Measures to drive economy

The Iskandar Malaysia Bus Rapid Transit system during a pilot test in Kota Iskandar. It is one of the major infrastructure projects in Johor. — Filepic

THE Federal Government should kick-start new, large-scale infrastructure projects under Budget 2022 to boost the economy.

Johor Master Builders Association (JMBA) president Tee Kee Sim said the construction industry could be the main economic driver.

“Embarking on mega infrastructure projects will benefit and stimulate our economy, which has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic,’’ he said when contacted.

Tee said the construction industry contributed significantly to economic activities.

“It benefitted some 240 sectors directly and indirectly, including hardware businesses, retail, hospitality, food and beverage outlets, as well as transport services and logistic providers.”

He said government spending on infrastructure projects would create more job opportunities for semi-skilled, skilled and professionals in the construction industry.

“The salary earned by them will go towards personal and household expenses and consumer goods, besides filling the government’s coffers,” he said.

He highlighted that among the projects in Johor, especially in Iskandar Malaysia that would benefit contractors in the state included the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit Link System (RTS) and Iskandar Malaysia Bus Rapid Transit (IMBRT).

Tee said while mega infrastructure projects would mostly benefit major construction companies, measures were also needed to help small and medium-sized contractors.

He said the government could implement public works projects under next year’s budget.

These include building new or upgrading public hospitals, health clinics, schools, bridges, community halls, government staff quarters, road and drainage improvement jobs and affordable houses by government-linked companies.

“We appeal to the government to give tax relief to construction companies that are badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and to control the escalating prices of building materials,” said Tee.

“We also hope the government will consider allowing Indonesian construction workers who returned to their country to come back to work in Malaysia,” he added.

Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association (Perusim) secretary Hussein Ibrahim hoped the government would come up with incentives to assist small businesses and petty traders under Budget 2022.

“Covid-19 is unlikely to go away next year and although we will treat the pandemic as endemic, the economic outlook remains uncertain,” he said.

He suggested that the incentives could come in the form of financial assistance, subsidies or rebates.

He also wanted the government to ease the process of getting bank loans as small businesses and petty traders were facing red tape.

“Another issue is the escalating prices of essential items. Customers are not happy if we increase our prices,” he added.

Hussein suggested the government set up a wholesale centre in every major city and town in the country under the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry.

“The move will help to control the prices of essential items and reduce the role of middlemen,’’ he said.

Perusim presently has close to 300 members, with 200 operating Indian Muslim restaurants while the rest run sundry shops, trading companies and money-changing businesses.

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