PM: Govt thinking of giving money to businesses as capital to restart, details being fine-tuned

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The prime minister said he had discussed the matter of aid to small businesses with the finance minister. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
The prime minister said he had discussed the matter of aid to small businesses with the finance minister. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — The federal government is considering channelling funds to businesses that have closed down, to enable them to have the capital to start their business again as the economy reopens further, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today.

Ismail Sabri said he had discussed this with Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, noting that the government usually gives one-off aid to businesses but said this was insufficient.

“But for businesses, one-off aid is not enough, if they are micro (businesses), receiving RM3,000 one-off helps them in terms of sustaining their lives, but when the economy opens up further, we see many micro-businesses have already closed down their businesses.

“So they need capital to start up their business. So I have discussed with the Finance Minister so that the government can give assistance, capital to start the business again,” he said during an interview aired live on television tonight.

He said that this matter was now being discussed, in terms of the mechanism, such as whether “there is no need to pay, moratorium on principal or interest”, adding that the percentage for interest is also being studied and that the aid is intended to allow businesses to start up once the funds are given.

In the same interview, Ismail Sabri was asked about the issue of poverty which is always discussed during each tabling of the government’s annual budget, as well as the plan under the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025) to eradicate hardcore poverty by 2025.

Ismail Sabri responded by denying perceptions that the government focuses on the wealthy when it comes to matters such as Bumiputera ownership of equity, saying instead that the government focuses a lot on the poor.

He said that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the rate of poverty in Malaysia, noting that some in the M40 tier or middle-income group had joined the B40 low-income group or even the hardcore poor category upon loss of employment, while there are also those in the B40 that had also joined the hardcore poor category.

Responding to those who suggest the government has neglected the issue of poverty, Ismail Sabri said a large part of the 12th Malaysia Plan’s policy document focuses on poverty and helping the B40 and M40 group to improve their economic situation.

“So it’s not correct if it is said that when I announced the Bumiputera agenda, in terms of equity and so on, people said the government focuses on cronies and the rich only, but not the poor.

“Actually, more than half, maybe three-thirds of the 12MP focuses on poverty,” he said, adding that the government has planned many programmes for its target of eradicating hardcore poverty by 2025.

Among other things, he said that the government will be providing training to help those who are in the B40 to start and manage businesses, adding that the government will also guide and monitor them for at least six months.

He said the government will also form special committees at the district level to enable the keeping of complete data on how many receive government aid and also to keep track of the outcome by seeing how many later succeeded.

“And at the national level, the Cabinet has decided that we establish a special committee to monitor the 12MP which will be chaired by the prime minister and we will meet once every two weeks to monitor the implementation of the 12MP.

“As I said just now, announcements alone are not enough, but what is important is implementation itself,” he said.

In the same interview, he said the government will seek to close the wide urban-rural digital gap, with plans to have full internet coverage nationwide in two years’ time and that the Communications and Multimedia Ministry will be coordinating internet centres under various ministries to be launched as Keluarga Malaysia internet centres.

He said the B40 group and those in rural areas will be trained on how to use the internet centres’ facilities to carry out online businesses.

He also stressed that no one will be left behind in the 12MP, saying that the five-year plan will focus on improving the economic situation and living standards of all ethnic groups in the country.

As for the youths, Ismail Sabri said the government will focus on addressing mismatches in courses taken with the jobs available in the market, and would be training graduates to be able to meet market demands, including courses for available location-specific jobs such as in the oil and gas industry for Pengerang youths and tourism industry for those at islands.

Noting the popularity of the gig economy and the growing culture of ordering food deliveries even in smaller cities, Ismail Sabri suggested that youths could be trained to establish delivery service providers in smaller cities — where services such as Grab, Foodpanda may not be available — and that more could then be involved in the gig economy.

While acknowledging that Malaysia is facing a twin crisis of health and economy, he said that this meant that the economy too would pick up and recover when the Covid-19 situation improves with cases expected to decline and with vaccination rates increasing.

He concluded the interview by saying that no one has set key performance indicators for him as the prime minister, except for Malaysians’ two KPI of wanting to see the Covid-19 situation resolved and for the economy to recover.

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