JOHOR BARU, MALAYSIA: Local businesses have been hard hit, as stringent security checks at the Causeway have put off many Singaporeans from crossing into Malaysia.
Many shopkeepers complain that sales and profits have taken a dive, with some saying they have experienced a 50% drop in customers over the last month.
The blame has largely been laid on the hunt for Jemaah Islamiah fugitive Mas Selamat Kastari, who escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre in Singapore on Feb 27.
At City Square shopping complex, Popular Bookstore retail manager E Poo Ru said business had dropped by half.
"The bulk of our customers are Singaporeans, and a lot of them place orders for books. But now they are reluctant to endure the traffic jam to collect the books," she said.
"These days we have to relax our policy and allow a one-month grace period for collection instead of the normal two weeks."
Levis outlet manager Ching Lee Ling said that along with the fall in customers and sales, commissions had also suffered.
"I hope they catch him soon so things can get back to normal," she added.
Secret Recipe assistant retail manager Hisham Amat said the outlet used to order 100 whole cakes for the weekends, but was now forced to reduce the number to 60 or 70.
"Our Singaporean customers don't usually buy the cakes by the slice, they take the whole cake. Business has definitely declined," he said.
Moneychanger Sharbudeen Abdul Gaffor, whose business is located just kilometres away from the Immigration checkpoint, said business had been slow.
"A lot of our customers are Malaysians who work in Singapore. They tell us they are too tired to come as regularly after spending four hours in the traffic jam," he said
When contacted, Malaysian Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar said the stringent security checks were costing local businesses millions of ringgit in losses.
"This is of great concern as businesses are losing heavily; and workers travelling to and fro are also suffering because of time lost," he said.
Sivakumar described the current situation as unfair to Malaysian business people, and said Singapore should find a better method of solving its problem, one that would not disrupt mobility or commerce.