Tuesday 06 Jun 2023
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on January 9, 2023 - January 15, 2023

Most working Malaysians rejoice at the fact that our country ranks among the top in the world with the highest number of paid public holidays in a year. In fact, we could very well have climbed up the rankings in recent years, thanks to the “surprise holidays” we have been declaring.

Last year alone, the country declared three unplanned public holidays — the eve of polling day (Nov 18), polling day itself (Nov 19) and Nov 28, in conjunction with the formation of a unity government and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s appointment as the country’s 10th prime minister.

Not everyone considers these reasons to celebrate, though. For employers and businesses, the excessive number of public holidays is a bane because of the impact on productivity and earnings, as more labour costs will be incurred. This, in turn, is economically disruptive.

Former deputy minister of international trade and industry Ong Kian Ming had previously criticised the unplanned holiday on Dec 3, 2021, in the federal territories — after Kuala Lumpur City Football Club won the Malaysia Cup — as “irresponsible and socially and economically disruptive”. Apart from the economic impact, daily activities will also be affected, especially if parents have to make sudden childcare arrangements.

To provide greater certainty to the capital markets and mitigate any potential market or investment risk that investors may face, Bursa Malaysia announced last week that it had made amendments to its business rules and listing requirements to facilitate the continued operations of the stock exchange and its subsidiaries on days declared as surprise holidays, which have not been gazetted as a public holiday in Kuala Lumpur. This will ensure that all transactions that occurred prior to the surprise holiday can be delivered and settled as scheduled.

It is a timely move by the regulator at a time when we have to restore investor confidence in the local stock market and economy. Any surprise holiday will be a shock for the private entities, which are still striving to maximise their business efficiency and productivity post-pandemic.

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