Jonathan Chai

KUCHING: Kuching Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCGCCI) secretary-general Jonathan Chai Voon Tok has appealed to the government to be pragmatic and do away with the preconditions for businesses to qualify for the employees’ salary subsidy under the RM250 billion People-Centric Economic Stimulus Package (Prihatin) announced on Friday.

From the perspective of the business community, he expressed disappointment over the conditions put in place for the monthly RM600 wage subsidy for three months for each worker earning less than RM4,000 – which states that the company’s income must have declined by at least 50 per cent since January 1 in order for them to qualify for the wage subsidy.

He said this would not be well-received by most businesses as the condition may cause unwanted uncertainties or even controversies.

“The business profit of certain small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is so marginal and thin that a 30 to 40 per cent drop in the volume of their businesses would probably kill them off — let alone the threshold of 50 per cent,” he said.

He also pointed out that the income of some contractors, for example, may be seasonal. “Their income cannot be compared on a month-to-month or even a quarter-to-quarter basis. This would also apply to some consultancy firms.”

He urged to bear in mind that keeping jobs for the people should remain as a top priority as this was the key element in reviving the economy once the Covid-19 pandemic was over — “Save businesses to save jobs.”

Chai said that while the package could be perceived as a comprehensive plan which caters for the needs of all segments of the society, he wished that the government put in place more direct benefits to the business community.

He said that contrary to businesses’ hopes to have a tax cut or tax holiday for corporate and income taxes for the fiscal year 2019, they would only be allowed to defer any payment of tax for a period of three months from April 1.

“This grace period would probably not render much help practically to businesses,” he said.

Nevertheless, he said it was good tidings for businesses that the contributions to the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) would be suspended for six months commencing April, and that employers would also be allowed to restructure or defer the payment of EPF contributions for their employees – pending the official announcement on guidelines by EPF on April 15.

“These two measures would in a way help to ease the cash flow of businesses especially the SMEs who are badly affected by the movement control order (MCO),” he said.

He said that one of the highlights of the stimulus package with regard to SMEs was the extra injection of RM4.5 billion into different types of facilities specifically catered for SMEs.

He hoped that relevant business operators would make full use of these financing opportunities provided by the government through various banks.

“In that respect, we hope that the banks concerned would process and disburse the loans or facilities as expeditiously as possible so that the SMEs in need can truly reap the benefits offered by the government,” said Chai.

He noted that those who would benefit the most from the RM128 billion under the package set aside to address the welfare of the people in need were those categorised as B40 (low-income) and M40 (middle-income).

He felt that frontliners such as doctors, nurses, medical staff, hospital cleaners, and support staff deserved a bigger sum of allowances as a noble gesture of appreciation for their selfless sacrifices, to the extent of even risking their lives for the general public’s wellbeing.

“For that matter, I think our government should also provide special allowances to all the reporters and media personnel who are the key disseminators of information to the public during this critical time,” he stressed.