Sarawak to spend over RM1b to counter Covid-19 and MCO effect

by ASILA JALIL/ pic by BERNAMA

SARAWAK state government is expected to spend RM974.75 million as part of a stimulus package that would cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the same time, the stimulus package, “Pakej Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang”, is further supplemented by deferment of loan repayments, waiver of payments and discount of Sarawak government basic services of RM179.79 million, bringing the total injection into the state’s economy to RM1.15 billion.

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (picture; left) said the assistance is from the state government coffers, on top of what the federal government had announced yesterday.

“‘Pakej Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang’ focuses on mitigating the impact of Covid-19 and protecting the wellbeing of Sarawakians through 16 proactive measures.

“These measures are targeted at frontline personnel, households and business communities who at this time needed support the most,” he said in a press conference yesterday.

Abang Johari said the effect of Covid-19 along with the Movement Control Order (MCO) might last up to six months, and that the assistance is aimed at lessening the burden of Sarawak people moving forward.

Among the measures include two million face masks that will be distributed for free to Sarawakians with priority given to hotspots, which have been identified including Kuching, Sibu, Betong and Serian.

“Besides that, a monthly electricity bill discount of 25% for domestic, 15% for commercial, and 10% and 5% respectively for industrial consumers will be given from April until September 2020, which will benefit some 686,847 consumers throughout the state.

“Meanwhile, a six-month water bill subsidy will also be given to 568,247 consumers statewide for households with existing RM5 subsidy (25%), domestic and commercial (15%), industrial (10%),” he said.

Lastly, a total of 430,000 Sarawakians from the bottom 40% income group will be entitled to a monthly cash payout of RM250 for six months.

Abang Johari said the state government will receive the list of recipients from the Inland Revenue Board where some of the amount would be credited to the recipients’ bank accounts.

“Market and stalls under the purview of the local councils will receive a 50% discount on rental for six months and this assistance is expected to benefit more than 10,000 hawkers,” he said, while adding that the state government will also provide waiver of permits and licences fees to traders, hawkers, night market traders, Tamu and bazaar Ramadhan operations where it will benefit over two million permits and licensed holders.

A discount of 25% on annual assessment rate above RM400 threshold will be given to residential, commercial, industrial and special purpose holdings for 2020.

“As for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the state government will be giving a nine-month deferment for loan repayment effective April 2020 for 144 outstanding borrowers of ‘Skim Pinjaman Industri Kecil dan Sederhana’.

“An additional RM20 million will also be given to all SMEs on top of the existing RM30 million microcredit funds,” he said.

Another measure includes a 30% discount for payments of land rents to all land tenants for 2020 that will benefit 52,403 commercials, industrial, residential, large scale plantations and other public facilities.

Other initiatives include one-off deferment payment for land premium for 2020; one-off waiver of hotel licence fees for licensed hotels and lodging houses throughout the state for 2020; and 50% discount for rental of Housing Development Corp’s houses for six months until September.

Meanwhile, for the frontliners who are combatting Covid-19, Abang Johari said the state government will provide food supplies during the MCO, as well as the supply of personal protective equipment and special monthly incentives for six months.

“‘Pakej Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang’ is a balanced people-and business-centric model to cushion the impact of economic slowdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At the same time, this is over and above our continuous efforts to steer Sarawak economy towards a developed state by 2030,” added Abang Johari.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that RM130 million will be distributed among the state governments to be utilised in battling the pandemic. He said all states will receive equal funding.