment of a special task force to maintain critical supply chains by the current government is an excellent step to ensure that what is currently a medical crisis doesn’t turn into a broader crisis.

Moving forward, and in light of the extended MCO, the battle to ensure that critical supply chains remain functioning will be fought on two fronts — food and medical supplies.Critical medical equipment have become the weapons that frontliners are scrambling to get their hands on to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

To date, we have stemmed the tide but every day that this crisis continues, the ability to source complex equipment also increases in difficulty.To make informed decisions, a deeper understanding of the medical supply chain is needed to ensure that we don’t miss a step.

Several years ago, the nation moved rapidly towards halal food production. This included increasing capacity in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors mostly driven by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).Now we see the wisdom of that initiative. In this time of crisis, it is paying dividends.

Today, we see the need for “strategic production” which may not be highly profitable but forms the vanguard that will buffer food supply requirements from any delays of international shipments.While we have been able to identify certain gaps, we need to intelligently, strategically and calmly move towards a sustainable future.

I am proposing that all stakeholders work together with the government to develop a “Critical Materials Policy”.Such a policy will assist the government and industry players plan for crises, to meet the needs of the economy and, ultimately, the people during critical times.

In what might seem a long way away, the post Covid-19 world will see a change in the way countries increase their levels of self-sufficiency in critical areas.Money may be able to buy you a lot of things but during a global or regional crisis, it will matter little if you can’t produce the critical items needed to deal with the crisis that has befallen your own nation.

With this in mind, investment planning will need to do more than keep one eye on the components of critical supply chains.The question will be: how will Malaysia be able to attract those investments onshore when companies will be looking to benefit from incentives from home nations to establish production there and how quickly can Malaysia develop domestic capabilities?

There is much work to be done by all. While we continue to heed the advice of the prime minister to stay at home, we still need to think globally about a sustainable future.

NORDIN ABDULLAH

FOUNDING CHAIRMAN, MALAYSIA GLOBAL BUSINESS FORUM

This news appeared on News Straits Times Let’s move towards a ‘critical materials policy’