Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin unveiled a new economic stimulus package worth RM150 billion (US$36.2 billion) on Monday (Jun 28), in an attempt to mitigate the impacts of a continued total lockdown as the pressure mounts on the Malaysian government due to recent rise of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Speaking during a televised national address, Mr Muhyiddin said the package – named people protection and economic recovery package (Pemulih) – aims to allow people to cope with the financial difficulties arising from COVID-19.
“I hope this financial package is able to help you continue with your lives in the coming months. I am aware many of you are impacted badly, as a result of battling the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year,” he said.
“Even though millions of Malaysians have received financial help from the government since March 2020 … I understand that help must be extended as long as the pandemic is ongoing.”
He said that RM4.6 billion will be set aside under the special COVID-19 assistance scheme (BKC) to help 11 million people, mainly the elderly and those who have yet to get married.
This includes those in the B40 (bottom 40 per cent) and M40 (middle 40 per cent) categories, who are set to receive between RM250 and RM1,300.
Mr Muhyiddin added that another RM500 million would be set aside for those who have lost income as a result of the pandemic. Under this scheme, around 1 million residents are likely to receive RM500 each.
To help the public with their utilities expenses, the government will give electricity bill discounts of between 5 to 40 per cent to households for three months from July, with a maximum limit of 900 kilowatt hours a month.
For small and medium-sized businesses, Mr Muhyiddin said that the government has agreed to provide additional payments under the special prihatin grant (GKP), where companies which qualify will receive RM500 in September and another RM500 in November.
The Prime Minister said that this scheme could help improve the cash flow for around 1 million small and medium enterprises such as barbers, workshop owners, bakeries and health care centres.
LOAN MORATORIUMS FOR INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESS OWNERS
Mr Muhyiddin also announced that under the Pemulih package, individuals from the B40, M40 and T20 (top 20 per cent) groups, as well as business owners, will be able to receive an automatic six-month moratorium from banks.
Unlike in the previous scheme, applicants for the loan moratorium will no longer be held back by several conditions including requirements to show proof of loss of income or employment due to the pandemic.
“I hope this moratorium initiative will go someway in helping individual borrowers and SMEs in managing their cash flow problems during this challenging period. However, I would also advise the public to resort to this for emergency use only and not to make any additional financial commitments,” he said.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, Putrajaya had rolled out seven stimulus packages worth a total of RM380 billion.
On Sunday, Mr Muhyiddin announced that Malaysia will extend phase 1 of its national lockdown beyond Jun 28 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The restrictions were set to end on Monday but Mr Muhyiddin said that they will not be eased until daily cases fell below 4,000.
He also told reporters that a more comprehensive financial assistance package will be extended to lower-income families as well as small and medium enterprises impacted by the pandemic.
“Everyone is waiting to see how the government is going to help those who are impacted. I would like to stress here that assistance will be given to the B40 and M40 groups, and loan moratorium for the T20 group, we will also consider their needs. It will be a comprehensive package,” said Mr Muhyiddin at the weekend.
“What’s important is for us to give support to all levels of society, and in the current climate, around 12 million individuals are affected. We may increase the level of assistance provided to them,” he added.
In a statement on Sunday evening, Senior Minister for Defence Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that phase 1 of the movement control order (MCO) will be maintained until the three key threshold value indicators are achieved.
The indicators are that the number of daily COVID-19 cases drop to below 4,000, the rate of bed usage in intensive care units is at a moderate level and that 10 per cent of the population has received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Based on the risk evaluation carried out by the Ministry of Health, the government will maintain the phase 1 period nationwide,” said Mr Ismail Sabri in a statement.
“This takes into account the current situation, which has yet to successfully transition from phase 1 to phase 2, where the graph on daily COVID-19 positive cases shows a horizontal trend,” he added.
On Monday, Malaysia recorded 5,218 new COVID-19 cases. There are now more than 735,000 cases nationwide. More than 4,900 people have died from COVID-19 in Malaysia. – (CNA)