RM30bil more to be distributed

PETALING JAYA: The government has close to RM30bil left to be distributed to the rakyat and businesses in the form of cash aid and indirect assistance.

The amount represents about 63.5% of the government’s initial allocation of RM46.3bil for the entire year of 2021.

These are not inclusive of the additional assistance measures that will be announced in due course to mitigate the impact of the upcoming Phases 2, 3 and 4 of the lockdown.

Speaking at a virtual briefing yesterday, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz (pic) said out of the RM16.7bil cash aid allocated for 2021, about RM8.1bil would be channelled to affected households and individuals between June and December.

This will be in the form of Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (RM4.5bil), Bantuan Kebajikan Masyarakat (RM1.25bil), Jaringan Prihatin (RM1.75bil), eBelia e-wallet credit programme (RM80mil) and assistance for taxi and e-hailing drivers as well as tour guides (RM70.7mil).

Meanwhile, about RM9.8bil in financial aid will be distributed to businesses between June and December.

Earlier, the government had allocated RM14.1bil in cash assistance for this group.

The remaining cash aid for businesses are wage subsidy and hiring incentive programme (RM6.29bil), Prihatin Special Grant (RM1.5bil), microcredit financing facility (RM1bil), electricity bill discount for six sectors (RM344.7mil) and SME Digitalisation Grant (RM14.3mil).

In addition to such assistance, the government will also provide indirect help to four sectors, namely, consumers, education, transportation and agriculture. These include subsidies for petrol, flour, cooking oil and toll, among others.

Out of the RM15.5bil allocated for 2021, about RM4bil has been spent in the first five months of the year, leaving RM11.5bil for the next seven months.

In comparison, the government has only spent RM9bil for such assistance last year.

Despite the government’s limited fiscal space amid astronomical spending incurred since last year to prop up the flailing economy, Tengku Zafrul said the government remain committed to helping households and businesses that were affected by the lockdown.

“In terms of assistance, the government has already announced the Pemerkasa+ package to complement the earlier stimulus packages of Permai and Pemerkasa, as well as Budget 2021.

“In this context, Pemerkasa+ is an additional assistance for the Phase 1 of the lockdown, which is now in place.

“Currently, the government is working on additional assistance according to the needs of each phase under the National Recovery Plan (NRP).

“This will be announced in the near future,” he said.

Tengku Zafrul pointed out that the transition to each subsequent phase of the lockdown would only be done once the criteria mentioned in the NRP were met.

He added that the government does not intend to reopen the economy “too much, too soon”.

Nevertheless, Tengku Zafrul acknowledged that the government could not afford a full movement control order for too long.

“Neither can our rakyat, particularly in terms of loss of income, loss of jobs and ultimately their ability to put food on the table.

“It is estimated that the economy loses RM1bil a day in Phase 1 of the lockdown,” he said.

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