Another wave of COVID-19 cases has struck Malaysia. As such, the banks’ preparedness along with measures undertaken by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) are a shot in the arm for the SMEs of the country in these trying times.

“As the backbone of the nation’s economy, the SME sector deserves all the help it can get during these trying times,” said CIMB Group chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz.

“The priority is to provide SMEs with additional working capital to sustain their businesses and, in turn, safeguard jobs, particularly in adversely affected sectors such as tourism, hospitality and food and beverage services,” he told Bernama in an e-mail interview.

In order to help the SMEs maintain their operations and to keep afloat amid the outbreak, BNM has announced a RM3.3 billion (US$784.3 million) package that will go a long way in alleviating SME financial burdens.

“Apart from financing, we also laud initiatives such as the RM1-billion Agrofood Facility, as well as the RM300-million SME Automation and Digitalisation Facility.

“These facilities come not only with a lower financing rate, but also a longer tenure. Such financing features are crucial to facilitate the SMEs’ medium-term growth plan,” he said.

Banks such as CIMB have also offered their reassurances to its customers that all applications for restructuring and rescheduling of their financing facilities will be given due consideration.

“We are also open to the possibility of extending repayment periods for customers, where necessary. In complementing our national initiatives, CIMB has also committed to disburse RM15 billion in 2019-2020 to help SMEs grow and, coupled with the most recent overnight policy (OPR) rate cut, we strongly believe that the Malaysian SME sector will be well-supported to ride through the current crisis brought about by COVID-19 and other operating challenges,” he said.

For the second time this year, BNM has reduced the OPR on 3 March 2020, lowering it by 25 basis points to 2.50 percent. The reduction is aimed at providing a more accommodating monetary environment to support projected improvement in economic growth.

The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted businesses globally, leading to market volatility and uncertainty for the survival of SMEs. SMEs remain the most vulnerable in terms of managing cash flow, inventory, and distribution of goods and services during this time.

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