With lockdown extended, ex-Finance Minister says Putrajaya should provide more relief

Lim Guan Eng – Bernama photo

EX-FINANCE Minister Lim Guan Eng has called on the Federal government to borrow another RM45 billion to help troubled companies and Malaysians, now that the nationwide lockdown has been extended for another two weeks.

He said the government could borrow from the domestic debt market to mitigate economic losses arising from the lockdown, which amounted to RM2.4 billion a day during the March MCO last year.

“An extension of the two-week lockdown without any additional financial aid is irresponsible and unreasonable.

“Since the total lockdown is going to be extended by another two weeks, there must be another financial aid package to help distressed companies and displaced workers,” the DAP secretary-general said in a statement.

The lockdown was extended yesterday from June 15 to 28.

He added that of the RM60 billion Pemerkasa Plus economic package announced on the eve of the lockdown which started on June 1, only RM5 billion was direction fiscal injection.

Lim said the proposed RM45 billion borrowed by the government must go directly to workers and business in the following forms:

• increased monthly welfare payments to RM1,000;

• automatic extension of the moratorium on bank loan repayments, excluding the top 20%, until the national Covid-19 immunisation programme is completed at the end of the year;

• RM28 billion of financial grants and wage, rent, and utility subsidies, loan guarantees and credit extensions for SME, construction, retail, and tourism sectors;

• hiring incentives for two years, comprising wage incentives of RM500 a month for each local employee and hiring incentives of RM300 per month for employers, creating employment for 300,000 Malaysian workers at RM6.5 billion per annum; and

• RM3.5 billion for the Health Ministry to ramp up immunisation programme and accelerate testing, tracing and treatment of Covid-19 cases, upgrade hospital capacity and capability as well as medical equipment and human resources to avert the collapse of the public healthcare system.

Lim also called on the banks to bear the cost of an expanded and extended loan moratorium as they had recorded healthy after tax profits of nearly RM23 billion for 2020.

The Pemerkasa Plus package announced last month included a three-month loan repayment moratorium for B40 borrowers and people who have lost their jobs or have their incomes reduced.

It also includes a wage subsidy of RM600 per worker, per month and cash payouts of a maximum RM500 per household earning less than RM2,500 per month.

Various groups have said these are insufficient and called for an extended and expanded loan moratorium to cover more groups of people. The moratorium should also be automatic, while the wage subsidy should likewise be extended and raised.

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