Sarawak Government Must Act Now to Prevent Retrenchments and Save SMEs

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Statement by Chong Chieng Jen:

In the coming 16-4-2020 Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) sitting, the State Government should table a supplementary supply bill for the RM1.15 billion stimulus package announced by Abang Jo and a further RM5 billion to help the SMEs to pay 50% of their employees’ wages to help businesses in Sarawak to sustain in this economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

DAP will support the motion for the supply bill in the event that such bill is tabled in DUN sitting.

It is proper financial procedure that before any money is taken out of the consolidated fund for government to spend, it must first be approved by the DUN. Even the RM1.15 billion stimulus package announced by Abang Jo must also first be approved by DUN before the State Government can legally spend the money.

The RM1.15 billion stimulus package announced by Abang Jo is grossly insufficient to help the SMEs in Sarawak to sustain the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even if the Movement Control Order (MCO) were to be discontinued after 14-4-2020, the State’s economy will take at least 6 months to recover given that most of our trading partner countries will still be under lockdown or at least restricted movement.

Since the outbreak in Malaysia, tourism and hotel industry have been reduced to a standstill and will likely not recover for another 6 months. This in turn will impact gravely on the food and beverages and the wholesale and retail sectors. Even our manufacturing, construction and the agricultural sector have taken the hit badly. Not a single sector of the economy in the State is not adversely affected by the pandemic.

Without any government’s help in paying the wages of the employees, many companies will start retrenching their workers in the next 3 months and more will close down in the next 6 months.
Therefore, it is most senseless and ignorant of Abdul Karim to take things lightly and to simply brush aside the proposal for the State to help subsidise employees’ wages just because such proposal comes from the Opposition.

On Abdul Karim’s allegation about our proposal for 20% oil royalty and 50% tax collection for the State, such proposal was rejected by the GPS Government and Abang Jo was confident that he could negotiate a better deal from Tun Mahathir. In the end Abang Jo got nothing from Tun Mahathir. It was greed and arrogance of the GPS that rendered the proposal not carried through. GPS has only itself to blame for not seeing the deal come through for Sarawak.

Meanwhile, at this time of economic crisis and the covid-19 virus, I do not wish to dwell into that but rather to focus on how to save the State’s economy in the coming months of recession and one of the ways is to help the SMEs survive this economic storm.

My piece of advise to Abdul Karim, don’t wait till people getting retrenched and companies starting to shut down before the Government starts to act.