Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has just announced a new economic aid package worth up to RM15 billion (US$3.7 billion) on 18 January in an effort to mitigate the effects of a resurgent Covid-19 pandemic.
The package was revealed in a televised address and is known as PERMAI, or the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat Protection Assistance Package. Said package is meant to strengthen the effectiveness of the current initiatives that are already in place to help Malaysians cope with the massive economic impact of Covid-19.
“A total of 22 initiatives will be implemented under PERMAI, and they are based on three main objectives – firstly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, secondly to protect the people’s welfare and thirdly to support business continuity,” said Muhyiddin.
The announcement came as Malaysia continues to struggle to contain its third wave of Covid-19 infections. While initially successful in containing the spread of the pandemic, recent developments revealed a slow but continuous climb in the rate of infections, leading the country to once again implement strict movement control orders (MCO).
The prime minister stated in his address that the current initiatives aim to achieve three objectives. The first is to combat the spread of the pandemic, which includes the implementation of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, hiring more workers to strengthen the healthcare system, collaboration with private hospitals and more tests for healthcare frontliners.
For the second objective of protecting people’s welfare, among the initiatives he highlighted was that bank moratorium assistance and loan repayment reduction will continue to be provided.
In addition, the tax relief period for the purchases of mobile phones, computers and tablets, the period for free Internet access by the telecommunication industry as well as the sales tax exemption period on passenger vehicles will all be extended.
The third objective involves supporting business continuity, with initiatives including a one-off monetary assistance for taxi and bus drivers, and a special 10 percent discount on electric bills from January until March to six business sectors across the country.
While many are still rightly concerned about the implementation of the MCO once more, The prime minister reassured that the government does not expect an impact similar to the second quarter of 2020, as the current iteration of the MCO has allowed more economic activities to operate.