Industry players welcomed the announcement of the People’s Protection and Economic Recovery Package (Pemulih), but many expressed that it could have been widely extended to help businesses further.
The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said mid-tier companies have once again been left out of the bank loan moratorium, causing much hardship for this group given the prolonged lockdown period.
“We urge the government to extend the automatic bank loan moratorium for all companies irrespective of size and giving the option to those that do not require the assistance to opt out.
“In addition, it is proposed that the extended four months of the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) under the Pemulih Package also includes any extended period of Phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP),” Soh said in a statement yesterday.
On Monday, Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Pemulih, among others, will provide a blanket loan moratorium, which will be offered for six months to borrowers with the conditions of amended terms set by the banks.
This facility is also offered to affected small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.
The government will also implement WSP 4.0 with a RM3.8 billion allocation to subsidise an expected 2.5 million workers.
“Through the WSP 4.0 initiative, the government will subsidise up to 500 workers for each employer at the rate of RM600 per worker for four months, namely two months for each sector in Phase 2 of the NRP, and the subsequent two months especially for sectors categorised in the negative list during the third phase,” the PM said.
Soh, however, said that the industry was also looking for some reprieve in their energy costs especially electricity and gas as energy cost is a substantial cost element for most and industries would be caught by the maximum demand charge for electricity and the Take-Or-Pay element in their gas off-take agreement.
“A similar discount as accorded to the tourism, retail and hospitality sectors would have been most welcomed, especially for those in the non-essential sector,” he said.
FMM also proposed that companies that opt for private immunisation be allowed to claim the cost from their HRD (Human Resource Development) levy and be allowed the tax deduction where applicable.
Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) also expressed hopes that the moratorium can be expanded to companies as businesses have been adversely impacted by the pandemic too.
MBAM also said that the Variation Of Price and Extension Of Time currently implemented for government projects should also be applied to projects in the private sector.
“Currently, there is no cost sharing between both contracting parties as contractors still have to bear all the idling and SOP (standard operating procedure)-compliance costs during Phases 1 and 2 of the NRP,” MBAM said.
The association said the stimulus package may benefit a lot of people, but not businesses. “The stark reality is that the construction industry will need money to be injected directly into businesses immediately as an effective measure to ensure our construction industry is sustainable,” it added.
Meanwhile, Research for Social Advancement (Refsa) believes that Pemulih does not provide enough relief to protect people and businesses from the devastating impact of prolonged lockdowns.
“Measures to enable people to make a living and businesses to operate safely are missing from Pemulih and the other eight preceding packages.
It proposed for the government to spend more to contain Covid-19 in a targeted manner and invest in building capacity, such as healthcare, to address living with this pandemic moving forward.
“The government should opt for a more systemic and surgically precise measure in getting the outbreak under control. Along with saving lives, protecting livelihoods should also be a top priority. These two priorities should not be considered as trade-offs as health and economics are deeply intertwined,” it added.
The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) welcomes the Pemulih initiative, but hopes for the aid to be channelled to tourism players soon in efforts towards reviving the industry.
“Motac is also grateful to the government that all parties, even those in the tourism, arts and culture sectors were given attention,” Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said in a statement.
One of the ways the Pemulih package would benefit this sector is that more than 5,300 travel agencies registered with the ministry would be given a RM3,000 one-off assistance.
– Published in The Malaysian Reserve on 30 June 2021.