PETALING JAYA: Following the highest spike in Covid-19 cases in the country on Sunday (March 15), PKR President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim calls for an increase in allocations for the Health Ministry in the government’s economic stimulus package.
Anwar also said the government must continue to strengthen the capacity of the nation’s healthcare system to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic over the short, medium and long term.
“In this regard, the budget for the Health Ministry in the previous stimulus package needs to be increased substantially from the RM150mil already allocated, ” he said in a statement issued Monday (March 16).
Anwar said the increase in allocations for the Health Ministry would enable them to embark in an immediate large-scale spending programme for additional medical equipment and physical infrastructure for public hospitals and clinics, the distribution of free masks and hand sanitisers for Malaysians, and the increase of test kits and medication for Covid-19.
“Let me be clear, it is the government’s responsibility to undertake these measures and the burden should not be passed to the public, ” he said.
The RM20bil stimulus package was announced by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Feb 27 when he was interim prime minister at that time.
However, last Wednesday (March 11), Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the economic stimulus package would be reviewed to see if the previous amount can be increased.
The reviewed stimulus package, said Muhyiddin, will be launched in one to two weeks’ time.
At the same time, Anwar stressed that efforts should be focused on assisting those who are poor and marginalised, as they will be harmed the most in the event of a recession.
Anwar said the Finance Ministry should increase the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) payments this year, and consider additional one-off cash payments for all BSH eligible households.
“Also, I encourage making employment insurance available for employees forced to go on unpaid leave, focusing on sectors directly impacted by Covid-19.”
“I also propose to strengthen the economic response, include SST exemptions for all sectors until June 2020, and to directly affected sectors for the whole of 2020.
“Incentives/grants for the use of e-commerce and delivery services to small and medium retail and F&B businesses; cash flow assistance for SMEs impacted by supply chain disruptions; and loan forbearance offered by banks to low-income households coping with late mortgage payments, ” he said.
Anwar stressed that urgent and difficult decisions need to be made by the present government, as he said that signs are already pointing to a recession similar to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, when he was the then-deputy prime minister.
“I urge the prime minister to stop focussing on the political manoeuvrings of his Bersatu coalition and devote his full attention to the crisis affecting the rakyat, ” he added.
Malaysia saw its worst development in the Covid-19 outbreak on Sunday, after 190 new patients were detected in just one day, bringing the figure to a total of 428 cases.
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