A local think tank said the self-employed and gig workers were among those left out of the additional RM10bil stimulus package to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin yesterday. “This means that hawkers, handymen, school bus drivers, artists, and property agents won’t be covered. These are some of the most affected groups during the movement control order (MCO) period, ” said Research for Social Advancement (Refsa) executive director Tan E. Hun.

Tan noted that Refsa and other think-tanks such as the Khazanah Research Institute and the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) have suggested that these groups of people be included under SOCSO’s Employment Retention Programme.

“In short, we think that the recent announcement is encouraging and will be able to lend some support to the ailing SME sectors. “However, there are still many who fall through the cracks.

“We will need a blanket wage subsidy programme so that micro, small and medium companies as well as own-account and gig workers can all benefit from it, ” he said in a statement on Tuesday (April 7). He said the government must be agile and quick to respond to this crisis with “bold and out-of-the-box thinking” to allow the economy to emerge from this crisis without irreversible damage.

“We are concerned that the tiered system of RM600 for firms with 200 pax above, RM800 for firms between 76-200 pax, and RM1,200 for firms under 75 pax might still come up short in solving the dilemma of SMEs in retaining workers. “While the three-month timeline is good, it may not be sufficient to cover the amount of time required for businesses to recover.

He added that there must be a distinction between the needs of micro enterprises with regard to the RM3,000 one-off handout. “There’s no distinction on the type of micro enterprises in the handout of the one-off RM3,000.

“A T20 digital marketer at home and a B40 pisang goreng seller are both micro-enterprises if they registered their companies, but they certainly have different needs depending on how badly their businesses are affected, ” he said.

Tan was commenting on the additional RM10 billion assistance package targeted at helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which have been affected by the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an immediate response to the stimulus package, Publisher of SME Magazine, Dato William Ng also called on the government to take into consideration the plight of Malaysians operating in the gig economy. “Some of these would be registered businesses, and would fall under micro enterprises and therefore entitled to the RM 3000 subsidy announced. However, many have not done so – and therefore are once again left out by the updated stimulus pacakge.”

 

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