Pemerkasa+ lacks urgency, cash aid

Additional BPR cash will only come in end-June, which is far too late as income losses are being suffered already

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD

THE Strategic Programme to Empower the People and Economy Plus (Pemerkasa+) lacks urgency and sufficient cash aid to ease the financial woes among many bottom 40 (B40) and some middle 40 (M40) households who may have lost their incomes completely.

Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) research associate Adam Manaf Mohamed Firouz said the additional Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) cash will only come in end-June, which is far too late.

“The government needs to make sure households receive enough income so that their total household income is at least above the poverty line income (that is adjusted for household size).

“This aid should be given immediately as income losses are being suffered already. The increase in cash aid is also highly necessary as self-employed and informal workers (who comprise a large portion of workers in Malaysia) will benefit little from other assistance measures, including the wage subsidy programme,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

On loan moratorium, Adam said it should also be extended to the M40 group who currently are entitled to less aid, yet have greater loan obligations and are just as vulnerable to income losses during this pandemic.

“Automatic approvals will be granted to the B40, as well as those who have lost their jobs and small businesses who aren’t allowed to operate under the full lockdown. Therefore, it might be possible that the M40 could benefit,” he said.

DM Analytics Sdn Bhd senior researcher Zouhair Rosli opined that cash assistance is a vital lifeline not only during the Full Movement Control Order, but also beyond the period.

Zouhair said the government should provide cash assistance for the next six months for B20, B40, B60 households and self-employed people that mainly consist of micro and small businesses.

“BPR is just an extension as announced in Budget 2021. The government should reintroduce Bantuan Prihatin Nasional or BPN, extra aid provided to reduce their financial burden due to the pandemic.

“So far, including the Pemerkasa+, the government allocated only 5% of total GDP (RM77.6 billion), much lower compared to Singapore (19.8%), Thailand (9.6%) and Philippines (7.4%),” he told TMR.

Zouhair said the government must not focus too much on the GDP and other economic indicators. He reiterated that the focus should be on the rakyat.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai calls on the government to urgently extend automatic loan moratorium to all businesses impacted by the lockdown regardless of size.

He also proposed the extension of the Temporary Measures for Reducing the Impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Act 2020 to be expanded to provide relief for manufacturing and other manufacturing-related services such as trading or distributorship and logistics, which are currently not included.

“(Also) waiver of TNB’s Maximum Demand charge for May 2021 given that industries have already been on a reduced workforce of 60% from May 25 2021 and the period of lockdown just announced, which could possibly be from June to July 2021.

“At least allow manufacturing industries with contractual export orders to operate at 50% capacity during Phase 2 of lockdown even if they are not in the essential economic sectors and not allowed to operate in Phase 1 (June 1-14, 2021),” he said in a statement yesterday.