Sarawak State Government Not Doing Enough to Help Individuals and SMEs during Covid-19 Pandemic

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Statement by David Wong Kee Woan:

Sarawak DUN has on the 27th March rescheduled for the second time the date for the 1st meeting of the 5th session of the 14th Sarawak state assembly due to the covid-19 and the movement control order.

The legislative assembly is supposed to sit from 13-23 April but was reschedule to sit for ONE (1) day only on the 13th April and then we received notice on the 27th March 27, 2020 from the secretary of DUN Sarawak that it has further been rescheduled to sit on the 16th of April 2020 also for a day only.

Under article 13 of the Sarawak state constitution DUN Sarawak has to meet every 6 month and thus even with the unsettled Covid-19 situation the state assembly has to reconvene.

However, because of this we would not be able to raise questions and participate in any debate or submit any motion on behalf of the people. This is an important session as there is so much we have to raise up for the people.

It seems that we can only raise the issues through the media and thus I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the Covid-19 and the economy stimulating package announced by our chief minister on the 23th of March.

The Covid-19 not only bring about public health issues but also has a huge impact on SMEs survival as well as the job security of those in the private sectors.

I support the state government decision to enforce lockdown and enforce no-traveling order after 7 pm and applause the state government’s effort on the tracing of PUI and self-quarantine measures for those who enter the state in collaboration with the SMA to flatten the curve of outbreaks. However, further extension of the CMO would have a huge impact on the businesses and their employees which the state government must address.

However, I am really disappointed with the RM 1.15 billion economy relief package announced by our chief minister on the 23rd March 2020. Our chief minister announced a 16 special relief packages for Sarawak including discount on electricity bill and water bill, 50% discount for rental of markets and stalls for 6 months, waiver of permit and license fees to traders, hawkers, night market hawkers and festive bazaars, 25% discount on assessment fee above RM400, 20% discount on land premium, one-off waiver of hotel and lodging house license fee, food for all front liners during MCO, HDC rental discount of 50%, urgent hospital needs and PPEs, special monthly incentives for front liners to combat Covid-19 for 6 months including doctors, immigration staffs, PDRM & Bilik gerakan, ATM and Rela, and 430,000 Sarawakian families from the low income B40 to be provided with a monthly cash payout RM250 for 6 months.

I have commented when asked by the press about our chief minister’s announced relief package as a little bit Too Little Too Late. Too late is the way the cash handout is not one time RM1500 but by six installments of RM 250 for the B40 and Too little as many were not included for the cash handout such as the M40, the self-employed, the unemployed graduates, the seniors, the small businesses and the SMEs who have to pay their rent and their employees although their businesses have closed down under the MCO, those who would be layoff and those in the e-hailing business and taxis operators and the list goes on and on.

I have on the 25th of March, I put on my Facebook asking the public to respond with the question, “which sector are you in and how has the Covid-19 and extended MCO of up to the 14/4 affect you? I asked them to list from 1-10 from mild to very severe in term of the severity of their circumstances, more than 200 responses were received from all sectors of the economy and 99% of them rated themselves as 10. They were from legal firm to hair salon, from food stalk operators to spare part business, free-lance online marketing to tuition center, car salesman to grab driver, blacksmith to money changer, hotel business to electric appliance business, construction to manufacturing, distributor to plumper, tour operator to café, printing business to car repair center, hawker to contractor, handphone business to advertisement company, computer repairs to stationery business.

I hope our chief minister can come out with a second relief package to help address the shortcoming of his first package in view of the severity of the situations.

Singapore has announced a Protect jobs, Help for households and Support businesses resilient budget of S$ 48 billion and our chief minister can used that as a guideline to formulate the second relief package. Quick and sufficient cash handout to all above 21 years old as well as all self-employed, grant to SMEs to protect jobs etc.

I hereby proposed that the following be included in the second economic stimulus package:

1) Subsidizing the SMEs up to 50% of their employees’ wages for 6 months,

2) Give interest-free soft loans to the SMEs in Sarawak to boost up their liquidity positions and as business capital to help them in order to save jobs of the employees,

3) All Sarawakians in the private sectors should be given cash handout of RM1000 (adults) to help them deal with the loss of incomes under the CMO.

The chief minister should know that with a state reserve of some RM30 billion and an additional sales tax collection on petroleum products of some RM3 billion this year for the state coffer as announced by the CM himself in his budget speech in November 2019, the Sarawak state government is in good financial position to save businesses and safeguard the job security of Sarawkians in the private sectors at this most critical time.

It is time to act now as the Sarawak state legislative assembly shall meet on the 16th April and the state government can table the first and second economic stimulus package for the house to pass.