Chong says state govt not doing enough to support SMEs

Chong Chieng Jen

KUCHING, May 30: DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen criticised the GPS state government which has not made serious effort to help and support the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Sarawak that was hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis.

Looking into the three stimulus packages rolled out by the state government under Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS), he said there was only a total of RM1,020 million loans available for SMEs to apply but no grant except for the estimated RM12 million interest subsidy for 2020.

“Even for these loans, many SMEs in Sarawak were told by their bankers that there is still no fund to be disbursed at the moment. The RM12 million fund for all SMEs in Sarawak is just a drop in the ocean.

“By giving a meagre RM12 million in 2020 as assistance fund for SMEs in Sarawak at this time of Covid-19 crisis, the GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) government has totally neglected the SMEs in Sarawak.

“The three economic stimulus packages announced by the Sarawak government did nothing to help alleviate the sufferings of Sarawak’s SMEs,” he said in a statement today.

Chong, who is Kota Sentosa assemblyman, pointed out that of the RM1.15 billion allocation under BKSS 1.0 announced by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on March 23, only RM20 million was set aside as loan for SMEs.

“These are loans with interest and not grant. The loans need to be repaid together with interest,” he said.

As for BKSS 2.0 worth RM1.1 billion, he added that the RM1 billion fund was in fact loans to be given out to SMEs, not grants as loans need to be repaid.

“The state government will absorb the interest thereon for a period of three and a half year. The total estimated amount of interest to be borne by the government over that period is RM80.7 million.

“As the loans will only be disbursed in the second half of 2020 (which is still an uncertainty), the amount of interest to be absorbed by the government for the remaining months of 2020 is at most RM12 million. That is all that the state government is helping the SMEs in Sarawak for the year 2020. That’s a miserable sum,” he explained.

For BKKS 3.0 amounting RM300 million, he said there was nothing provided for SMEs.

Chong, who is the Stampin MP, reminded that SMEs are the key economic drivers of the state, making up over 75 per cent of the Sarawak’s business sectors and employ about 600,000 employees.

“The state government must take heed of the forecast of the Malaysia Institute of Economic Research (MIER) in March that approximately 2.4 million workers in Malaysia will lose their jobs due to the present recession triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Extrapolating that figure to Sarawak economy, it is estimated that approximately 200,000 workers will lose their jobs or have their pay reduced if the government does not provide sufficient assistance to the SMEs,” he stressed.

Chong emphasised that DAP Sarawak thus reiterated its earlier call that the state government should allocate to subsidise 50 per cent of wages of all employees of those businesses in Sarawak adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Do not wait till the SMEs in Sarawak start closing down or retrenching workers, then regret the non action,” he urged. -DayakDaily