Ways to help the M40 segment during the Covid-19 pandemic ― Norman Fernandez

MARCH 26 ― The government has rolled out a slew of measures to help the poor further. That includes various financial assistance and even cuts and temporary reduction in payments of rental of government flats and houses. All these in addition to the Bantuan Sara Hidup.

While, the government should be commended for assisting the poor, the government must also realise that the poor and more specifically the B40 segment was already being assisted in various ways even before the Covid-19 crisis. The B40 segment itself has many avenues to seek help from and was already being helped, from the government to the NGO’s to religious bodies. Thus, there is some cushion to alleviate their hardship. We must remember, this B40 segment does not pay taxes at all. They cannot even afford.

The civil servants too have the least to worry about. Their iron clad bowl is neither broken nor there is even a dent. Their monthly salary is assured and secured. Thus, there is very little they need to do to change their lifestyles if they choose not to do so.

It’s worth remembering that the poor do not pay taxes and the majority of the civil servants do not pay tax. Thus, it can be safely said the poor and the civil servants are far better protected and cushioned to face any downside from the Covid-19 pandemic.

By contrast it is the M40 middle class that is caught in between. The government is clearly seen to ignore the M40 segment which the government believes, that they can fend for themselves and with minimal assistance. Thus, it’s the government’s brilliant idea, that the M40 segment can and should dip into their EPF and live off it for the next 12 months.

In short and in truth, the government has decided to leave the M40 segment high and dry to their own and their fate ― yet it is from this segment the government depend its taxes from.

Worst off now, are the M40 segment who are self employed, running businesses, employing staff and often from the B40 segment . It is regretful that the government believes all professionals like doctors and lawyers or even someone running a small jewellery shop have the means of a comfortable and steady stream of income.

The government assumes every doctor, or  lawyer or the jewellery shop owner are not impacted by the Covid-19 crisis and that he has sufficient savings to live by and his business churns out enough income to run his business, pay the salaries of his staff and also assist the government by paying taxes.

The hard truth is the M40 segment who are employers who have been terribly impacted and are also suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic. Imagine, to having close their offices and business for a month and still pay from the staff salaries and and other fixed monthly expenses.

The government is giving a nary care and two hoots for the employers in the M40 segment. Thus, the government’s directive that employers have to be paid in full, nevermind there is a “lockdown” and uncertainties reeks a callous attitude by the government.

The government must give the private sector in the present circumstances, the leeway for them to take whatever measures to help protect their businesses and the jobs of their employees. Thus, the government ought to equally pay attention or rather more attention to this M40 tax paying and job providing employers.

Hard as it may be on the employees, the government should for the interim allow the employers to cut the salaries of their employees between 10 per cent and 30 per cent in the for the next 12 months. 12 months is a reasonable period assuming the Covid-19 crisis will drag for 6 months before subsidising and another 6 months for employers to rebuild their businesses.

The government can easily put in safety measures to protect the employers, for example whatever deduction done by the employers for this period, remain an outstanding by the employers and to be paid back to the employees gradually after 12 months.

The government can also assist the employer by allowing the employer in the interim 12 months to pay a lesser proportion of the employer’s contribution towards the employee’s EPF. Again, whatever proportion or amount outstanding can be paid gradually after 12 months.

Also and in the alternative, the government can help out the M40 segment employers by providing ringgit for ringgit matching grant or loans to subsidise the portion of salary unable to be paid by the employer. This is another way of preserving jobs.

These proposed measures could help in the preservation of jobs. To demand and insist that the M40 segment employers continue to  pay salaries in full is only inviting disaster. The government should face the fact many M40 segment employers businesses can fold up and with that loss of  jobs and the government losing well needed taxes from the M40 segment.

Stop paying scant regards. This is a nightmare unfolding. M40 segment employers matters. When jobs are lost, the government will have have a greater crisis on its hand. I say it again, a worst off nightmare is now building up. Face up and do something before the the implosion of loss of jobs ( and close of business) and the M40 segment employers also joining the B40 segment.

To continuously announce yet another help for the B40 segment and the poor, and appearing on TV in yet another Perutusan Khas, announcing another “lockdown” isn’t helping the M40 segment employers. Worst, it shows a government being indifferent and uncaring for the M40 tax paying employers and believe me it is a disaster in the making.

I call on the government to start thinking how to help the M40 segment employers. Face up and take notice that the M40 segment employers are helping the government by providing and preserving jobs. The government cannot afford jobs to be lost.

Stop directing and reminding M40 segment employers that they must pay their employees their full salary. They really do not have RM2million loose change lying about or a loot stashed up like many a politician is found to have done  or any luxury handbags that can be pawned or sold off cheap for cash, to help run their business, pay staff their salaries and pay the government the taxes.

Ignore and be indifferent to the M40 employers, the M40 employers will remember the government come GE15.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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