Tengku Zafrul: Prihatin aid worth RM2.1b disbursed to 1.93m people in Sabah, Sarawak

A man withdraws money from the ATM after receiving approval for the Prihatin aid package in Kuala Lumpur April 6, 2020. A total of 1.93 million people in Sabah and Sarawak have received the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional, amounting to RM2.1 billion. — Bernama pic
A man withdraws money from the ATM after receiving approval for the Prihatin aid package in Kuala Lumpur April 6, 2020. A total of 1.93 million people in Sabah and Sarawak have received the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional, amounting to RM2.1 billion. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — The Ministry of Finance (MoF) said 1.93 million people in Sabah and Sarawak have received the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional, amounting to RM2.1 billion.

Its minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said nearly 100,000 businesses including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in the two states have received assistance totalling RM1.4 billion through the Wage Subsidy Programme, Special Prihatin Grant, and micro financing from Tekun and Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN). 

The MoF made an official visit to Sabah and Sarawak this week to obtain feedback on the implementation of the Prihatin economic stimulus package and Penjana economic recovery plan as the people and businesses come to terms with the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the visit, the ministry met with its agencies including the Treasury Department and Inland Revenue Board (IRB).

“These agencies play an important role in processing the applications and channelling the initiatives such as the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) to the B40 and M40 groups; second and third phases of the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) 2020, Prihatin Special Grant to MSMEs, Employee Wage Subsidy and Sarawakku Sayang Special Assistance in Sarawak,” he said in a statement here.

MoF works with the agencies with the support of various other bodies such as the Malaysian Armed Forces, Malaysian Volunteer Corps Department (Rela), Royal Malaysia Police, State Federal Development Office, National Security Council, Resident/District/Sub-District Offices, Sabah State Treasury Department, Economic Planning Unit and the two states’ respective Chief Minister’s Department.

“This is to ensure that government aid and initiatives can be channelled expeditiously and precisely to the needy groups in Sabah and Sarawak, especially those living in remote areas that are physically inaccessible.

“Although the efforts of the government and the relevant agencies have been fruitful, the government is sensitive to the logistics challenges as regards fund distribution as well as updating recipient data to ensure eligible residents in Sabah and Sarawak received the assistance,” he said.

For example, he said the Sabah treasury department as the state BSH/BPN secretariat together with IRB, BSN and district offices carried out integrated aid disbursement exercises on July 1 until August 10, 2020, in the remote locations of 13 districts that do not have BSN branches, involving 2,845 recipients who do not have a bank account.

In Sarawak, state treasure staff travelled to 30 remote locations between July 1 and 30 to present the BPN and BSH assistance to 41,995 recipients who did not have a bank account.

A total of 20,901 recipients were present to accept the aid in cash. Recipients in both states who have not received the aid could go to any BSN branch before December 31, 2020.

“The government assures that improving the execution of assistance to the people is constantly emphasised. The government’s effort will not only be in terms of bridging the digital divide but also improving the physical infrastructure in the urban and rural areas in both states.

“This effort is in line with the four main themes of Budget 2021 which are, caring for the welfare of the people, driving economic growth, sustaining life, and improving the public service delivery,” said Tengku Zafrul.

To that end, the MoF also organised a Budget 2021 Consultation tour in Kuching on September 17, during which it met with stakeholders of various industries to obtain feedback on the economic stimulus packages as well as proposals for Budget 2021.

In Sarawak, the ministry held dialogue sessions with industry representatives, including oil and gas, agro-commodity, tourism and business.

The discussions with industry representatives dwelled among others on the need for a dynamic policy, resource support and potential cooperation to uplift the state of Sarawak in light of the Covid-19 impact on the industries.

The MoF has received various views and proposed resolutions from industry representatives and relevant agencies, which will be fine-tuned for Budget 2021. — Bernama

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