MTUC raises concerns over scant details of Penjana plan for economic regeneration

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) yesterday. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) yesterday. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) today expressed their doubts on whether the new economic stimulus package the government has offered in Plan Jana Semula Ekonomi Negara or the short-term Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) as announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday will be effective in helping Malaysians.

MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said the numbers offered by Muhyiddin on workers returning to work is misleading.

He also highlighted the glaring lack of explanation as to how, when, where and who is disbursing the money, and if it is actually reaching the right people.

Solomon argued that despite the figures thrown out by Muhyiddin, the reality is many employers are abusing their power, forcing workers to take unpaid leave while pocketing the money offered to them as aid by the government.

“MTUC’s biggest fear with regard to Penjana is the scant details the government has offered on ensuring transparency in disbursing the billions of ringgit allocated for the business community.

“Neither has the government divulged any information on its plans, if any, to ensure that employers who benefit from Penjana live up to their end of the bargain by ensuring workers keep their jobs and the subsidies meant for workers goes to them and not elsewhere,” said Solomon.

“We also note that Penjana will involve additional disbursement of RM5 billion from Socso (Social Security Organisation) funds to provide wage subsidies to employers. Socso will now be required to provide subsidies to employers who recruit unemployed workers and even pay up to RM4,000 to those who are under job training.

“Needless to say, all of this will greatly impact Socso’s bottom line and more importantly, its long and mid-term ability to provide a social safety net for workers,” he added.

The RM35 billion Penjana package is meant to continue to offer monetary assistance to the youth and unemployed.

Every person below the age of 40 will get RM800 while those above 40 will get RM1,000. While the wage subsidy from July to September is RM600. Solomon said this figure should be maintained at RM1,200 like the previous Prihatin package.

He said there is a likelihood that employers will take the easy way out and choose to retrench their staff.

“The Labour department to make sure these companies are clean and have not retrenched any employee before giving them the aid.

“There are reports of a few companies who even took a portion of the subsidy for rental and utility bills. These firms should be blacklisted,” he said.

As for the 10-year tax-free haven for foreign investors who invest upwards of RM300 million in Malaysia, Solomon said the government must ensure that these companies employ locals, pay them a decent wage to make up for the tax breaks and not hire migrant workers as done in the past.

He said foreign investors with tax breaks should pay the workers more instead of the current low salaries to attract local workers.

“It must not be less than the Bank Negara recommended living wage of about RM2,000 a month. This tax incentive is considered huge and investors must not come here to reap huge profits at the expense of Malaysian workers,” said Solomon.

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