KUCHING, May 20 — The Sarawak government today exchanged a memorandum of agreement with seven local banks participating in a RM1 billion interest-free loans to small-medium enterprises under Bantuan Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS).

The participating banks are Maybank, Hong Leong Bank, RHB Bank, CIMB Bank, Public Bank, Muamalat Bank and SME Bank.  

The loan scheme is coordinated by the state Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Industrial Terminal and Entrepreneur Development.

Speaking to reporters, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said registered Sarawak companies need to comply with the National SME Development Council’s (NSDC) definition of SMEs to qualify for the loan scheme.

He said the interest-free loans range from RM20,000 to RM500,000, without any collateral.

He said sole proprietorship, partnership and Sdn Bhd companies and business in operation for the last three years and more are eligible to apply for the loans.

“Eligible SMEs can apply for the loans directly from any branches of the banks. 

“All SMEs have an option to apply for either Islamic or conventional loans for the scheme and the state government will absorb the interest costs due to be released to the SMEs,” Awang Tengah, who is also the Minister of International Trade and Industry, told reporters after the exchanging of agreements.

He said the state government is expected to absorb RM80.7 million in cost for the interest rate subsidy over a period of three and a half years.

“We hope this scheme can provide the much-needed relief to the SMEs during this difficult time, to sustain the businesses during this downturn, and to provide resiliency for the businesses to bounce back when the economy recovers in the coming years,” he added.

He added the state government has allocated RM2.25 billion under the three packages of BKSS to help cushion the impact of Covid-19, including measures covering both individuals and businesses.

He said the state government recognises that SMEs as the key drivers and the backbone to the state economy, providing jobs and business opportunities to Sarawakians.

“SMEs make up over 75 per cent of our business sector and contributed 20 per cent to Sarawak's GDP, providing about 600,000 jobs for Sarawakians. Based on records, there are over 40,000 SMEs operating in Sarawak,” he said.

He said under the second package of BKSS, additional measures have been introduced specifically to help SMEs weather this period of economic uncertainty, including interest-free soft loans and waivers of rental for SMEs in the retail sector on premises owned by state GLCs.