KUCHING: With much of the government’s Covid-19 assistance finishing at the end of the year and in light of the current surge of the virus, the federal and state governments should review the respective assistance and provide extensions.
Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers’ Association (Sheda) Kuching branch chairman Datuk Sim Kiang Chiok suggested for the federal government to extend wage subsidies and to reintroduce the bank loan repayment moratorium until March next year.
“The cash assistance should also be increased and extended until March next year to ensure that the ‘start stop’ of the economic disruption and negative spin-off by the Covid-19 pandemic would not affect the people too harshly,” he said in a statement today.
He noted that the federal government had introduced several assistance for the people and businesses to pull through, such as the Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package and the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana), but most of these measures would finish by yearend.
“In this coming Federal and State Budget in November, apart from the aforementioned measures, my hope is that the federal government will relax the income and corporate tax collection, and even reduce tax rates to assist all businesses in this low volume business environment.
“The Covid-19 law on extension of time in most contracts in the country can be extended from the presently approved Aug 31 to the end of December,” he said.
Sim also urged for the federal government to extend additional funding for more small and medium enterprise (SME) loans at low interest rates so that more companies can be assisted in this “start stop” business environment.
As for the upcoming State Budget, he hoped the state government would extend the Sarawakku Sayang Special Assistance (BKSS) cash assistance for those in the B40 or M40 groups, the self-employed, small traders, and hawkers.
He also hoped the state government would pump-prime Sarawak’s economy with more infrastructure, telecommunications, public transport, and modern agricultural works.
With regard to the construction industry, he said progress was slow due to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place to prevent the spread of the virus — including restrictions on foreign workers.
“Most borders are still closed, so increasing the workforce will be difficult in the next few months. The state government has also been pump-priming our economy with more infrastructure works such as road and bridges, but labour shortage will be faced until our borders are open again,” he said.
Likewise, Sim said not much improvement in sales was expected in the development industry as most commercial banks were still very strict in their lending guidelines.
“The banks should relax the lending guidelines by allowing longer lending tenure and staggered repayments when initial repayments are low to match the borrower income, in addition to allowing assets lending instead of just proven income lending where properties can be used to raise capital to fund businesses and overheads,” he urged.
At the same time, he emphasised that political stability was crucial at this juncture and hoped that politicians would unite to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our economic assistance against the pandemic must be adjusted to take into account the third and subsequent waves of the virus — to assist all Malaysians against all eventualities until an effective cure or vaccine is found,” he said.