Tourism players want Bank Negara to do more to help their industry stay afloat

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 15 Aug 2021

PETALING JAYA: Bank Negara Malaysia should encourage banks to help the tourism industry stay afloat and not just focus on profit margins, say tourism industry players.

Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president Uzaidi Udanis said all tourism players were facing a tough time trying to stay afloat due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We are at war and banks should be together with the rakyat to overcome the crisis.

“There is no point if the banks’ profits look good while the entrepreneurs are in crisis,” he said in a statement on Sunday (Aug 15).

Uzaidi was responding to the remarks made by Bank Negara governor, Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, on Friday (Aug 13) that a full interest waiver during the loan moratorium period could result in serious negative consequences for banks in the long term and more difficulties for the people.

Calling the remarks disheartening, he said banks should help out the tourism industry, which is the third most important economic sector in Malaysia.

“Bank Negara should conduct in-depth studies to identify industries that are badly affected and come up with a good solution to help them overcome their difficulties instead of taking sides with banks.

“It has now been almost 20 months since the tourism industry players have lost their income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Mita hopes Bank Negara will protect the tourism industry’s interest in making sure the banks help the tourism players to stay afloat during this time of crisis and recover before talking about imposing interest on the moratorium given and others,” he added.

Last month, the central bank introduced a six-month moratorium for all individuals, microenterprises and affected SMEs.

Malaysia Budget & Business Hotel Association (MyBHA) deputy president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel said Nor Shamsiah should either “step up or step down” when the country is going through great public health and economic challenges.

“Such a statement should not have come from her. People are in deep trouble. As the country’s central bank leader, she should be the one who puts things in order to help the industries and protect them.

“Every word she says carries weight. Burdening the people should be the last thing on her mind in times like this,” he added.

The Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (Maho) president Tan Sri Teo Chiang Hong said he was appalled by the governor’s statement, which seemed to ignore the prevailing critical business situation facing business operators especially the tourism industry and hotel sector.

“Business has gone to almost a standstill for more than one and a half years. The estimated loss suffered by the hotel sector in 2020 is RM6.5bil. It is not expected to be any better for 2021.

“Businesses have not generated any revenue. Needless to say, the cash flow situation is very tight and critical, there are various fixed operational costs to be paid.

“It is our hope that banks be more sympathetic to our predicament,” he said.

Teo said it was reported that the Malaysian banking sector, having shown a subdued performance, continued to generate profit last year.

“Bank Negara also reported quite a positive performance for banks this year too.

“We seek Bank Negara’s understanding and co-operation to seriously assist businesses to be able to sustain and keep on surviving.

“Waiving interest on loans during moratorium will not make banks go out of business but that noble gesture is a great help to the business operators and not to cause further hardship to businesses in the current Covid-19 pandemic crisis,” he added.

The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong) president Tan Sri TC Goh said the government, through Bank Negara, should give interest-free finance, besides loan moratorium, to economic sectors and low-income groups worst-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Banks should adopt a more considerate policy by providing interest-free finance to successful applicants of the loan moratorium, especially those from the worst-hit economic sectors and low-income group, besides waving the compounding interest and late payment for their existing loans.

“While banks depend on interest income to sustain their operations, they should nonetheless strive to provide stronger support and assistance to their clients during this devastating time,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

If strategically executed, he said the extension of targeted loan moratorium and interest-free finance by the banks would not adversely affect their capital buffer or stop future loan applications, or affect market confidence towards the banks.

Besides, Goh said the government should also, through the banks, continue to provide low interest or interest-free financing to affected SMEs, the self-employed, and the low-income group to help them to survive this pandemic.

“The banking sector should emulate the government’s caring policy to help during this trying time.

“It is necessary that our nation and the banks must stand by the businesses and the people to fight the pandemic,” he said.

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