Malaysia will be channelling RM250 billion — or nearly S$83 billion — into mitigating the effects of COVID-19 across multiple sectors and households in the country, following the ripple effects of the extended Movement Control Order (MCO).
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a televised address on late Fri afternoon (27 Mar) announced a supplementary “people-oriented” economic stimulus package, from which RM128 billion (S$42.4 billion) will be used to provide economic relief to the people.
Lower- and middle-income citizens will receive a one-off cash payment according to the following scale:
- RM1,600 for households earning RM4,000 and below;
- RM1,000 for households earning RM4,000 to RM8,000;
- RM800 for single individuals aged 21 and above earning RM2,000 and below; and
- RM500 for single individuals aged 21 and above earning between RM2,000 and RM4,000.
Payouts will be made in two tranches in April and May.
Families living in low-cost public housing flats will be given a six-month rent exemption. All premises owned by the Federal Government such as certain school canteens, nurseries, cafeterias and convenience stores will also be given a similar exemption.
The government, in partnership with Tenaga Nasional Berhad, will increase its allocation by RM530 million to enable gradual discounts for electricity bill payments — between 15 per cent to 50 per cent — depending on the usage of electricity.
The discounts will take effect for six months starting next month’s bill cycle. In the meantime, a two per cent discount will be applied to all households in Peninsular Malaysia as announced earlier.
Households across the country will also have access to free internet — which will cost the government RM600 million — starting 1 Apr until the end of the MCO. An additional RM400 million will be invested to upgrade connectivity and coverage of the nation’s telecommunications.
Muhyiddin also said that the government will set aside RM1 billion for the Food Security Fund, in addition to channelling grants and other forms of assistance to farmers and fishermen to encourage domestic food supply production.
Businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), will also benefit from the new economic stimulus package.
Through a Wage Subsidy Programme, the government will allocate RM600 per month for every worker with a wage cap of RM4,000 for three months. To be eligible for the wage subsidy programme, employers must demonstrate a profit decrease of over 50 per cent since 1 Jan this year.
“Employers must ensure that they do not retrench their staff members or instruct them to take unpaid leave for three months after this programme is carried out,” said Muhyiddin, adding that employers are also prohibited from slashing the salaries of existing workers.
Around 3.3 million workers in Malaysia are expected to benefit from the wage subsidy programme, which will cost RM5.9 billion in total.
Approximately 120,000 e-hailing drivers — who are among workers most badly affected by the MCO — will be given a one-off assistance of RM500 costing RM60 million in total.
The government previously announced a one-off handout of RM600 for taxi drivers, which will take effect on 1 Apr.
An estimated 1.5 million civil servants, said Muhyiddin, will receive a one-off cash relief of RM500, including contract workers and pensioners from the public service. Payouts will be made next month.
Muhyiddin also announced the creation of a COVID-19 Fund, into which Cabinet members including himself will channel two-months’ worth of their salaries as a measure of solidarity with the people’s suffering in the midst of the outbreak.
Low-income individuals in the B40 group who are warded for COVID-19, he added, will be eligible for a RM50 daily compensation for a maximum of 14 days. This will include such individuals who are quarantined for suspected cases.
Touching on why most of the measures taken in the Prihatin — or “Caring” — package are one-off ones, Muhyiddin said that the measures are meant to provide relief to Malaysians and local businesses “without burdening the Federal Government” in the medium-term duration and to ensure fiscal robustness for the long-term.
“We are a nation at war with invisible forces. The situation we are now facing is unprecedented in history. And this government may not be the government that you voted for.
“But I want all of you to know that this government cares for you. I accepted the fact that I came in as your Prime Minister not at the best moment. I face political, economic and health crisis all at the same time,” he said.
Last month, the new government announced a RM20 billion fiscal stimulus package.