Some businesses have been sidelined

KUCHING: Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) supreme council member Marichelle Livan Lah feels that the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package (Permai) has neglected small and medium business enterprises (SMEs).

Marichelle Livan Lah

“For someone in the business community whose business has been greatly affected since the pandemic started, I believe that the package this time around seems to once again neglect the SMEs which make up more than 80 percent of the business establishments in Malaysia,” she said.

She said businesses which were struggling to keep afloat had been sidelined.

“SMEs are also employers and while handouts like Prihatin can help in the short run, they may not be sustainable. Assisting SMEs helps to secure the employment of these lower income groups that the government is trying to help in the first place,” she said.

She said the Permai package was viewed as an extension of the previous economic packages intended to aid the lower income group, which needed the most help during this pandemic.

“Yet giving them a one-off financial aid will not be able to sustain them through the pandemic and efforts should also be taken to assist them in finding stable incomes,” she said when contacted on Tuesday (Jan 19).

At the same time, Marichelle applauded the government’s efforts to accelerate the Covid-19 National Immunisation Programme, emphasising that finding a cure for Covid-19 and enhancing the health and wellbeing of the people should be the first priority.

“The steady increase in new Covid-19 cases every day is terrifying and more efforts should be directed to helping the frontliners combat the disease,” she said.

She said that based on the experience from previous economic packages, there were many shortcomings with regard to implementation and distribution of assistance. Thus, she hoped the government would give more attention to smoothing out the procedure of aid distribution.

Aside from this, she said she looked forward to more feasible credit schemes and financial assistance for the business community.

“For example, offering subsidies for Employees Provident Fund (EPF) payments, tax relief for landlords offering discounts on rents, and to extend the Social Security Organisation (Socso) wage subsidy to include non-MCO (movement control order) states,” she suggested.

Marichelle said implementation was key to a successful economic package, and therefore the government must work hard to ensure that the assistances and funds reached those that truly needed them the most.

Bell Bernard Aggan

Meanwhile, DCCI treasurer-general Bell Bernard Aggan welcomed the Permai package announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday (Jan 18).

With regard to welfare assistance, he commended the RM50 million allocated to the Social and Welfare Department’s (JKM) food basket programme, providing essential food items to those in need.

“This will help to reduce the burden of the less fortunate during this difficult time,” he said.

Noting that the package also included an extension to the moratorium and loan assistance for affected low- and middle-income groups as well as SMEs, he said this was very timely as it was still uncertain when conditions would return back to normal.

“Another piece of good news is the RM1 billion microcredit scheme from Bank Simpanan Nasional, Agrobank, and Tekun. It will really help to sustain businesses, especially hawkers, petty traders, those in agriculture  and other SMEs,” he said.

Bell hoped the measures implemented under the Permai package would help to reduce some hardships faced by the business community.

“Hopefully, by early March this year, most of our people will be able to get vaccinated and this can help to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases,” he said.