Covid-19: Khalid Samad questions if govt studied financial implications of shutdown on lower income groups

Khalid urged the government to clarify and be specific on which businesses are allowed to function while which ones must be temporarily shut down. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Khalid urged the government to clarify and be specific on which businesses are allowed to function while which ones must be temporarily shut down. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) lawmakers today questioned if the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government studied the financial implications on lower income groups when it decided to implement a nationwide limited movement order yesterday.

In a joint Facebook Live online press conference today, the coalition’s secretariat pointed out that there are Malaysians in the Klang Valley who earn a living on a day-to-day basis, instead of being paid a monthly salary.

“As a former Federal Territories minister, I have received a lot of questions from those who work and earn their pay on a daily basis. What will happen to them? Not everyone can receive the government’s worker compensation.

“What about the small-time traders? What will happen to them? What happens when there’s food guarantee but there are people who don’t have the money to buy the food?” asked Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad.

The now Opposition lawmaker also asked about the costs that will be incurred by businesses’ premises as well as offices even though they are no longer being productive — seeing that they will still have to pay for licenses and office, business or site rentals.

Khalid wants the government to clarify and be specific on which businesses are allowed to function while which ones must be temporarily shut down.

He then voiced his worry over the instructions to remain at home and how this will impact high-density housing areas — particular the public housing scheme flats (PPR) for the B40 category, which are generally jam-packed with people.

“If everyone must stay at home and can’t leave, is that a solution without any problems? What about those living in tight quarters in the PPR, where there’s not much space and it’s a high-density area.

“Wouldn’t this be another vector for the disease to spread? Why can’t the government follow what the former health minister had suggested — which is to create a restricted movement order based on region or location and isolate it based on Covid-19 cases,” said Khalid.

Touching on whether or not the government should intervene on non-performing loans for employees who were forced to take no-pay leaves, Seremban MP Anthony Loke who was also at the press conference said that this would be under the jurisdiction of Bank Negara Malaysia.

He said that the government can discuss the matter with the central bank and give instructions to restructure the bank loans for those affected — particularly from the airline industry.

“We want to see more proactive steps taken to ensure that the people will not be bankrupted. Many workers lost their income and are unable to pay their mortgages, car loans and they might get blacklisted and go bankrupt.

“This will not just be bad for the workers but will also badly impact the banks because they will have a lot of non-performing loans (NPL),” said Loke.

Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution, who was also part of the conference recalled the 1997-1998 economic crisis which saw corporations struggle to pay off bank interests and their principle loans, said the government which was under former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad back then had taken steps to remedy the situation including changing the definition of NPL from three months to six months while giving leeway to those who need financial assistance.

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