John Lau

KUCHING: Sarawak Patriots Association (SPA) hoped the government could address the concerns of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which are badly affected by the movement control order (MCO).

Its chairman Datuk Dr John Lau Pang Heng said the SMEs wanted the government to review its directive on the payment of full salaries to employees in order to afford them some flexibility in dealing with the MCO.

He said these SMEs hoped they would be permitted to pay 50 percent of their employees’ salaries, with the balance to be paid as soon as they opened for business after the MCO.

“During the MCO, these SMEs have no business and no revenue,” he said in a statement yesterday, adding that some had also hoped that the government would allow them to renegotiate their staff salaries during this critical time.

With regard to the wage subsidy of RM600 monthly per employee for three months under the Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package, SMEs urged the government to increase it to RM1,300 and for the duration to be extended to the end of the year.

He commended the assistance provided by the government to those earning below RM4,000 and between RM4,000 to RM8,000, but asked — “What about the SMEs? They are expecting some assistance from the government too.”

Another hope expressed by SMEs, according to SPA, was for the government to allow banks to provide loans without interest to help them retain their employees for at least the next 12 months.

SPA also urged the government to relax the rules of payment for overdue taxes.

“We hope that the government can provide 12 months tax exemption to SMEs so that they can recollect themselves after the Covid-19 outbreak,” said Lau, pointing out that SMEs made up 98.5 per cent of business establishments in Malaysia.

He said that SPA had also received calls from daily paid workers, coffee shop operators and hawkers.

“During the MCO period, hawkers and coffee shop operators have no income. Though they are open for business, their customers have reduced by almost 90 per cent.

“Moreover, the daily paid workers have no income as they have to stay at home to curb the spread of Covid-19. These daily paid workers are getting help from the government, but not the coffee shop operators and hawkers,” he said.

He added that those who worked on a commission basis such as insurance and property agents had no income as well as they could not meet their clients during the MCO.

He therefore hoped that the government would be able to help all who were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly SMEs.