The number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia is on the rise. The situation has become severe enough that the government had announced an extension to country’s the Movement Control Order (MCO) just last week. Recently, the government also announced a RM250 billion stimulus package in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, many SMEs have argued that said package does not do enough to help the struggling SME industry.
These SMEs have pointed out that the stimulus package provides no immediate relief except for a wage subsidy of RM600 per month for three months. Even then, many lament that this subsidy comes with conditions that may not be able to be fulfilled.
While they agree that the government’s move to put money in the hands of people is a good one, they also pointed out that it should be for those in the lower income bracket and not for all segments of the people.
One particular point of contention is the one-off payments of RM500 being made to civil servants who are grade 56 and below, who are earning close to RM9,000 per month and whose salaries are not being affected by the MCO. Similar arguments have been made against pensioners who would continue to receive their monthly payments.
Among the most telling of the comments came from the owner of the homegrown Mydin chain of hypermarkets, Datuk Wira Ameer Ali Mydin, whose views on the payouts to civil servants while small businesses not receiving much incentives went viral on social media.
Mydin, who is also the president of Masjid India Business Association, had said that during the MCO shutdown period, big and small businesses were stuck with rental payments, wage bills and trade facilities to service.
“Landlords want their rentals and trade facilities are not under any kind of moratorium unlike housing and hire-purchase loans. When the MCO is lifted, business is not going to pick up for the next three to six months. How is the stimulus package helping the businesses?” he asked when contacted.
Mydin is just one of many voices representing the SMEs of Malaysia who are levelling criticism against the stimulus package for not providing adequate solutions for the thousands of SMEs that have not been able to operate since the start of the MCO. Other prominent organisations that have pointed out the shortcomings include the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers and the Malaysian Employers Federation, among others.
MEF president Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said the wage subsidy was not much of a help due to the many conditions attached and the position of foreign workers. He had also said employers needed to be saved to save jobs and the national economy.
FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said in a statement that the prolonged MCO had grounded many businesses while employers were burdened to meet wage bills on top of all other expenses. One of his proposed solutions involves extending the RM600 per month wage subsidy to all employees regardless of wage levels. Additionally, he suggest removing the requirement for companies to prove reduction in earnings by 50 percent.
Mydin echoed FMM’s views but suggested that the government subsidise 50 percent of salaries of those earning up to RM6,000 per month for two months. This, he said, would cover all of those in the Bottom 40 and some in