SMEs need more help from state govt to weather MCO, asserts DAP rep

Irene Chang

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SIBU, March 26: The state government has been urged to help small-medium enterprises (SMEs) which have been badly affected by the movement control order (MCO) which has given them little choice but to stop operations.

Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang today highlighted the MCO is placing enormous pressure on employers to keep paying for their business costs, expenses and debts, as well as employees’ salaries.

She opined some of these companies might be forced to make their employees take unpaid leave or even lay them off because they can no longer afford to keep them.

This in turn, she pointed out, will affect the employees’ socio-economic wellbeing and would eventually raise the unemployment rate while the domestic economy would enter a decline.

“It might even cause an influx of court cases as unhappy employees take the helpless employers to court to demand for either unpaid salaries or unfair dismissal. The state government therefore needs to take urgent actions ahead of all these very real possibilities in order to keep our people employed and hence to keep our SMEs afloat,” she emphasised.

Chang noted that SMEs form 95 per cent of business establishments in the country and in Sarawak, they form the backbone of the state’s economy.

She pointed out the stimulus package announced by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari recently did not mention financial assistance for the state’s SMEs.

“Neglecting financial assistance to these SMEs in difficult times like this would cause our local economy to collapse. By now, the state government should have already in place a committee to look into setting up an emergency fund from our state reserves of over RM30 billion, to help the employers of SMEs to help pay for their employees’ salaries,” she asserted.

Chang noted the 16 measures in the special relief package announced by the Chief Minister a few days ago had increased micro credit scheme funding from RM30 million to RM50 million.

“This is supposed to help the SMEs by offering them more available loans. However, the state government has to realise that in times like this, incurring further expenses in applying for another loan on top of all the other loans, just in order to pay the employees’ salaries, is not what most prudent employers would do. What they would do is to let the employees go and hence, cut down on the expenses,” she pointed out.

She also urged the state government to offer a special scheme to help subsidise at least 50-80 per cent of SME employee salaries, depending on their size and turnover.

Meanwhile, on the MCO extension, Chang urged the public to observe the strict rules about self-isolation and social distancing to prevent things from getting worse.

She also wants supermarkets and grocery shops to provide either delivery services for groceries to the elderly and/or single parents with small children, including providing “drive through” services for those who can drive to pick up their groceries without leaving their vehicles. — DayakDaily