We know that in tough times, cynicism is just another way to give up, and in the military, we consider cynicism or giving up simply as forms of cowardice.– JIM MATTIS, RETIRED UNITED STATES MARINE GENERAL
Since last weekend my neighbour’s CD player has been blaring Soulful Dynamics’ Jungle People with the loudspeakers full blast.
Some of us might be familiar with the lyrics of this song. Two of the lines go like this: Oh jungle people … We are happy people. This was the favourite party song during my college days in the late 70s.
Yeah, my civil servant neighbour and his family of eight are certainly very happy people these days, especially since last Friday. Perhaps it has got to do with the RM250 billion economic rescue package announced by our leader Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
The prime minister introduced a populist package where there is something for everyone — or rather should I say almost everyone — during this trying period when the nation is reeling under the coronavirus pandemic.
Within less than a month of talking over as the eighth premier, he has become the darling of the ordinary people by dishing out a people-centric stimulus package.
Many seem happy. Let’s see who they are.
The four million households with a monthly income of RM4,000 and below who will receive RM1,600 are happy.
Three million people aged 21 and below with an income of RM2,000 or less will get RM800 and they are happy.
One million plus households earning RM4,000-RM8,000 who will be getting RM1,000 are happy.
Even singles have a reason to be happy. Those aged 21 with an income of RM2,000-RM4,000 will get R500. (How I wish I am 21 now, so I can be happy too.)
Tertiary students who will receive one-off payment of RM200 are happy.
E-hailing drivers who will be given RM500 for loss of business are happy.
The 1.5 million civil servants will get cash assistance of RM500 and they are of course happy — they should be. They are the ‘blue-eyed boys and girls’ whom our perintah cannot afford to ignore.
Orang pencen are also happy. They will receive RM500.
Our medical frontliners will get RM400-RM600 a month beginning April 1 until the end of the movement control order (MCO). I think they are happy too.
But I feel these people who have been working their butts off day and night without proper rest, should be receiving much more. If the orang bujang group is given RM500 each, what is RM400-RM600 for the medical personnel?
Perhaps the government should review their payment. There is still time.
And what is RM200 for our security people, especially the army, police, Rela people and customs officers who will receive the payment from April 1 until end of the MCO? Please-lah review their payment.
The M40 group is also happy. A whopping RM10 billion has been set aside.
So much for the happy people. Now, let’s not forget the unhappy ones who feel left out.
I hear the SMEs are not happy. In fact, they are extremely unhappy and disappointed.
Correct me when I say there aren’t much for small and medium entrepreneurs, hotels and the service sector. Looks like we have forgotten them.
The liabilities of these business owners are high and many are badly affected by Covid-19 and the MCO. I hear many are planning to close shop. Of course, there is “something” for them — easy loans — but why take these loans when you have to pay later, and with interest?
SMEs employ hundreds of thousands. If they tutup kedai (wind up) many will be laid off. And these unemployed guys will pose a big headache to everyone!
I came across one message from an SME chap on WhatsApp: “We are so badly affected that some of us prefer to give up rather than take loans and run our business. We seem to be forgotten.
“This a lesson to business owners… politicians will largely skew their interest to their primary stakeholders — the voters, the general public. They would not have businesses at the top of their agenda.
“But the government fails to realise that by adopting an entirely bottom approach it loses the multiplier effect. If you keep SMEs afloat, you keep the bottom order content.”
I feel for the SMEs. I think the above message is loud and clear. SMEs do not benefit much from the stimulus package. There must be something for the 6,000 or so medium entrepreneurs which the government can give.
If we don’t help this group, they will have no choice but to close their business, or retrench the staff or cut salaries.
As one entrepreneur asked: “Where are the incentives to prevent retrenchment of staff. The stimulus package is good for the rakyat but not for businesses. We will collapse as there is nothing much for the SMEs.”
The SME Association of Malaysia warns that at least 50 per cent of SMEs will close down, resulting in about four million workers losing their jobs. Frightening isn’t it?
There is still time to review the package. Muhyiddin, being a caring prime minister, which he has shown by unveiling the RM250 billion stimulus plan, will certainly relook the measures and come up with something for the SMEs.