by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by BERNAMA
THE government yesterday announced more initiatives to lessen the burden of the poor, daily-wage earners and those on the breadlines as the Movement Control Order disrupted the income of people, especially from these groups.
In an ad-hoc move before unveiling a more wide-ranging economic stimulus package at the end of the month, Putrajaya is allowing the public to tap into their pension fund while suspending federal-funded education loan payments.
Contributors can withdraw RM500 monthly from their Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) Account 2 which has largely been used to pay for house downpayment or medical expenses.
Putrajaya hopes the move would release about RM40 billion into the purse of over 12 million contributors and relieve the financial burden of many. The measure came after the government slashed the employees’ mandatory contribution to the pension fund from April onwards.
The government is also channelling RM130 million to state governments to assist affected small businesses and hawkers, while monthly loan repayments of the National Higher Education Fund Corp, or PTPTN, has been deferred for six months.
Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) said all EPF contributors below the age of 55 are allowed to withdraw a maximum of RM500 monthly from the second account for a period of 12 months.
EPF contributors may apply from April 1 and could start making withdrawals from their EPF’s i-Lestari Account 2 from May 1, 2020.
“The initiative, along with the option to reduce EPF contribution to 7%, is hoped to ease Malaysians’ financial burdens and increase their purchasing power for essential items,” he said in Putrajaya yesterday.
Muhyiddin said the measures were part of an economic stimulus package and assistance for the people which will be announced next week.
The PM said he was aware that many people had lost their income during the coronavirus crisis.
“Small traders were forced to close shop, taxi and Grab drivers lost their prospective passengers, and those who received salaries on a daily basis have been affected.
“There are also employers suffering losses from the temporary closure of their manufacturing and businesses,” Muhyiddin said, adding that the Economic Action Council had recommended the measures.
“We estimated the withdrawals to reach RM40 billion and expected it to benefit 12 million EPF contributors in Malaysia. We hope the beneficiaries will utilise it wisely and use it only for the essentials,” he said.
The government is also injecting more money to prevent a collapse of the healthcare system as it battles the rising Covid-19 pandemic cases.
The government will allocate RM500 million to the Health Ministry (MoH) for the purchase of additional personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and equipment for intensive care units.
“The allocation will be utilised for PPE procurement for medical officers and essential equipment, including test equipment for the person under investigations.
“To speed up this critical procurement, the government has granted for the process to be done according to an emergency procedure,” Muhyiddin added.
Putrajaya is also allocating RM100 million to recruit 2,000 medical staff, especially nurses for government hospitals. The employment will be on a contract basis.
“We have provided RM100 million for MoH to hire 2,000 new medical staff, especially nurses, as hospital staff members are currently overwhelmed in attending to the Covid19 cases on top of handling the non-infected patients,” Muhyiddin said.
The PM said the government is expected to announce the enhanced and “more comprehensive” economic stimulus package and assistance for the people on March 30, 2020.