Promote inclusivity, resolve health issues, says Mohd Shafie


THE government should promote inclusive development in Sabah to revive Malaysia’s economy, said Parti Warisan Sabah president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (picture).

He said special attention should be given to the state which is one of the poorest and worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is also currently the state with the highest number of Covid-19 cases, and as a consequence, the majority of households and businesses are in dire state.

“Thus, to assist the people, additional assistance is needed,” he told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.

He said the state government should provide interest-free loans in addition to the federal government’s initiative, to help more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are badly affected by the economic crisis.

Mohd Shafie stressed that national economic recovery would not happen if health crisis is not solved.

“Assistance towards managing the pandemic must remain a priority, and the relevant ministries and agencies should be given enough resources (financial, equipment and manpower). The vaccination should be given to everyone in Malaysia,” he added.

Additionally, he said, allocation should be provided to ensure food security.

By providing grants to resuscitate and promote food security in Sabah, the ex-chief minister said agriculture and agro-food industry in the state will be heavily promoted.

He added that the state government should be given extra allocation to build more Internet towers, especially in rural areas, and provide 2GB Internet for students free of charge.

Mohd Shafie said the proposed economic recovery is for the span of the next two years.

“The objective of the economic recovery plan is to ensure that Covid-19 is managed, the most vulnerable get sustainable assistance and safety net is in place, firms can continue doing business, workers have jobs and unemployed gets employed,” he said.

He added that large-scale measures are needed to help the people and reverse the economic decline.

According to him, although the government has announced assistance of up to RM295 billion throughout all the stimulus packages, direct fiscal injection of RM45 billion remained low compared to other countries in the region.

Importantly, he said, the financial assistance should reach the targeted groups. “The 25th Laksana report showed that many of the intended recipients still do not get the assistance; soft loans for SMEs are still under-utilised as only 42% of the total RM2 billion has been utilised with only 0.3% of the total 900,000 SMEs having received the soft loans,” he said,

He highlighted that although 44% of the RM400 million has been used for micro-credit schemes (Tekun Nasional and Bank Simpanan Nasional), the applicants are still small at only 1.7% of the total 693,670 micro-enterprises.

He recommended four ways for the government to implement the proposals, including tapping into several reserve funds, where up to RM10 billion can be raised for the initiative.

Also, he suggested for the government to divest some of its holdings in government-link companies to local government-link investment companies and pension funds.

“Public entities owned by the rakyat, such as the Employees Provident Fund, Retirement Fund Inc, Permodalan Nasional Bhd and Lembaga Tabung Haji, will be the main beneficiaries of the diversification, so government asset will be owned directly by the people.”

He called for the administration to suspend all of its development expenditure in 2021 (RM55 billion), and 50% in 2022 (RM30 billion), which equalled to about RM75 billion, in which can be used to finance the economic recovery programmes.

Finally, he said the government needs to borrow about RM40 billion in 2021 to cover the shortfall for the programmes outlined for 2021.

The shortfall will be financed via domestic borrowings. To ensure lower debt payment, the government can sell the debt (sukuk) to Bank Negara Malaysia at 0.5% interest rate, thus avoiding burdening future generations of servicing the debt.

Meanwhile, Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming expects to see an increase of underemployment in areas under the Conditional Movement Control Order, including in Sabah, the Klang Valley and Negri Sembilan.

“The MPs from Sabah are looking forward to some sort of special allocations and announcements for the state in the upcoming Budget 2021.

“Not only in terms of healthcare, such as special allocations for the Health Ministry, but more importantly in terms of economic assistance,” he said at the Research for Social Advancement virtual media briefing yesterday.

Pakatan Harapan had proposed six measures in the upcoming budget.

Among others, the coalition is requesting for the extension of the bank loan repayment moratorium and continuation of the wage subsidy until March 31, 2021, a proposed increase in education spending to ensure education continuity, as well as budget allocations for the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan and upgrading of water infrastructure in Selangor, Kelantan and Pahang.