Bring back [email protected] initiative, Tony Pua urges finance minister, Perikatan

Damansara MP Tony Pua said the official unemployment rate has increased from 3.3 per cent in 2020 to 4.7 per cent today, involving over 740,000 Malaysians. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Damansara MP Tony Pua said the official unemployment rate has increased from 3.3 per cent in 2020 to 4.7 per cent today, involving over 740,000 Malaysians. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 — Damansara MP Tony Pua has urged the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to reinstate the [email protected] initiative first promulgated by the former Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, to address the job losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the official unemployment rate has increased from 3.3 per cent in 2020 to 4.7 per cent today, involving over 740,000 Malaysians.

“In March, the Malaysians Employment Federation had estimated that the unemployment rate may hit as high as 13 per cent due to the Covid-19 induced economic crisis. These figures do nott take into account other exacerbating issues of under-employment,” Pua said in a statement.

Pua, who was the political secretary to former finance minister Lim Guan Eng, said the reinstatement of [email protected] is one of PH’s six key demands to the ministry, as part of the proposed Unity Budget for 2021.

“Given the plight the Malaysian and global economy is in today, Budget 2021 must go above and beyond what was announced for 2020, including the extension of wage subsidies for companies which have been affected by the crisis.

“Failure to adopt the initiative and other additional measures to protect and boost employment will render Budget 2021 a disastrous failure for the economic well-being of ordinary Malaysians,” he said.

The RM6.5 billion initiative, first announced on October 11, 2019 during the parliamentary tabling of Budget 2020, sought to create 350,000 jobs for Malaysians over a five-year period.

Also known as #MalaysiaKerja, it served as a stimulus package that aimed to provide both wage incentives for workers and hiring incentives for employers.

The initiative's stated objectives were to address the unemployment rate, especially among graduates, increase women participation in the workforce, and reduce the heavy reliance on cheap foreign labour.

Several of its key thrusts included [email protected], targeted at the hiring of graduates who are unemployed for almost a year and would see the hired graduates receiving a monthly wage incentive of up to RM500, in conjunction with a hiring incentive of up to RM300 a month for each new hire for two years.

Others include [email protected], aimed at encouraging more women to return to the workforce by providing a monthly wage incentive of up to RM500 for returning women workers above the age of 30, who have stopped working for almost a year, while employers will receive a hiring incentive up to RM300 a month for two years.

[email protected] is aimed at Malaysians who are hired to replace foreign workers, in which they are provided a monthly wage incentive of up to RM500 depending on the sectors, and hiring incentive for employers of up to RM250 a month for two years.

However, on July 27, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz informed Pua in a parliamentary written reply that [email protected] had been terminated due to the pandemic.

Tengku Zafrul said the initiative could not be implemented properly since individuals and businesses were badly affected by Covid-19, and as such its allocations had been transferred to the hiring subsidy programme under the Prihatin and Penjana package.

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