Govt provides RM21b assistance for Malaysians amid Covid-19, more to come

A man shops for groceries at a Giant hypermarket in Kuala Lumpur March 26, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A man shops for groceries at a Giant hypermarket in Kuala Lumpur March 26, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — For almost any country in the world, winning the war against Covid-19 is now the agenda of utmost importance. Hence strong support, especially from the government, is crucial to strengthen the entire ‘defence’ system.

Joining other affected countries such as Italy, Singapore and the United Kingdom, Malaysia has taken the necessary measures to support the affected industries, protect the economy and importantly help ease the people’s burden during these trying times.

To-date, the government has announced about RM21 billion assistance under its stimulus package and additional allocations to address the economic risks associated with the pandemic that has hit Malaysians, both individuals and corporates.

Despite changes in the administration, the goal is always one — to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

If you missed out on the announcements, here are the key highlights at a glance:

Assistance for affected individuals

One-off payment of RM600 to registered taxi and tour bus drivers, tour guides and trishaw riders.

Six-month deferment period for National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan repayments involving up to RM750 million in collection.

Payment of RM200 to all Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) recipients scheduled for May 2020 will be brought forward to March 2020

An additional RM100 will be paid into the bank accounts of all BSH recipients in May 2020. Subsequently, an additional RM50 will be channelled in the form of e-tunai.

Grants of RM1,000 to 10,000 local entrepreneurs to promote sale of their products on e-commerce platforms.

Matching grants worth up to RM100 million channelled to Human Resource Development Fund to fund an additional 40,000 employees from the tourism and other affected sectors.

RM50 million to subsidise short courses in digital skills and highly skilled courses which will benefit 100,000 Malaysians.

Local banks to offer a moratorium on, or deferment of, loan/ financing repayments for up to six months to individual borrowers and SMEs.

Flexibility of the postponement to defer credit card repayments from April 1 to Dec 31, 2020.

Strengthening healthcare industry

Special monthly critical allowance for front liners (RM400 for medical doctors and other medical personnel, as well as RM200 for immigration and related front-line staff).

Additional allocation of RM160 million to 26 hospitals in the country to contain the Covid-19 outbreak second wave.

Additional allocation of RM500 million to the Health Ministry to purchase medical equipment, such as ventilators, essential intensive care unit equipment, extra personal protection equipment for general medical staff and laboratory equipment for screening of Covid-19.

RM100 million to appoint 2,000 new staff, especially nurses, on contract.

Distribution of a RM130 million allocation to all states to help the state governments handle the Covid-19 crisis.

Easing cash flow

Businesses in the tourism sector allowed to defer monthly income tax instalment payments from April to September 2020

Affected companies due to Covid-19 allowed to revise their profit estimates for 2020 with respect to monthly income tax instalment payment, without penalty.

A discount of 15 per cent on monthly electricity bills for hotels, travel agencies, airlines, shopping malls as well convention and exhibition centres.

HRDF levies exempted for hotels and travel-related companies.

Exemption of six per cent service tax for hotels from March to August 2020.

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to provide a special relief facility worth RM2 billion in the form of working capital for SMEs at an interest rate of 3.75 per cent.

Bank Simpanan Nasional to allocate RM200 million in microcredit facility at four per cent interest rate.

Stimulating the tourism sector

Personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 on expenditure related to domestic tourism.

Malaysians will be eligible to get digital vouchers for domestic tourism of up to RM100 per person for domestic flights, rails and accommodation at licensed hotels.

Additional matching grants for tourism promotion will be provided. An allocation of RM500 million is provided for the vouchers and tourism promotion.

Relaxation of existing guidelines limiting use of hotels by government agencies to mitigate the reduced demand.

The approval process for existing loan funds to be further streamlined such as Bank Pembangunan’s Tourism Infrastructure Fund of RM1.5 billion.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd to provide rebates on rental for premises at the airport as well as landing and parking charges.

Expediting investment projects, security and infrastructures

Additional RM2 billion for the immediate implementation of small infrastructure repair and upgrading projects nationwide especially in rural areas.

The Employee Insurance Scheme (EIS) will increase the claimable training cost from RM4,000 to RM6,000 for the affected sectors. A daily training allowance of RM30 per day will also be provided to trainees under EIS.

BNM to provide agrofood facility of RM1 billion at an interest cost of 3.75 per cent to promote food production activities to meet domestic and export demand.

RM10 million allocation to the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) to provide food storage facilities to help reduce food prices.

Allocation of RM20 million to Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) for Perkhidmatan e- Dagang Setempat (PeDAS) programme to transform Rural Internet Centres into e-commerce hubs.

Government-linked companies such as Tenaga Nasional Bhd to invest RM13 billion in 2020, including accelerating projects such as LED street lights, transmission lines and rooftop solar installations.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to implement up to RM3 billion on works related to the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan.            

Potential disposable income

The withdrawal of savings from Account 2 by 12 million Employees Provident Fund (EPF) members aged 55 and below, amounting to RM40 billion, beginning April 1.

Six-month postponement of loan repayment, restructuring of credit card balance and business loans following the Covid-19 outbreak involving at least RM100 billion.

Minimum EPF contribution by employees reduced to seven per cent from 11 per cent, effective April 1 until Dec 31, 2020.

A more comprehensive stimulus package, which will bring benefits to all citizen regardless of their background, is set to be announced by Prime Minister tomorrow instead of March 30 as previously expected.

“My officers in the Finance Ministry are working tirelessly to prepare an economic stimulus package that will benefit everyone.

“Whether you are a taxi driver, Grab driver, farmer, restaurant operator, nasi lemak seller, pisang goreng seller, burger seller or salaried employees, the government will try its very best to ensure all of you will benefit from this. Insya Allah, no one will be left behind,” he said in a special address yesterday.

He also announced the extension of the Movement control order to April 14, hoping Malaysians would be able to make early preparations. — Bernama

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