PM unveils RM40b Pemerkasa+ to brace for lockdown impact

Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat is enhanced, and loan repayment and moratorium initiatives will be continued for targeted groups


THE government has announced RM40 billion in new financial assistance to cushion the impact of the nationwide lockdown that begins today.

Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the fresh aid, the Pemerkasa (Strategic Programme to Empower the People and Economy Plus) Plus (Pemerkasa+), primarily targets to improve the public health capacity, continue the Prihatin Rakyat agenda and support business continuity with 12 initiatives.

Muhyiddin said the government would provide an additional RM1 billion for expenditures relating to Covid-19 management under the Pemerkasa+.

Putrajaya would channel RM450 million to the Health Ministry, public universities’ teaching hospitals and field hospitals, as well as another RM550 million to cover additional operational and management costs. Additionally, contracts of 14,500 health workers and retirees would be extended until 2022.

The PM also said the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP) would be accelerated to administer 150,000 doses daily from the current 80,000.

“Based on projection, the overall NCIP implementation is targeted to be completed by December 2021, with high populated states such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor and Penang by October,” Muhyiddin said in a live televised address last night.

He also announced the enhancement of the Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat.

Households with an income less than RM2,500 would get an additional RM500; RM2,501 to RM5,000 (RM300); and single individuals with income less than RM2,500 (RM100).

These additional allocations amount to RM2.4 billion.

Besides that, Muhyiddin said the banking institutions are committed to continuing the loan repayment and moratorium initiatives for the Bottom 40% group, micro, small and medium enterprises, and affected individuals that are not allowed to operate under the current Movement Control Order (MCO).

He said they are given options to choose automatic moratorium for three months or repayment reductions of 50% for six months.

The initiatives would be implemented immediately this month, with RM30 billion allocation.

Muhyiddin admitted that the government has a very limited fiscal space left to provide assistance.

The government has provided a total of RM340 billion of stimulus packages that have benefitted over 20 million households and two million businesses.

Malaysia’s economy had shrunk for four consecutive quarters as the pandemic battered businesses and sent key economic sectors almost to a halt.

For the first quarter of 2021 (1Q21), the country’s GDP contracted 0.5% amid the imposition of the second MCO earlier this year. The decline, however, was narrower than the 3.4% registered in 4Q20.

Malaysia’s full-year economy tanked -5.6% in 2020 compared to 4.4% in 2019.

A total lockdown starts today until June 14 in the first phase with only essential services operating, part of three stages to re-flatten the daily Covid-19 cases curve.

Should the first phase succeed in bringing down the daily Covid-19 cases, the country would progress to a second phase with certain economic sectors reopening. However, no large gatherings and physical distancing rules remain. The second phase would last for four weeks.

The third phase would follow the previous MCO 3.0, whereby all economic sectors are allowed to operate with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) and limited physical presence in the workplace.

Social activities would still not be allowed in the third phase.

“This lockdown decision is hard to make and whether it will be successful or not depends on you and God’s will.

“Please stay at home and always adhere to the SOPs. If you fail to do so, we will all fail (in pandemic battle),” said Muhyiddin.