by NUR HANANI AZMAN / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD
AS MALAYSIA grinds into another round of restrictive coronavirus curbs, people are demanding the government to introduce a national plan to handle the pandemic’s effect on livelihoods.
The government this week reimposed the Movement Control Order (MCO) on five states and the Federal Territories, as well as a state of emergency, citing the recent spike in the number of Covid-19 infections — two measures that are expected to financially hurt a large portion of the population.
Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam president Datuk Dr Jacob George said MCO 2.0 and the emergency were implemented unilaterally by the government without consultation with stakeholders and people who would be affected.
He said there seemed to be a lack of national plan to handle Covid-19 in its many stages of the pandemic, as well as the financial effects of measures taken to combat it.
After battling the pandemic for 10 months, the government should have data by now that shows the effect movement controls have on the population, especially the bottom 40% and daily wage earners who don’t have adequate safety nets.
“Unfortunately, the government once again decided to move ahead without taking into cognisance of various groups and until today, the government hasn’t introduced any Covid-19 blueprint.
“How are they going to assist? One-off payment or two-time payments are not going to work, even the Employees Provident Fund withdrawal, they have messed up big time,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
George said the government must have a blueprint that looks ahead at least six months, so that its response can be done in a predictable manner, and provide minimum cash assistance for those worst-hit.
“Basically, RM2,000 per family. For small-scale services providers, restaurants, barbers, eateries, at least an umbrella of minimum RM10,000. This is strictly for the marginalised groups in the country.
“The government must understand that there is a large group in this country who have lost their jobs and are now daily wage earners,” he added.
“Since our politicians got their emergency, there is no necessity for the government to extend the MCO beyond another two weeks because their political agenda has been met. Can they at least come out with a plan on how to help these marginalised groups?
“If they can’t come out with a blueprint, shame on them.”
Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Human Ecology deputy dean (Graduate Studies and Industry and Community Network) Prof Dr Mohamad Fazli Sabri suggests another moratorium extension on loans as a short-term measure.
In the longer run, he said the government needs to recognise that many regular workers are now forced into the gig economy and that these people should be helped with longer range assistance like training.
“The government needs to provide a support system for the daily wage earners to be more flexible.
“This kind of assistance might take time, but for a long term, it works better rather than the one-off assistance,” he said.
The Pan-Malaysian Bus Operators Association president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali said his members are still waiting for assistance that they have requested since June 2020.
“We have been asking many things many times via letter, but nobody replies. We hope the government will extend the Employee Retention Programme to bus operators because we are affected too.
“The government is currently extending the wage subsidy programme, especially to the tourism and retail sectors. We would like to request the government to include express and stage bus operators too.
“Secondly, the moratorium on bank loans and hire purchase should be extended for another six months,” he said.