Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday (18 January) announced a new stimulus package worth RM15 billion to strengthen the Government’s existing initiatives to help the nation cope with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The new assistance package, dubbed the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat Protection Package (Permai), will carry out 22 new initiatives anchored on three main objectives –- to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, to safeguard the welfare of the people, and to support the business continuity.
Muhyiddin’s announcement came a week after a stricter movement control order (MCO) was imposed in seven states, Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Johor, Sabah, the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan, amid the alarming spike in the number of daily COVID-19 cases.
Combating the COVID-19 outbreak
Under Permai aid package, healthcare frontline workers will be given a one-off payment of RM500.
The Government also aim to recruit an additional 3,500 healthcare personnel, who will start working by the end of this month, by allocating RM150 million.
“These recruits comprise assistant medical officers, paramedics, laboratory technicians and nurses. My commitment is that the Government will increase the recruitment of healthcare professionals should the need arise to support the immunisation programme,” he added.
Muhyiddin said the Government pledged to allocate RM800 million for the Health Ministry for the supply of additional reagents, screening kits and PPE equipment.
Noting that the Government has signed three agreements with vaccine producers, the Prime Minister said Malaysia will be receiving its first batch of vaccines by the end of February, with a total of RM3 billion of the budget already being allocated for the purpose.
Malaysia aims to vaccine more than 80 per cent of its population, or close to 27 million people, by the first quarter of next year.
Muhyiddin hinted the first batch is expected to be vaccinated by early March.
He also noted that private hospitals have agreed to receive and treat both COVID-19 and non-COVID patients to help alleviate the strain on the public healthcare system, adding that a total of RM100 million has been allocated for the purpose.
“To support more individuals to do COVID-19 screening and detection tests privately, the scope for tax relief relating to full health screening expenses, which was increased from RM500 to RM1,000 in Budget 2021, has now been expanded to also cover COVID-19 screening,” said the Prime Minister.
Safeguarding Malaysians’ welfare
Muhyiddin noted that the final payment of the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN 2.0) will be brought forward from 21 January onwards, with a total payment of RM2.38 billion to be distributed to 11.1 million recipients.
Under this scheme, households earning up to RM5,000 per month will receive RM300 each, while for those under single category who earn up to RM2,000 per month will receive RM150.
The Prime Minister added that the Government will allocate RM2.2 billion to welfare assistance, which will benefit more than 400,000 recipients.
He noted Social and Welfare Department (JKM) will implement a food basket programme immediately which will provide essential food items worth RM100 for each eligible household, involving a total allocation of RM50 million.
Additionally, the Government will allocate RM25 million under the GLIC/GLC Disaster Relief Network which includes provision of community assistance, to the elderly, homeless, the disabled and flood victims.
Muhyiddin said the moratorium facility, including extension of the moratorium and restructuring of loan repayment, will continue to be offered by banks during the MCO.
He added that a sales tax exemption for locally assembled and imported passenger vehicles will be extended until 30 June.
“The provision of free 1 Gigabit data has been offered to the public to browse websites, including for educational purposes. This RM500 million facility started on 1 January 2021, and will be extended until the end of April 2021,” said the Prime Minister.
Muhyiddin also noted that a special tax relief of up to RM2,500 on the purchase of mobile phones, computers and tablets will be extended for another year until the end of this year.
PTPTN borrowers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic or floods are enabled to apply for a three-month PTPTN loan repayment moratorium, in which the application can be made until 31 March 2021.
Supporting business continuity
The Government will also allocate RM24 million to fund the full contribution under Socso’s Self-Employment Social Security Scheme for delivery riders.
For Malaysians who suffered a loss of employment during the MCO enforcement, Muhyiddin said all employees, including those who do not meet the conditions required, are now eligible to apply for the Employment Insurance System assistance of 30 per cent of their monthly salary for a period of 3 months.
“To continue the support for entrepreneurs and businesses in generating income through online sales or e-commerce platforms, the Government will accelerate the implementation of the SME and Micro SME e-Commerce Campaign and Shop Malaysia Online campaign, with a total allocation of RM300 million,” he added.
The Government also aims to enhance wage subsidy programme 3.0 under Socso, which would allow all employers operating in the MCO states to be eligible to apply, irrespective of sector.
Eligible employers will receive a wage subsidy of RM600 for each of their employees earning less than RM4,000 for a period of one month. In addition, the wage subsidy limit of 200 employees for each employer will be increased to 500 employees.
Mr Muhyiddin added that the Prihatin Special Grant Plus assistance will be expanded to cover 500,000 SMEs in the seven states which are under MCO, with a payment of RM1,000 each. He added that 300,000 SMEs in other states will receive RM500 each.
In fact, a one-off financial assistance of RM500 to will be given to 14,000 tourist guides as well as 118,000 drivers of taxis, school buses, tour buses, rental cars and e-hailing vehicles, with an additional allocation of RM66 million.
The Prime Minister said a special discount of 10 per cent on electricity bills will be provided to six business sectors nationwide, comprising hotel operators, theme parks, convention centres, shopping malls, local airline offices and travel agencies, beginning from January to March.
“Electricity rebates will be given to all TNB users, domestic and non-domestic at a rate of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is equivalent to a reduction in electricity bills of up to 9 per cent for a period of 6 months, from 1 January to 30 June 2021,” he added.
The Government also introduced Bus and Taxi Hire Purchase Rehabilitation Scheme, in which a 50 per cent guarantee on financing from hire purchase and leasing companies will be provided for selected buses such as sightseeing buses, and taxis.
“Through this, bus and taxi operators can restructure their financing and enjoy a 12-month moratorium and lower monthly repayments. A guarantee of RM1 billion will be provided for this purpose,” he noted.
Mr Muhyiddin also noted that the effective period of inability to perform contractual obligations will be extended to 31 March, under the Temporary Measures for Reducing the Impact of CovidD-19 Act 2020, or Act 829.
“This includes hire purchase or lease contracts and credit sales contracts which benefit groups such as the B40, M40 and micro-enterprises who are unable to meet their contractual obligations,” he said.