High time to review essential sectors list, govt urged

PETALING JAYA: With Phase One of the National Recovery Plan still in force, businesses want the government to recalibrate the list of essential services and industries to include their supply and export businesses.They also urged the introduction of automatic moratoriums, rental waivers and relief, tax exemptions and the ramping up of vaccination programmes for industries.

Federation of Manufacturers Malaysia president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai (pic) said even the bigger firms were struggling to survive.

He said the list of essential economic and services sectors approved to operate must include an en bloc approval of the entire supply chain, with an increase in workforce capacity to 80%.

“Manufacturing industries in the non-essential economic sectors that have a smaller workforce and can ensure proper physical distancing at the workplace should be allowed to operate, as well as those with contractual export orders to operate at 50% capacity on a 24/7 basis.“Critical manufacturing sectors such as cement, iron and steel should also be allowed to operate at 50% capacity,” said Soh.

Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said automatic loan repayment moratoriums should be put in place immediately for businesses like restaurants.

“Firstly, we need a rental waiver or relief because most of us do not own our premises.

“On average, every member has a liability of RM1mil with any given commercial bank,” he said, adding that failure by Presma members to pay their loans could give rise to non-performing loans.

“We will pay the banks back once the pandemic is over and the economy fully reopens. We also need the landlords who receive moratoriums to pass on the benefit to tenants like us,” said Jawahar.

Industries Unite coordinator Datuk Irwin Cheong said along with automatic moratoriums, it was asking the government for a 50% reduction in utility bills for commercial rates and a six-month deferment of statutory obligations such as Employers Provident Fund and Social Welfare Organisation payment.

More small and medium enterprises, he added, should also be made eligible for wage support subsidies and rental relief.

Malaysian Retailers Chains Association president Shirley Tay said although it had expected the extension, it hoped the government would let more businesses operate.

“The private sector should also be allowed to procure vaccines as the only silver bullet is the ramp-up of vaccinations,” said Tay.

Chemical Industries Council of Malaysia executive director Datuk Muhtar Hashim said limestone quarries and the lime production industry were currently not allowed to operate despite being on the essential list in earlier movement control orders.

“We urge the government to review the list and allow us to operate,” he said.

Malaysian Automotive Association president Datuk Aishah Ahmad said the industry would be badly affected as vehicles and component parts could not be exported.

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