by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by BERNAMA
THE government is set to generate economic growth and 500,000 job opportunities this year despite the highly challenging environment.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Utama Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz (picture) said the government acknowledges the 4.8% unemployment rate for December, which is the same for November 2020.
“The increase in the number of health workers can also be considered as one of the initiatives to create new employment opportunities in the ‘critical employment’ category.
“In this regard, the National Employment Council has estimated that more than 160,000 new jobs will be created in 2021 through committed investments,” he said in the 40th Economic Stimulus Implementation and Coordination Unit Between National Agencies (Laksana) report on Facebook yesterday.
Tengku Zafrul said the Health Ministry’s (MoH) Covid-19 screening capability has been enhanced and that as of Feb 5, nearly 1.2 million tests have been conducted with a cumulative total of over 6.4 million tests.
The 2021 budget also allocated RM1 billion in additional funding and allocation focused on supplies, such as additional reagents and screening kits, as well as personal protective equipment especially for health workers.
“We hope that with the increase in screenings, following instructions to employers to conduct screening tests on their employees, we can identify those with symptoms faster, enabling speedier isolation to curb the spread of the pandemic,” he said.
Through the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package’s additional allocation of RM3.25 billion for 2021 to address the pandemic, MoH has also applied to the Public Service Department to increase their number of health workers by 11,280 to maintain service quality.
To this end, the package has also approved the recruitment of 3,500 health workers beginning end-January 2021.
On the topic of social security, the Prihatin MySalam initiative has approved 67,000 Covid-19 related claims, with a total value of RM35 million as at end-January 2021.
Moving on to the short-term National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana), Tengku Zafrul said the Phase 1 of the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP 1.0) is still ongoing and has achieved a distribution value of RM12.76 billion for 322,177 employers and 2.64 million registered employees.
Through the Hiring Incentive and Training Assistance Programme, a total of 130,828 employees have secured employment. Manufacturing as well as wholesale and retail trade are among the key industries and sectors that employ workers.
The minister also informed that the Tekun Business Recovery Scheme specifically for micro-small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a fund of RM100 million has achieved its objective by benefitting 14,946 micro-SMEs.
Concurrently, a total of 6,507 applications were approved with a total loan value of RM1.23 billion under the Penjana SME Financing programme.
For the Penjana Tourism Sector Financing, as of Jan 29, there were 573 applications and of this total, 277 applications have been approved with a total financing of RM55.4 million.
The value of tax exemption utilised by hotel and accommodation operators has reached RM1.37 billion, an increase of RM533.42 million compared to RM836.56 million in the previous week.
Among the initiatives to support the tourism sector are individual tax relief up to RM1,000 on travel expenses and a full exemption on tourism tax for foreign tourists.
Tengku Zafrul noted that his ministry welcomes the initiative of creating a travel bubble between Malaysia and Indonesia to boost the tourism industry and its recovery in both countries.
Meanwhile, for WSP 2.0 under Kita Prihatin, a total of RM741.16 million has been channelled to 64,345 employers to enable them to continue operating and maintain 518,793 employees.
Read our previous report here