THE Associated Chinese Chamber and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) has earned acclaim from governments – present and past – for its active role in contributing to national economic development. Faced with the onslaught of Covid-19, this trade body may deserve more accolades this year.
Since its formation 99 years ago, this apolitical body representing all Chinese businesses in Malaysia has never failed in its mission to serve the community and nation by submitting proposals on the Budget, measures to spur growth, improve economic management and voicing concerns of the business community and the people.
In the recent past, it even showed it could rise to the occasion. When Malaysia was besieged by the 1MDB scandal that caused foreign direct investment (FDI) from the West to shun the country, the ACCCIM took the lead to help the country bring in FDI from China and create jobs and business opportunities.
Its trilingual president Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap, in a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during the latter’s official visit to Malaysia in late 2015, boldly proposed that Beijing buy Malaysian government bonds to stop the further plunge of the ringgit. The impact of that was the local currency strengthened and stabilised against the US dollar the following day.
This year, the ACCCIM again answers the call to serve the nation after the Covid-19 pandemic hit public health and the economy.
According to a reliable source, the ACCCIM’s private think tank has been contributing many valuable ideas on how to rescue the economy at various meetings with Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of economic affairs.
The Socio-economic Research Centre (SERC), headed by respected economist Lee Heng Guie, has been participating in high-level meetings deliberating on concrete measures to stop the decline of the economy and reduce pains suffered by virus-inflicted businesses.
Exactly how much work has this national apex Chinese chamber done for the country in the five months after Tan Sri Muhyddin Jassin became the Prime Minister in March? Plenty.
All that has been done for the nation is recorded in ACCCIM’s 2019/2020 annual report released to its members at the organisation’s 74th annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday.
The president’s speech summarised the most important tasks carried out in the last five months.
The chamber formed a special task force at the start of the movement control order (MCO) in March to proactively communicate with new Cabinet ministers on problems faced by industries and traders – big and small, and to explore solutions.
“In the past year, we had submitted 44 proposals and memoranda to the government. Out of these, 23 were submitted during the MCO, ” said Ter at his president’s speech at the AGM.
The 23 documents contained proposals on “effective” strategies and measures to stimulate the economy, rescue enterprises as well as the business community, save jobs and the economy as a whole.
Ter also told delegates at the AGM – with seating that observed strict safety protocols – that he led ACCCIM leaders to present post-MCO proposals to the Prime Minister on July 20.
One of the key proposals discussed was the extension of the loan moratorium for financially distressed businesses and individuals.
The meeting was attended by Mustapa and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz.
“The PM was very serious about the meeting. He was seen highlighting the important points raised by the ACCCIM during the meeting, ” one attendee told Sunday Star.Two days before this meeting, the ACCCIM expressed its concerns to Bank Negara Malaysia over the upcoming expiry of the six-month loan moratorium at end-September 2020.
Ter shared the findings of a survey done by SERC, which showed that 37% of companies had less than three months of cash flow to cover business operations while 42% of its respondents had 3-6 month’s cash flow.
About 45.7% of total respondents needed an additional six month moratorium on their loans, while 20.7% were asking for an additional three months.
Ter told delegates: “Although movements were restricted during the MCO, ACCCIM never stopped working. Our secretariat and SERC staff were working from home and continued to serve the needs of the members.”
To the delight of ACCCIM leaders, the Prime Minister on Wednesday afternoon announced an extension to the loan moratorium and banks’ targeted financial assistance to provide continuous financial relief assistance to borrowers (individuals and businesses).
Muhyddin said individuals who lost their jobs in 2020 and still haven’t found a new job could enjoy the moratorium up to Dec 31.
The National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM), also headed by Ter, said this could support the economy
and business recovery as Malaysia emerges from the pandemic.
It said in a statement: “All the targeted flexible loan repayments and assistance programmes will benefit three million individuals and SMEs.”
But ACCCIM knows that it cannot rest on its laurels if it wants to stay relevant.
It has mobilised its members to support the call by the Prime Minister to buy Malaysian products to support local businesses and stimulate local consumption.
Despite being a “pure” Chinese group, its president has often emphasised national unity and cooperation with other ethnic groups in his speeches.
Under Ter’s leadership, the ACCCIM has set up a special committee to help enterprises of other ethnic groups to venture out, particularly in seeking business opportunities in China.
Naturally, the ACCCIM has plenty of suggestions for the government to act.
Among the 38 resolutions passed at the AGM are proposals to help distressed SMEs, stimulate property and agriculture sectors, revert the taxation system to a goods and services tax (GST), review foreign labour policy and rescuing the tourism sector.
From the president’s speech, his views and proposals comprised the following:
¤ Urging the government to provide reinvestment incentives to local investors to promote domestic investments, as there is uncertainty over FDI.
¤ Calling for a focus on restoring economic confidence and political stability in the country, as uncertainty could erode confidence and deter investments. Investors want to see clarity, consistency and continuity in policy.
¤ The government must “protect” existing investments approved by past governments.
¤ The government and its key agencies must hold more dialogues with the private sector before formulating any policy to ensure it is “workable”.
¤ The 2021 Budget should contain more long term and sustainable economic measures.
¤ Urging all political leaders to place national interest and welfare of the people first in ruling the country and articulating political statements.
Contributions by the ACCCIM in the rejuvenation of the economy cannot be quantified as there is input from other groups too. And most importantly, the government has implemented vigourous measures to stop the spread of the virus and the bleeding of the economy.
But the good news is that a CIMB report states Malaysia will be the first country in Asean to recover from economic contraction this year. In addition, UOB Malaysia expects the local economy in the fourth quarter of this year to register positive growth.
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