By Jonathan M
THE Government has rolled out a litany of economic stimulus and aid packages following the travel and business restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Huge amounts of money have been allocated to throw a lifeline to the economy battered by the pandemic.
So far, there has been four stimulus packages worth RM305 bil in 2020 for that purpose, including Penjana and Prihatin. Budget 2021 tabled by the Finance Minister last year was the country’s largest ever at RM322.5 bil.
While the Government’s efforts are commendable, as a businessman I am not sure if enough aid is reaching those who need it the most.
I believe those who have fallen between the cracks are the small traders, the self-employed and gig workers, including freelancers.
These are the people who are the most vulnerable to economic shocks. Unlike larger corporations, many live on daily subsistence and do not have the financial reserves to tide them over during this difficult period.
But based on news reports, those who had been receiving a lot of financial aid include civil servants and those who are still gainfully employed.
I do not understand why so much money is being allocated to civil servants. Their salaries and allowances were not cut, unlike many in the private sector.
I also do not understand why those gainfully employed are also receiving financial aid from the Government, especially those who have not had salaries slashed. Why do they and civil servants need a moratorium for their bank loans?
Because some of them are working from home, their productivity has fallen, with no cuts in income. And on top of that, they are enjoying benefits and aid from the Government.
I feel that the Government needs to be more selective in handing out aid. It would be better to look into the plight of employers, many of whom are having a hard time trying to stay afloat in a sea of red ink due to reduction in businesses brought about by COVID-19.
In fact, many of them continue to pay the salaries of their workers, some of whom have not just seen a dip in productivity, but are receiving all kinds of governmental aid like extensions of moratoriums on bank loans.
One area the Government can look into is to expand the wage subsidy programme for employers. Under the recently-announced Permai scheme, employers can only apply if their workers earn RM4,000 or less. Employers are only entitled to RM600 per employee, claimable for only one month.
This is hardly enough for most employers. The Government should consider increasing the salary threshold and subsidy quantum, as well as extend the duration for employers to claim for the subsidy from the current one month.
The haphazard disbursement of funds by the Government has resulted in deserving recipients being deprived of aid. This has created a lot of unnecessary disruption and needs to be rectified. – Feb 4, 2021
Jonathan M is a FocusM reader.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.