Recalibrate stimulus package into livelihood fund, unions propose amid Covid-19 pandemic

A GrabFood rider is pictured amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Kuala Lumpur 16, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A GrabFood rider is pictured amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Kuala Lumpur 16, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called on the government to recalibrate the economic stimulus package into a livelihood fund to lessen the economic hardship of the working class as its main focus.

In a statement today, its secretary-general J. Solomon said this was based on the increase in the number of Covid-19 positive cases, spike in the death toll in the country, and hence the MTUC expects the government to enhance and extend the movement control order (MCO) beyond March 31. 

“The MTUC has urged the government to convert the Economic Stimulus Package to a Rakyat Livelihood Fund to safeguard the livelihood of all workers in Malaysia, be it among the formal, informal, gig economy, sole proprietorship and SME (small-medium enterprises), many of whom in the B40 (below 40) and M40 (medium 40) group are income earners under these categories.

“A straightforward traditional economic stimulus package is not the remedy to safeguard the people from the vagaries inflicted by Covid-19 as it is not an economic crisis, it’s a global pandemic crisis, facing a life and death threat,” he said. 

Therefore he said, there is a need of the hour to protect the public instead of focusing on a traditional economic stimulus package.

“There is no purpose of pumping millions of ringgit into selected sectors of the economy as it will not help to overcome the hardship of Covid-19.

“Therefore, the MTUC is urging the government to move away from merely enhancing the RM20 billion economic stimulus package by taking a bold approach to initiate a multi-billion ringgit Rakyat Livelihood fund that directly benefits the rakyat,” said Solomon.

However he said, MTUC is not suggesting that vital deserving sectors of the economy hit hard by the Covid-19 be deprived of government assistance.

“They do need assistance but their requirements should not take precedence over the livelihood of the people,” he added.

The trade union congress also reminded the government and employers that while the MCO is in place, they are to ensure that workers are not deprived of income, workers should not be retrenched, to control prices of food and essential household items, offer a 50 per cent cut in household electricity and water bills and defer housing loan repayment to six months.

It also urged government agencies like the Employees’ Provident Fund and Social Security Organisation (Socso) to put on hold non-priority projects and instead help workers meet their monthly expenditure.

“One example of a non-priority project is the Socso RM500 million rehabilitation centre budgeted for Ipoh. This allocation can go a long way to help workers to sustain,” said Solomon.

He added that the MTUC is confident that the government will consider the merits of their proposal and will be most willing to discuss the formulation of this national Rakyat Livelihood Fund.

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