KUALA LUMPUR – Announcement of PEMULIH PACKAGE shows the government do listen to the people and the industry. It addresses key concerns and challenges on the ground. More importantly, it is with greater focus in continuous caring for rakyat, supporting businesses and increasing vaccination rate.
Caring for Rakyat
Government has always been putting their focus into caring for rakyat 1st if we look into all the stimulus packages. I am happy that PEMULIH PACKAGE has not left out the M40again. Despite the assistance is merely RM 250 per household and RM 100 for singles, M40 whom many have even more financial burden is being looked into. Yet, I’m really puzzled why the RM 500 Lost Income Assistance will only be disbursed in October. Loss of income has a great impact on the financial capability of individuals and households. Why can’t the government disburse it immediately to tackle the urgency so that they can sustain until they find a new job?
Government is commendable to extend the Job Seeking Allowance to new graduates, school leavers and informal workers like freelancers. Place and Train initiative undertaken by HRDCorp is also the most practical approach to reduce unemployment.
In the PEMULIH PACKAGE, it was announced that people will enjoy up to 40% discount from the electricity bill. Yet it is a tier system. 40% is only applicable to usage below 200 kilowatt a month. With most people staying at home and working from home, most households will be using much more than 200 kilowatt a month. Hope that the calculation will not be as complicated as what was announced last year. The free daily 1gb data is considered essential for most of us and I’m glad that it is extended to December 2021.
This is what is closest to my heart being the National Vice President of SME Association of Malaysia and running a consulting agency supporting SME business growth. SME contributed 39.8% to GDP , 17.9% to export and 48.4% of the country’s employment for the year 2019. Yet based on the survey conducted by SME Corp. Malaysia, about 73% of SMEs are expected to register losses in 2020. It is of great concern to the country if SMEs are not well taken care of.
Government never failed to take care of micro SMEs which is over 76% of total SMEs. The impact is a great high number of business owners and the people they employ. GKP 4.0 is announced with an additional RM500 to be paid in the months of September and November to over 1 mil entrepreneurs. Again, why not provide assistance when most are not operating during FMCO and need to wait till 2nd or 3rd stage of the national recovery plan?
I have to say that wage subsidy programme is one of the most practical programmes to safe jobs and safe businesses. Talent will be the last a business would want to cut if given a choice. Wage subsidy will lessen SMEs burden of operational overheads when there is low or no business transactions. Extending PSU 4.0 which applies to all sectors and to employees with salary more than RM 4,000 is a wise decision as this will indirectly keep jobs of many M40. Penjanakerjaya 3.0 as a complementing programme to increase employment had given job opportunities to over 75,800 people. However, there is still a group that the government might have missed out – The undergraduates Interns. It is a must for undergraduates to undergo internship before graduation. There are less opportunities for Internship as employers would prefer hiring experience talents with Hiring incentives instead of paying interns allowances. Can these undergraduates graduate and can they fit into the working environment after graduated?
As for the incentives to replace foreign workers with Malaysian has good intentions. Government should have a more extended plan on where these foreign workers will go at this time? While some companies lack of them, is there an “Exchange platform” to neutralise the unbalanced supply and demand of foreign workers.
I have to agree that Shop Malaysia online will surely help a lot of entrepreneurs especially those in the gig economy and informal sectors. I would recommend that it should be limited to offerings of Malaysian products and Malaysian e-market places to help support locals .
Under the SME Digitalisation Grant announced last year, the government was supposed to disburse RM100 million in 2020 to benefit 20,000 SMEs. But in November last year, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah claimed that RM14.6 million matching grants had been approved to 5,087 eligible SMEs, which involved 90% of the total number of applications received. We are far from reaching the target disbursing RM 100 mil. Under PEMULIH, additional RM 100 mil is allocated to the fund. Why is that so? The funds will be sitting there. The low adoption is it due to low awareness or complicated or slow processing that dampened the interest of SMEs to apply? I have to say that this additional RM 100 mil should go to programmes like Smart Automation Grant by MIDA which application has been closed due to insufficient funds available. Automation will not only reduce dependence on foreign workers but will increase productivity and competitiveness of SMEs as well. We should never forget that SMEs contributes to over 17.9% of export.
I am happy that the interest of many of the non-essential services and negative list of PKP are being looked into. Creative industry, childcare centre, tourism, school canteens, sports related businesses will be given RM 1,000 to RM 3,000 one-off assistance despite insufficient to stay afloat.
Deferment of Company Income Tax instalment has been raised to the government in various engagement sessions and has finally been accepted. It really makes no sense to pay tax installments in advance of your potential profit where most businesses (73% according to SMECORP) will be making losses. It will surely ease the cash flow of many SMEs.
Yet there is still disappointment over Bank loan moratoriumwhich is still subject to the bank’s evaluation and approval. The Industry has highlighted the importance and urgency of automatic loan moratorium with opt-out option. Surveys and researches have many times indicated the seriousness of cash flow issues. Banks evaluation and approval process are not only slow but many still look at sales turnover and financial results as key criteria. In the end, those who really need it can’t get it and those who are doing ok get more liquidity. It is no rocket science to understand that once 20% or even just 10% of SMEs closed down, employment rate and GDP will be greatly affected. Some business owners might need to go for bankruptcy not being able to pay their loans and debts. It takes years before a company can be rebuilt to a growing stage.
Speed of Vaccination is the key and only way to get us out of this pandemic and economic turmoil. It is relieving to know that the government continuously increasing number of PPV and to be operated 7 days a week. Government should consider getting civil servants or unemployed / retrenched workers as volunteers to assist in these PPV so that the operating hours can be extended as well. Government can offer higher allowance to unemployed / retrenched workers which helps to reduce their financial burden yet to be productive.
On the other hand, PIKAS has gained momentum with 670,000 workers registered under 4,500 companies. These figures are only from MITI. Imagining if other Ministries kick-off the programme immediately. The herd immunity will be achieved in no time and the National Recovery Plan will be shortened. What are the other ministries waiting for?
Overall, I still in the opinion that PEMULIH is a good package. Yet, The government needs to acknowledge that the announcement of policies and packages is just half of the story. The ultimate success to help people and businesses is still highly dependent on execution. Only RM 200 bil has channelled out from over RM 380 bil announced through previous 7 stimulus packages. In addition, there are about RM 100 bil yet to be spent from the budget 2021 amounting RM 33.5 bil. How long does it take for PEMULIHAN incentives to reach the deserving parties?
In the period of pandemic, speed is crucial to control the covid-19 virus as well as ensuring the government assistance reaches people and businesses quickly to put food on the table and to avoid closure of businesses. There are still RM 180 bil yet to be channelled out to the needy. Why is it so? Red Tape or lack of clarity? Have we leveraged on all government assets and communication platforms to help to expedite it? Not forgetting that businesses especially SMEs should constantly adhere to SOPs. This is a battle that needs all to fight TOGETHER. – MalaysiaSME