Cheah: We are at a tipping point

Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah said the coronavirus crisis had resulted in the closure of numerous businesses that had cost the jobs of millions of people.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Sunway Group is urging the government to come up with strategic initiatives in Budget 2022 that can aid ailing businesses that have been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah said the coronavirus crisis had resulted in the closure of numerous businesses that had cost the jobs of millions of people.

“We are at a tipping point and there’s a lot of suffering. These are not normal times as we need extraordinary policies that we can put out to the people, especially those with businesses.

“We need to encourage them to invest or reinvest and, to bring up their businesses because jobs are being lost by the millions and people are finding difficulties in putting food on the table,” he said at the Merdeka and Malaysia Day edition of the MIDF Conversations series webinar yesterday.

The event was hosted by MIDF group managing director Datuk Charon Mokhzani.

Cheah, who is also the founder and trustee of the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, said the initiatives to be announced at the upcoming budget should be different from previous years’ policies.

“The initiatives and policies need to be very different from the old budgets, taking into consideration the suffering in Malaysia right now.”

At its inaugural pre-budget statement earlier this week, the Finance Ministry said Budget 2022 will prioritise continuing programmes to support and spur economic recovery in line with the gradual reopening of the economic sectors through the National Recovery Plan.

It will also address potential lingering and longer-term effects of the pandemic on public health and economic structure.

Another theme of Budget 2022 will be to ensure the continuity in policy and assistance provided to the people and businesses.

Budget 2022 will be tabled on Oct 29.

Additionally, Cheah said several parties, including himself, had a meeting with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed on Wednesday to discuss the new conditions that had been imposed under the recently reactivated Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme.

“Instead of providing more incentives, there are now more hurdles added to the MM2H programme. The participants under the programme have brought in billions of ringgit into the country.

“These people also bring their families and friends in, which ends up being a boost to our tourism sector. But now, the goalposts have been moved and that is not a good thing.”

Cheah cautioned that changing policies at whim can affect confidence and trust.

“Years ago between 1998 and 1999 during the Asian Financial Crisis, I was trying to court a lot of fund managers to invest, but many of them would complain that our government’s track record was very bad.

“They would say not only does the government move the goalposts, they would also change the game!”

On Aug 11, the government said the MM2H would be reactivated with nine new conditions after the programme was suspended in August last year in view of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The new conditions require participants to be in the country for at least 90 cumulative days in a year and have an offshore income of at least RM40,000 a month, compared with RM10,000 previously.

They must also have a fixed deposit account of at least RM1mil, with 50% maximum withdrawal allowed for the purpose of buying property or spending on health and children’s education.

MM2H is scheduled to resume in October with applications to be reviewed by the Immigration Department instead of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry as was done previously.

These new conditions led to criticism that they were too restrictive and thus counterproductive to any economic recovery plan.

Earlier this week, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said the government is prepared to re-examine the new criteria imposed on the MM2H programme.

Cheah is also urging the government to carefully reconsider any future initiatives or policies.

“This is because we are in extraordinary times and we need motivation, not news of this and that being changed or cancelled.

“I know it’s not easy, but I believe we need to strategise and see how we can get to the root of the problems and help the people.”

Cheah noted that the government has been actively driving digitalisation in powering the nation forward in this digital age.

“But you can’t solve problems in a digital age with an analog mindset,” he said.

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