THE Covid-19 global pandemic has caused worldwide panic as it continues to devastate the health and livelihood of people and the economic well-being of nations.
Following the enforcement of the movement control order (MCO) beginning March 18, the government under the new leadership of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had announced economic stimulus packages.
Positively, the first package targeted the front liners – doctors, nurses and medical personnel as well as the police, military, civil defence and Rela members – while the second package provided some relief for the M40/B40 groups earning below RM4,000, including taxi and e-hailing drivers and students.
However, the provision of one-off payment of RM500 to 1.5 million civil servants (in Grade 56 and below) and to 850,000 pensioners has raised eyebrows as their salaries/pensions would remain intact and unaffected during the MCO period.
Meanwhile, employers, particularly the more than half a million SMEs, continue to struggle to survive as they have been impacted by substantial revenue losses since January 2020 due to reasons beyond their control.
Unfortunately, the stimulus packages have not addressed the urgent concerns of employers who are trying very hard to keep their businesses afloat and retain their employees.Even the newly-introduced Wage Subsidy Programme worth RM600 for each employee for a period of three months with certain terms and conditions is viewed to be less significant in retrenchment for companies, especially SMEs which face a huge drop in revenue.
The tourism industry was impacted from the beginning as countries imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19. Besides tourism, the travel and aviation sectors have also been badly hit.
After the MCO was enforced and later extended, the situation took a turn for the worse, as there was no way industry could survive.
Meeting payroll would be the biggest challenge for companies that have not been generating any business, and I fear many will go bust during the MCO period.
Should the MCO be extended further, it would be difficult for employers if they are still required to pay full wages and allowances to their employees.
Although the MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd (MIDF Research) reported that Malaysia’s labour market is expected to remain stable despite the Covid-19 fear and weak external demand in the first half of 2020 (1H20), more than 2.4 million employees risk losing their jobs this year should the government fail to incentivise employers to retain their employees
Be that as it may, I would like to echo the views of Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye of the Alliance For Safe Community in his letter “Continue to improve stimulus package” (The Star, March 31) that the government ensures smooth and efficient delivery of the stimulus package through good governance and transparency. Ensuring ample food supply and basic necessities is also of critical importance with strict monitoring of prices and prevention of excessive profiteering.Last but not least, the government must continue to listen to proposals and appeals from various sectors who are on the ground in relation to the stimulus package and make the necessary adjustments and improvements.
Datuk Hj Shamsuddin Bardan
Malaysian Employers Federation
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