KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — The Opposition has called for an additional RM150 billion stimulus package to help small businesses hit by the Covid-19 crisis stay afloat, direct cash assistance to lower income households and a moratorium on utility payments.
The recommendations followed the Perikatan Nasional administration’s decision to freeze loan repayments for the next six months, as part of efforts to cushion the blow from the pandemic.
The Pakatan Harapan coalition said the measure was welcomed, but argued that it will do little to aid poor households and micro enterprises, the country’s largest employers. The coalition said a large stimulus package that targets the most vulnerable is urgently needed, and must be made available immediately.
“We welcome the six month moratorium on loan repayments for individuals and companies...but the moratorium will not benefit a segment of Malaysian society who rents or small businesses facing high operating costs,” its secretariat said in a statement.
The Opposition outlined several propositions throughout the shutdown order enforced since March 18. Among them is cash assistance worth RM1,000 to all workers for March and April, which it said would benefit low income households directly.
“This will be relevant to help the millions employed in the informal sector or on a non-permanent basis, which form the largest segment of the workforce,” the coalition said, adding that the impact of the Covid-19 fallout will also extend to workers employed traditionally.
This makes job retention paramount, it added. For this, PH said a stimulus package worth RM150 billion in the form of interest-free microcredit is needed to help ease cash flow for small businesses and retain workers.
“Allocation to help small businesses with liquidity must be increased, its scope widened and interest free,” it said.
Economists believe thousands of small and medium businesses could fold after the government announced a two-week extension of the Movement Control Order, lengthening the shutdown up to a month.
This means millions could stand to lose their jobs. The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research said in a report on the impact of Covid-19 released recently that over two million workers are facing retrenchment, with household income losses expected to reach RM95 billion.
PH had also asked the government to freeze all utility bills for the next six months, and for payment post-moratorium to be made in installments.
“This will help households and businesses to focus on efforts (to survive) during the MCO and the subsequent recovery period for the next six months,” it said.
The government’s move to freeze loan repayments for six months due to the coronavirus disease will provide relief worth RM100 billion to Malaysians, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today.
He is expected to unveil a full third stimulus package on March 27.
Earlier this evening Muhyiddin said the existing movement control order (MCO) enforced nationwide will be extended to April 14.