GEORGE TOWN: Penang will be able to rebound quickly from the pandemic thanks to its diversified economy and significant strides made in the services and manufacturing sectors in the past decade, said Penang Insititute director Steven Sim Chee Keong.

The state has struck a balance between services and manufacturing with each one contributing almost the same portion to gross domestic product (GDP), said Sim, who is also the Penang Fights Covid-19 task force communications head and Bukit Mertajam Member of Parliament.

Services contributed close to 49% of GDP in recent years while manufacturing was 45%, with the rest in construction and agriculture. However last year, manufacturing roared back when the state recorded a high of RM16.9 billion in total investments, due in part to uneasiness over the China and US trade war.

Sim said the state is more resilient now compared with previous years in mitigating what is shaping up to be a global recession.

“We have that balance between manufacturing and services. Within manufacturing, there’s a shift in our traditional electrical and electronics from producing consumer items to strategic and industrial driven products such as telecommunication, defense, digitalisation chips or medical.”

He said, the shift towards Industry 4.0 is vibrant and with the new normal creeping up due to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, such products would pick up in demand globally, especially in technology fields.

“Unless something worse emerges, I believe, while tourism will be affected, the Penang job market will still be able to absorb workers who lost their jobs.”

Sim said the state can look forward to 10,000 new job opportunities based on its realised foreign and domestic direct investments from last year.

Such investments remained valid, despite the threat of contagion.

Penang recorded two high profile closures when two textile factories closed when their Hong Kong owners decided to relocate because of rising costs.

The local workers, who numbered in the minority in both factories, have been referred to the Career Assistance and Talent Centre (CAT Centre) for job placements.

There are also isolated cost cutting measures by either wage reduction or downsizing, but multinational corporations remained somewhat committed to their operations here, Sim noted.

In a related development, Penang’s executive councillor in charge of tourism Yeoh Soon Hin said the state was now drafting a fresh safety operating guideline for hotels so they can instill confidence in people when they patronise these establishments.

The guideline will encompass cleaning and disinfecting routines, safety steps for employees and third party associates (i.e. vendors, suppliers, tenants and contractors and hotel guests.

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