PETALING JAYA | The government had to restart the economy as the number of unemployed people was projected to triple, says Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) said there are 520,000 Malaysians who are currently unemployed and this figure was projected to reach 1.8 million.

“If we don’t get a hand on this issue, we would stand to lose RM2.4bil every day, as the Prime Minister has previously said.

“According to Bank Negara Malaysia, if no action is taken, the (number of those) unemployed could reach 1.8 million.

“At the moment, there are about 520,000 unemployed people, so this means that the number of unemployed people is projected to increase threefold, ” he said on TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini programme Thursday (May 7).

The government had allowed almost all economic sectors and business activities to resume business operations, subject to standard operating procedures (SOPs), starting Monday (May 4).

Mustapa added, however, that the government’s decision to reopen the economy did not mean every business would operate at full capacity immediately.

“I am sure that not every business is operating at 100% capacity, but the businesses need some direction of where they are heading.

“So when they have that direction in mind, they can open up in phases, ” he said, adding that he observed that businesses are currently operating at about 30% to 40% of their normal capacity.

Describing the current health and economic crisis as “luar biasa (out of the ordinary)”, Mustapa said the government has to balance between the life and livelihood of its citizens.

Opening up the economy, he said, was not a decision that was made rashly and that the government had consulted many different stakeholders.

“There are some who say it is too soon, but that is their opinion. But the government has already gotten advice from the Health Ministry, and we feel that it is time to look at the economy.

“Whatever aid that is offered (by the government) is only ‘temporary’, they are relief measures.

“In the long term, we would definitely have to go back to work, ” he said, adding that they have to especially consider daily wage earners.