KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced tonight an additional RM40 billion worth of aid to help stem the fallout of a strict lockdown that will begin tomorrow.
Of that amount, RM5 billion will be in direct fiscal injection.
The relief package, dubbed Pemerkasa Plus, will beef up the healthcare system, continue previous welfare programmes and help businesses weather the lockdown, as he vowed to “balance lives and livelihood”.
Among other spending measures he unveiled was an additional RM1 billion to expand Malaysia’s healthcare capacity, extend wage subsidies for another month and lengthen the loan moratorium given since last year when the country was put under the first movement control order.
“I have to be frank, the government has very narrow fiscal space to spend, but we will try our best to balance lives and livelihood,” he said in a special address broadcast on national television.
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz had already announced an extra allocation of RM200 million last week to help buy more hospital beds, making the total Covid-19 allocation for the Health Ministry this year RM1 billion.
The huge numbers of severe Covid-19 cases from the current wave of outbreak is rapidly filling up the intensive care units (ICUs) in public hospitals and forcing the Health Ministry to make a tough call on treating patients who have a higher chance of surviving the disease.
Muhyiddin said RM450 million will be used to buy more ICU beds and equipment from the extra RM1 billion announced tonight.
However, the additional allocation includes the RM200 million that Tengku Zafrul announced earlier, meaning only RM250 million will be added.
Muhyiddin’s office said last Saturday that the government would enforce the first phase of a “total lockdown” for two weeks starting tomorrow, a tough decision it must take to prevent the healthcare system from crashing as daily new cases reach unprecedented levels.
From tomorrow to June 14, only 14 government approved essential services and businesses will be allowed to operate.
The move has sparked outrage and concerns for many small and micro enterprises as well as poor families. Many have called for more aid to be disbursed.
Muhyiddin said Pemerkasa Plus’ second objective will be the prioritisation of public welfare, which the government aims to provide by continuing several initiatives rolled out from the first stimulus package.
This includes extending the loan moratorium and the wage subsidies programme.
For loan repayments, retrenched workers and micro and small businesses affected by the third MCO may apply for an automatic three-month extension or reduce repayment by half for up to six months. The programme will begin in June.
“It’s expected to benefit five million borrowers with loans worth RM30 billion,” Muhyiddin said.
To prevent massive layoffs, the prime minister announced RM1.5 billion in additional wage subsidies to be disbursed by the Social Security Organisation. The subsidies are expected to help businesses for at least one more month.
Muhyiddin said up to 200,000 SMEs and 2.5 million workers would benefit from the programme.
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