The border between Singapore and Johor in Malaysia has been closed for more than a year now due to Covid-19.
With the appointment of a new Malaysian Prime Minister in Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Johor leaders and experts feel that resuming cross-border travel should be a top priority.
Bastien Onn, an Umno Youth executive committee member, is leading the call, saying that Datuk Seri Ismail must do everything he can to persuade the Republic that the pandemic, particularly in Johor, is being handled properly.
The Segamat division youth chief urged the new administration to meet with Singaporean counterparts to discuss putting in place a proper mechanism to allow Malaysians to cross the border on a daily basis.
Average of 200,000 Malaysians cross the border pre-Covid-19
The daily number of Covid-19 infections average 20,000 cases over the past week.
Despite this, experts in Johor believe that once their government can persuade Singapore that Malaysia can overcome the number of Covid-19 infections, cross-border travel can resume.
Associate Professor L. Nanthakumar of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's Azman Hashim International Business School believes that reopening the Causeway and Second Link as soon as possible is critical to the economies of both countries.
Create a green lane for those vaccinated to travel
Professor L. Nanthakumar suggested that Malaysia should accelerate their vaccination efforts and establish a green lane to allow those who have already been vaccinated to travel between the two countries.
"Singapore requires Malaysian workers, while we rely on Singapore investments to grow our economy," he said, adding that the Republic has already opened its borders to several countries.
Singaporeans are the biggest group of tourists for Malaysia
The significance of Singapore's influence on Malaysian investments cannot be downplayed.
Singapore is Malaysia's main partner in foreign direct investment over the last decade, especially so in the southern regions.
Mr Ismail received an invitation to visit Singapore from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last Monday (Aug 23), two days after being sworn in as Malaysia's ninth Prime Minister.
In a separate letter to Mr Ismail, PM Lee stated that the two governments have collaborated closely on shared challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and that he looked forward to expanding their cooperation for mutual benefit.
A mutually beneficial outcome is what we are all hoping for.
We are certain many Malaysians, who have been stuck in our borders to provide for their relatives, are eager to travel back home to be in the company of their family members.
Similarly, Singaporeans are probably also very eager to cross the border to spend some dosh and enjoy the best of what Malaysia can offer.
We'll keep you posted as the news develops!
This article was first published in Motorist.