‘Livelihoods depend on SMEs’

Vital sector: Dr Wee said the direct distribution of cash aid to the B40 and M40 groups was meant to stimulate spending in the market. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) must be protected to safeguard the people’s livelihood and stabilise the country’s economy, says Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (pic).

He said the government is aware that SMEs are the ones driving the country’s economy, adding that livelihoods were dependent on them.

“With 98.5% of the country’s businesses being SMEs, it is only by protecting the SMEs can we safeguard the people’s rice bowl and stabilise the country’s economy.

“The direct distribution of cash aid to the B40 and M40 groups was meant to stimulate spending in the market.

“After getting the cash aid, they should spend on necessities so that the money will flow back to the SMEs, ” he said in an interview.

“This is why the government gives out cash aid to alleviate the people’s burden, stimulate spending and cash flow in the country and subsequently help the SMEs.”

Dr Wee said that Chinese SMEs also benefited from other government initiatives announced in Budget 2021 such as the RM1.5bil to extend the wage subsidy programme and RM100mil in the financing guarantee scheme through Syarikat Jaminan Pembiayaan Perniagaan Bhd (SJPP).

“I used to manage Chinese SMEs and I believe more than 80% of the beneficiaries are Chinese enterprises. Also, the government has allocated RM2bil in loans for SMEs to sustain themselves. I believe most of the beneficiaries are also Chinese companies.

“Besides, the RM6.5bil Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat stimulus package, personal and family medical-related expenses income tax deduction measures and the monthly public transport passes announced in the budget are not just for a single race, ” he said.

Dr Wee noted that the previous economic stimulus packages, such as Prihatin in March, Prihatin SME in April, Penjana in June and the Kita Prihatin in September were all targeted to assist the people and businesses.

“So far, the government has given out about RM13bil in wage subsidy regardless of racial background, ” he said.

“This is a realistic measure to help businesses survive and safeguard workers’ livelihood.

“When the government helps business owners, they will, in turn, keep their workers and ensure the people have their income, so that the unemployment rate is controlled, ” he added.

To a question, Dr Wee said MCA will continue playing its role in the government to improve the country’s business environment and help businesses by providing incentives and allowances for their survival.

“With these, businesses will continue to provide jobs and contribute to economic growth. All these efforts are linked to one another, ” he added.

Dr Wee also made it clear that it was not true that the Chinese community was given a lower allocation in Budget 2021, as there are other allocations that were not directly listed under the RM177mil that was announced.

“As mentioned by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, the RM177mil for the Chinese community in Budget 2021 only included the RM90mil for micro-credit loans, RM84mil for new villages and RM3mil for other initiatives.

“There are other allocations that have not been included there, so it’s wrong to say the allocation has shrunk, ” he said.

Other than RM177mil, Dr Wee said the government continued to provide funding for Tunku Abdul Rahman Universiti College (TAR UC).

“The RM40mil for the institution’s operation and RM2mil for its development are both more than the RM1mil development fund given by the previous Pakatan Harapan government.

“Also, there will be allocations for Chinese primary and secondary schools that will be announced later upon finalisation.

“With all these allocations together, the Chinese community is certainly getting more than RM177mil.

“I agree with Tengku Zafrul that we should look at it objectively and not racialise this, ” said Dr Wee, who is MCA president.

Dr Wee, who is also TAR UC Education Foundation Board of Trustees’ chairman, expressed gratitude to Tengku Zafrul for approving RM42mil to TAR UC in the budget.

“I am thankful for his understanding of TAR UC issues and for reviving the financial assistance, ” he said.

“For the institution and students, this is meaningful because the system of allocation is back to normal in accordance with procedures and not based on anyone’s whim and fancy, ” he added.

Dr Wee noted that the funds will be helpful for the institution’s expenses, such as salaries of the teaching staff, students allowances and other operating expenses.

TAR UC, he said, would continue to strive to provide affordable and quality education to students from lower- and middle-income families.

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