Both countries address the cross-border travel needs for essential businesses by devising a strategic plan of implementing a reciprocal green zone for travel.
The worldwide pandemic has posed a new set of challenges for neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, given the importance of cross-border travel to their economic and trade relationships. Crucial discussions and key arrangements are being made to address the concerns of their residents who commute daily under working permits.
Following the recent reopening of one of the world’s busiest border crossings, both countries are focusing on implementing a reciprocal green zone for travel. According to the statement from foreign ministers in both nations, officials are setting their sights on starting the programme soon.
According to Chua Hak Bin, Senior Economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research Pte Ltd, this move suggests that both economies are opening up while at the same time building strength in the wake of the devastating pandemic. “Malaysia will be eager for the workers to resume work, while Singapore will be happy to address the labour shortages,” he affirmed. While the official number of people that will be allowed in remains unclear at this time, given the health protocols and applications, Malaysians who work and commute to Singapore on a daily basis can look forward to working as usual again.
Meanwhile, for Singapore, Chua mentions that the arrangement should help relieve one of the major economic predicaments in the city state. The nation recorded its worst performance ever in the second quarter, seeing a reduction of 41.2% from the previous three months. Thus, the implementation of the Green Zone would be a big boost to Singapore’s economy, just as it will be for Malaysia.
With the implementation of the reciprocal green zone soon, standard operating procedures for travellers have been set. Eligible travellers must abide by the prevailing COVID-19 prevention and public health measures agreed by both countries and they will have to submit a controlled itinerary that they will adhere to. Residents with long-term work passes in the other country will be allowed to re-enter for work while those who wish to return home for a short-term leave can do so after three months in their county of work and subsequently re-enter for another three months. It is also important to note that both countries have agreed to develop other strategic plans for cross-border movement, including a daily cross-border commuting proposal for work purposes.
According to a report by OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd, a one-hour flight linking the two countries has been recognised as the world’s second-largest international route measured by seat capacity. Last year, it was recorded that planes made 29,993 trips between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, which is equivalent to about 82 flights daily. Once the reciprocal green zone programme starts, travellers can expect the number of daily flights between the two cities to be increased by airlines offering flights for this route, as well as for flights between other cities in Malaysia and Singapore.