Covid-19: RM1.2b in wage subsidies already approved for nearly a million workers, says finance minister

Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Aziz says the government had approved close to RM1.2 billion in wage subsidies as of April 19. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Aziz says the government had approved close to RM1.2 billion in wage subsidies as of April 19. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — The government had approved close to RM1.2 billion in wage subsidies as of April 19, Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Aziz announced today.

The subsidies are expected to benefit nearly a million workers involving 159,000 employers, five times the number that applied from a week ago, Zafrul said.

“The subsidies were already disbursed to successful applicants starting last week,” the minister said in a recorded message streamed on Facebook.

The Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration slotted RM13.5 billion from its RM260 billion Prihatin stimulus package for wage subsidies, hoping to stave off mass layoffs by employers hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Local workers earning less than RM4,000 a month are eligible for the subsidies although the sum varies according to the size of a particular firm.

Companies that employ more than 200 people will receive RM600 per retained worker while those employing between 75 and 200 employees will get RM800, and those with fewer than 75 employees will get RM1,200.

The worker retention programme will last until July.

The government led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said it had drawn up the Prihatin package mostly with workers at small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in mind, but came under heavy criticism for mustering the stimulus late.

From the RM250 billion, up to RM100 billion was carved out for SMEs, the country’s largest employers. The sector accounted for over a third of GDP in 2019 and employs nearly 70 per cent of the country’s 15-million-strong workforce.

Most of the RM100 billion was in the form of government guarantees, interest-free loans and credit and grants for micro enterprises.

Zafrul said today RM45 million from the RM700 million allocated for the micro credit scheme under the BSN-Tekun stewardship programme had been approved, involving over 1,000 micro businesses.

But he conceded the number of those applying remained low.

“I hope more micro-companies will apply and they can contact BSN and Tekun for the help they need,” he said.

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