Community chest to tackle pandemic

THE RM15bil Permai package with 22 initiatives announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday is a slew of measures designed to help those most directly and adversely affected by the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The package, among others, target the frontline health workers who have been heroically looking after the sick in hospitals, the business community which has been severely hit by restrictions imposed by the movement control order, and the general public reeling from loss in income or their jobs.

The new measures are obviously the result of consultation and close monitoring and observation of the developing Covid-19 situation. This is as it should be.

The government must be lauded for the speedy introduction of these measures, which are urgently needed to safeguard the people’s welfare and support the business community.

It is inevitable that despite the best-laid plans of mice and men, there will be those who will fall through the cracks.

To address this problem effectively, there must not be any leakage in the implementation of the measures; there should be safeguards to ensure that the needy groups are well targeted; and the measures must be rolled out as soon as possible.

And if, after careful monitoring of the implementation of the relief measures, it is found that the plans must be tweaked to ensure maximum bang for the buck, this should be done.

There have been some suggestions as to how this can be achieved. For instance, there is a view that loan moratorium should be given automatically to both corporate and individual borrowers to offset the effects of the economic slowdown.

It has also been suggested that PTPTN borrowers should be given automatic moratorium instead of having to apply for it.

Among the measures that are a boon to the workforce is the renewed wage subsidy programme, which will assist employers to retain as many workers as possible, thus stabilising the labour market. It is suggested that this programme be automatically extended until the Covid-19 infection curve is flattened.

Another novel proposal in the Permai package is the one-off financial assistance to 14,000 tourist guides and 118,000 drivers of taxis, tour buses and e-hailing vehicles, among others. It is hoped that this relief will also be extended for as long as that segment of the market remains depressed.

Would NGOs, orphanages and old folks homes also be eligible for special grants?

Another aspect that needs looking into is the rakyat’s mental well-being. Many individuals are facing mental health problems as a direct result of the restrictions imposed on their movement during the pandemic.

Counselling services could do with an injection of much-needed financial assistance to the Health Ministry to deal with the increasing number of cases. A special allocation should also be considered to assist and motivate various NGOs like Befrienders KL to provide counselling to those severely affected by mental health issues arising from Covid-19.

Would the authorities consider setting up a website where the rakyat can give immediate feedback on the efficacy and suitability of the relief measures?

While new relief measures are being considered as the pandemic continues, could the rakyat also think about doing their bit by starting a community chest to which people can contribute money as a show of compassion and solidarity? Management of this proposal can be worked out.

The money collected could be used to boost the national effort so that we can proudly say to our fellow citizens, “We Care!”



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