Crushed by Covid-19 shutdown, retailers say it's ‘stimulus on steroids’ or bust

Justin Ong
A near-deserted Mid Valley shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur as the movement control order kicks in on March 18, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — The retail sector is set to lose up to 90 per cent of revenue this month and might not survive the movement control order unless the government steps in urgently with assistance, said the Malaysia Retailers Association.

While saying it backed the government’s move to enforce and extend the MCO, the group said this did not erase the unprecedented drop in trade that has forced many businesses to the brink of insolvency.

Warning that many retailers may not be able to resume operations once the extended MCO is lifted on April 14, the MRA said they would have no option but to lay off their redundant employees.

“We appeal to the government to show that you are behind us — the businesses. Then only can the businesses stand behind their workers, and in return, the workers can then do their part in this struggle,” the MRA said in a statement.

“Further, we appeal to the Malaysian government to be generous and to be unprecedentedly ‘creative’ with your support programme... We need a stimulus package on steroids.”

The MRA warned that the current predicament was unlike the 2008 financial crisis that had resulted in slowly depleting asset values, with the sudden onset of Covid-19 requiring measures that matched its speed.

Among others, it said the government must ensure that mall owners offer rent exemptions or rebates over the MCO and for a period after, so that retail businesses have a chance of surviving and recovering.

The association said the crisis required the cooperation of all and not just the government, exhorting landlords and mall owners to also contribute.

“We want to do our part. The government needs to stand behind us so that we can do more. And we need it now,” it said.

The government has already announced several measures to brace the economy against the fallout of Covid-19 but economists have called for a rescue package that is magnitudes larger than what the government has already committed.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is due to announce the main Covid-19 economic stimulus package tomorrow.

Bank Negara Malaysia has also announced an automatic six-month moratorium on all personal and business loans, as well as the option to restructure credit card and corporate debt.


 

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