KUALA LUMPUR: Businesses welcome the clear phases set out under the National Recovery Plan (NRP) to reopen the economy following the ongoing lockdown, which has been extended to June 28.
The framework, announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, outlined the stages of the plan as well as the criteria to move from one phase to another.
“I think it is a good thing to have the phases spelt out so that we know what to do in these different phases, ” said Koong Lin Loong, SMEs committee chairman of Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM).
However, Koong noted that the plan lacked a detailed strategy to help businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), face the challenges of the weak economy as a result of the pandemic. This makes it a challenge for businesses to plan their own exit strategy.
“For example, the government could have disclosed the expanded positive list of essential economic sectors that will be allowed to open in Phase 2 and at what capacity or whether in Phase 3, dining-in would be possible and limited to certain capacity or to those who have been vaccinated. This will help businesses plan better, ” he said.
While the NRP rightly emphasises tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, Koong opined that a third of the efforts under the plan should also be dedicated to strategic actions to help the economy.
His views were echoed by other business groups.
In a statement, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) pointed out that a strategic direction to reset the economy and assist businesses with their recovery is needed.
FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai (pic below) said businesses need more clarity to plan their survival strategy accordingly, as the prolonged period of non-operation has severely impacted their business viability.
“Some would have to make hard and painful decisions on the future of their businesses if there is no clear indication on when they would be allowed to resume operations.
“FMM has called on the government to allow the export-based sectors, supply chain sectors as well as the smaller sized companies to resume operations, ” he said.
In light of the prolonged phased restrictions, which is expected to ease around October, small businesses may need additional assistance to stay afloat, particularly in the area of cashflow preservation.
SME Association of Malaysia national vice-president Chin Chee Seong said the industry has called on the government to provide further wage subsidy support for three to six months, delay statutory payments for six months and implement the automatic loan moratorium till the end of the year or until herd immunity is achieved.
“The government should also leverage on more technology to track cases, vulnerable groups and those that have been vaccinated and target vaccination efforts in big towns where most of the cases are, so that efforts are targeted and we can recover faster, ” said Chin.
He also noted that standard operating procedures need to be better tailored for the different industries to ensure clearer guidelines are provided to businesses.
Chin hoped that the government would continue to engage the industry to draw up plans and strategies that have more clarity and structure to put businesses and the economy on a clearer path to recovery.
“As mentioned by the Prime Minister, we are losing RM1bil a day. It would take a long time to recover that. So we need a stronger and more strategic plan to help SMEs recover, ” said Chin.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) said it will continue to assist its investee companies to weather the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the venture capital company, the NRP demonstrates a timely path for the nation to emerge from this crisis and will help boost digitalisation and e-commerce as a key thrust to propel Malaysia’s development.
In a statement, the Malaysia Debt Ventures Bhd also noted that the plan, supported by financial reliefs and economic stimulus, will ensure a progressive economic revival for the country.
“We are confident the Prime Minister has the welfare of the close to a million SMEs at heart, in announcing the NRP.
“Therefore, we hope he will not waver in his commitment to re-open the economy as and when the number of daily infections goes down and vaccination ramps up, ” said Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta) Malaysia central chairman Datuk William Ng.