KUCHING: The Sarawak government has announced a second economic aid package valued at RM1.1bil to ease the burden of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), micro enterprises, hawkers and petty traders amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said this was over and above the RM1.15bil package announced on March 23, which was targeted at frontliners, households and the business community.
"I'm aware that SMEs are key drivers of Sarawak's economy. The SMEs make up over 75% of our business sector, contributing 20% to Sarawak's GDP and provide about 600,000 jobs for Sarawakians.
"Therefore, I feel it is important for the state government to be responsive to the problems faced by SMEs and micro enterprises, as well as hawkers and petty traders, so that they remain resilient in the face of economic pressures that are affecting us all," he said after chairing a state Cabinet meeting here on Friday (April 10).
Abang Johari said the second aid package would comprise four measures, including interest-free soft loans for SMEs, a special grant of RM1,500 to hawkers and petty traders, and rental waiver for retail SMEs in premises owned by state government-linked companies (GLCs).
He said interest-free loans of RM1bil would be made available to the state's SMEs in collaboration with Maybank, Hong Leong Bank and RHB Bank under Bank Negara's special relief fund, with the state government absorbing the interest costs.
"The financial implication for the interest rate subsidy over three and a half years is RM80.7mil," he said, adding that SMEs needed to apply for the loans directly from the three banks and must have been in operation for at least three years.
SMEs operating for less than three years can apply for the RM50mil micro-credit scheme announced in the first package.
For this scheme, Abang Johari said the 2% interest rate would be abolished for three and a half years.
He said micro enterprises could apply for a maximum loan of RM50,000 each from the scheme, operated by Agro Bank Bhd and Sarawak Economic Development Corp.
Abang Johari also said a special grant of RM1,500 would be given to each hawker and petty trader registered with local authorities in the state, involving an overall cost of RM98.4mil.
He said the grant would be paid to eligible recipients through their Sarawak Pay e-wallet account in two tranches.
Petty traders without Internet connectivity, such as those in rural areas registered with the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) or Agriculture Department, will be given cash vouchers.
Abang Johari also said there was no need for the state government to table a supplementary supply bill for its two aid packages.
"This is because the funds are already made available via the contingency fund as approved by the state legislative assembly in the 2020 budget," he said.