Chamber warns of severe economic blow

Jonathan Chai Voon Tok

KUCHING: The country’s economy will face severe blow and devastation should a total economic shutdown happen.

“It is important for us to put our life and the public’s health as the top priority when the situation continues to deteriorate. However, this matter is a rather difficult choice as the government needs to balance the economy and the livelihood of Malaysians,” said Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sarawak (ACCCIS) secretary general Jonathan Chai Voon Tok.

“I believe that the government would be able to make sensible decisions with all the advice and inputs from the health experts and the Ministry of Health (MOH). Although MOH had warned us on the spike of the positive cases registered, with the public health system is on the verge of collapse, it would not be a surprise if a total lockdown is declared.

“If that really happens, more stimulus packages would be required, failing which a wave of business closures and massive unemployment would be inevitable and thus, it will lead a severe blow to our economy,” said Chai.

Recently, EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham Malaysia) issued a letter to its members stating that the economic shutdown may happen Feb 4 onwards if there are no decrease in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Chai also stated that in perspective of the business community, they welcome and support any initiatives which could offer financial assistance to the businesses in this hard time.

“Of course, these measures would allow the businesses to have more cash at their disposal and thereby easing their cash flow problem which is commonly encountered by most businesses during the pandemic.

“As it is, the banks will only offer targeted financial assistance to extend support and provide payment assistance to those customers experiencing a decline in income as well as those who continue to be heavily impacted by the pandemic on a case-by-case basis,” he added.

Chai also mentioned that the government should come up with a revised version of Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) as the programme would only benefit those businesses in MCO states for only a month.

“I would like to call on the government to extend financial assistance to the businesses in non-MCO states like Sarawak. In all fairness, I think all businesses in the country should be entitled for such benefit irrespective of locality as everyone has been affected and impacted by this pandemic albeit the extent might vary.

“WSP is widely regarded by the businesses as the most effective measure in overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic. It will definitely be of great help to salvage a lot of businesses from closing down or winding up if the government could come up with a WSP for an extended period of time.

“The government must bear in mind that saving businesses will keep the jobs for the employees and the livelihood of many families and consequently, reinvigorate the falling economy,” he added.