KUCHING: Business groups here have lauded the Perikatan Nasional government’s Wage Subsidy Programme (PSU) as it has helped employers retain their workers amid the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz recently announced that a total of RM12.16 billion had been approved under the programme as of Oct 30, and was expected to benefit some 322,284 employers and 2.639 million employees nationwide.

Employers can still apply for PSU 2.0, which commenced on Oct 1 as it is open for application until Dec 31.

Affected employers are urged to obtain the government’s assistance to maintain operational capacity and ensure their companies remain competitive as the business environment improves.

Bujang Boji Sitam

In welcoming the programme, Dewan Ekonomi Melayu Sarawak (DEKOMS) president Bujang Boji Sitam said he views staff lay-offs and retrenchment seriously as it causes unemployment rate to increase and can cause socio-economic problems in the society.

He suggested that information about PSU be further disseminated to employers throughout Sarawak.

“There are still many employers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic who do not know about PSU and are not able to benefit from it. We urge employers to obtain the latest information on PSU and make immediate claims so that dismissal and retrenchment of staff can be avoided,” he said.

He also suggested that the amount of allocation be reviewed as there are still many companies – big and small – that are badly affected by the pandemic and could use the assistance.

Joseph Lau Ka Hoo

Sarawak Manufacturers Association (SMA) president Joseph Lau Ka Hoo said that the association strongly supports government policies and would like to see them being implemented effectively.

“The government should give its full support to help manufacturers rebound and sustain the economy during Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Lau said that taking care of the welfare of the members is the primary task of the association.

“The association is a bridge to convey the voices and demands of members to the government. Due to the pandemic, many manufacturers are facing great challenges.

“We hope that the government will continue to promote the Wage Subsidy Programme and low interest soft loan before Covid-19 vaccine is available to assist businesses to tide over the difficulties,” he said.

Dato Sim Kiang Chiok

Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers’ Association (Sheda) Kuching branch chairman Dato Sim Kiang Chiok noted that there has not been mass business failures because of the government’s bank moratorium and wage subsidies until September.

“Then, there is the announced assistance in extending the wage subsidies for business with lowered turnovers by 30 per cent until the end of December,” he said.

Sim, however, observed that there is debate over the new proposed wage subsidies that are narrowed down to tourism and retail sectors.

“This third wave (of the pandemic) has not only affected the tourism and retail sectors but has a negative spinoff on other industries too. If the new budget do not assist all business sectors that are having their turnovers being affected and lowered, there will be more retrenchment and unemployment will rise further which will put more Malaysians to hardship,” he noted.
He suggested that the government should also allow blanket bank moratorium for another six months for all the loans that are not repaid.

“It will give breathing space and time for companies to revive and recapitalise, individuals can have extra to spend and will assist in pushing this sluggish economy forward due to the MCO,” he said.

Choo Hua Lai

Sarawak Furniture Industry Association (SFIA) president Choo Hua Lai said that the industry welcomes the subsidy but hopes that the government will provide even more support for the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here.

“SMEs create job opportunities for the people, so the government needs to look into giving more support to them besides providing funds to support staff’s wages and salaries, such as further tax reduction,” he said.

He said that of over 400 members in the association, a vast majority falls under the SME category.

On a general business outlook, Choo believes the wage subsidy and all other assistance from the government had provided some forms of financial relief to the people, thus allowing them to have available money to spend on furniture and electrical goods.

“These assistance help some of the businesses. For example, showroom direct sales. Many of their sales went up in July to early September, which could be due to the various assistance provided to the people during the pandemic.

“However, custom-made furniture is greatly affected. Sales have slowed down,” he said.

In addition to the Wage Subsidy Programme, there is also the RM912 million Prihatin Special Grant (GKP) 2.0, a one-off financial aid for 304,000 micro-enterprises to ease the financial burden of their business affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. This will be channeled to them starting November 30.

Together with GKP 1.0, the total number of recipients approved is almost 849,000, which amounts to RM2.55 billion in total financial assistance.

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