Ex-PM economic adviser: People like Makcik Kiah will be left out under Penjana recovery plan

Soo Wern Jun
While the Short-term Economic Recovery Plan dubbed Penjana will benefit certain groups of Malaysians, economist Muhammed Abdul Khalid said there is still a large group of the workforce not covered under the plan. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — While the Short-term Economic Recovery Plan dubbed Penjana will benefit certain groups of Malaysians, economist Muhammed Abdul Khalid said there is still a large group of the workforce not covered under the plan.

Muhammed said this affects not only the employed workforce, but the majority of self-employed individuals will be impacted as well, like the fictional character Makcik Kiah that was referred to by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin in several of his speeches.

“Out of 2.7 million self-employed individuals, only 2.3 per cent contribute to Perkeso, and if you do, you’re safe if you lose your job,” he said in an online forum organised by Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), using the Malay acronym for the Social Security Organisation (Socso),

“Makcik Kiah and gang likely don’t subscribe to Perkeso, so if they lose their jobs, selamat lah,” he added, using the Malay sarcastic phrase roughly meaning “they’re done for”.

Muhammed, who was the economic adviser to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, added that those who contribute to Socso would be able to benefit from the Employment Insurance Scheme (EIS) which was passed by Parliament in 2017.

However, he said only five per cent of the employed workforce are registered with the EIS.

In addition, under the Penjana plan, there will not be any more cash aid offered compared to the earlier announced stimulus package, he said.

“So for Makcik Kiah, she received a one-off aid during the last stimulus package, but she won’t get anything under this plan.

“I want to see what will happen to her. Has she been forgotten for the time being?” he said.

He pointed out that Makcik Kiah will also lose out on reskilling and upskiling trainings.

On top of this, Muhammed said salary aid for employers should also be given in six to nine-month-terms.

He drew a comparison to Singapore where salary aid was offered for nine consecutive months.

“This would help business owners do long-term planning because they can’t do much in three months.

“Hence it leads to them laying off their employees when they see that the economy isn’t doing well in the span of three months,” he said.

He added that the current situation now is not about not benefitting from the Short-term Economic Recovery Plan, but it is about not getting sufficient help.

To remedy the current economic situation, he said there is a need for short and long-term economic reforms.

“For short-term, one of the things that can be done is to automatically qualify those who are registered with the Employee’s Provident Fund with subsidy aid instead of the format now where they need to apply, making it hard for those who need help to benefit from the aid offered. 

“As for long-term, there is a need for labour reforms. One of the reforms needed is on foreign worker issues, which is still unresolved to date because of self-interest groups which are quite strong.

“But if they want to ensure that these reforms work, they need political will,” said Muhammed. 

Yesterday, the Muhyiddin announced a RM35 billion Short-term Economic Recovery Plan to aid those who are severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among the industries that will benefit from the plan includes property, automotive, childcare and people with disabilities.

Related Articles Rimas rambut panjang? Kedai gunting kembali operasi Dr Noor Hisham: No spike in Covid-19 cases after Raya, time for more economic sectors to reopen Malaysia Productivity Corp: Business-related laws need to be reviewed, improved