KUCHING:A notable economic analyst said the Sarawak government must assist individuals who have been significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as developing a post-pandemic economic plan as soon as possible.
Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) Sarawak commissioner Associate Prof Datuk Dr Madeline Berma highlighted that several aids were essential to be given during this recovery stage, a critical imperative for individuals in need.
“Cash handouts should be provided to those who lost their income due to the movement control order (MCO) to help them put food on their table,” she said.
“This is crucial because, as we have seen, the number of suicides has increased owing to depression and financial problems, which is why we must take measures to provide financial assistance.
“Perhaps bring back the one-off payment aid, which will gradually help with people’s daily expenses as well as aids for the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who are affected by the MCO.”
Madeline also added that the government and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) must compel banks to extend the loan repayment moratorium.
“This would include workers who lost their jobs this year and those who were forced to take deep pay cuts or go on unpaid leave.
“Official statistics show that many workers have been left unemployed as a result of the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and if the economy has not yet recovered, it will take time for workers to get back on their feet and service their loans.
“Meanwhile for SMEs, it is crucial for the government to ensure their survival. The majority of Malaysians will lose their jobs if SMEs fail.”
She also added that in the current pandemic situation, it is best for the government to continue with a targeted moratorium, and not introduce the deferment of loan payment or blanket moratorium at all.
“A blanket moratorium is not in the best interest of the economy amid this pandemic situation.
“The government must also develop a post-pandemic economic plan in order to revive the economy as soon as possible.”
Madeline said in the meantime, the government needed to think of other ways to reduce the spread of Covid-19 to help with the recovery process of the country, as well as the recovery of economic sectors.
“At the same time, the vaccination process must be expedited to achieve herd immunity as soon as possible,” she said.
“If we want the economy to recover, we must first ensure that everyone gets the vaccine so people can work and more sectors can be opened.
“Moreover, the government should develop the Covid-19 test for all workers in order to prevent infected individuals from spreading the virus around …this will eventually help curb the spread. There is no need for the government to wait until the person has symptoms before administering the Covid-19 test,” she added.
Madeline also stressed that the government needs to re-examine businesses classification as essential services.
“The government needs to re-examine which business should be classified as essential services such as computer, telephone and electrical shops for the needs of home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) sessions, work from home and so forth,” she said.
“It breaks my heart to watch my students who want to learn but do not have enough material since the stationery shops are closed, especially in rural areas.”