PETALING JAYA, Jan 12: Two business leaders have cautioned against an extension of the two-week lockdown in some states which comes into force on Wednesday.
Koay Chiew Guan, immediate past president of the Small and Medium Enterprises Association, said: “Two weeks is still okay, hopefully they don’t prolong it. If they do, it will be more troubling, the whole country will be thrown into chaos.”
During the MCO lockdown, only essential services and five economic sectors will be allowed to operate: manufacturing, construction, services, trading and distribution, as well as plantations and commodities. Workers in non-essential services must work from home.
The restrictions apply to Penang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan, Melaka, Johor, and Sabah from Jan 13-26.
Koay said government subsidies on rent and salaries, or a loan moratorium, would have been appreciated to account for the drop in income many businesses will experience.
“Hardest hit are the small companies and businesses, like restaurants, they have no customers for dine in, so for them it will be more hardship.”
He said circumstances should not become too dire if the MCO is not extended.
Another small business leader, William Ng, said the government should immediately provide an automatic extension for all statutory requirements such as renewal of business licenses and submission of annual returns.
Extended subsidies on wages and rents should be provided if the MCO is extended beyond two weeks.
Ng is central region chairman of the Small and Medium Enterprises Association Malaysia.
MCO won’t end Covid-19 crisis, says association
He said the association would have preferred a more targeted approach to managing the numbers of Covid-19 infections instead of a blanket MCO.
Last year, the federal government earmarked RM10 billion in aid to help small enterprises during the national MCO lockdown from March to July.
Michael Kang, president of the SME Association of Malaysia, said he hoped the government could come up with effective wage and rent subsidies.
Kang predicted that 30-40% of the country’s SMEs “will be gone” if the MCO were to be extended for another two months.
He said businesses suffered losses of an estimated RM2.4 billion each day during last year’s MCO and SMEs had already had to burn “a lot of cash” during the period.
He hoped the government would find a long-term solution to the Covid-19 crisis instead of resorting to continued lockdowns.
“We need a solution to live with Covid-19. Not MCO,” he said. “It’s not like Covid-19 will disappear with the MCO.”
MEF says government support crucial for companies’ survival
The Malaysian Employers Federation urged the government to consider reintroducing the employment retention programme, wage subsidy programme and loan moratorium, especially for small and medium enterprises.
MEF president Syed Hussain Syed Husman said the survivability of most companies hinged upon the support received from the government.
Syed Hussain said the measures introduced in March 2020 should be reintroduced, as the current wage subsidy programme was only applicable to the hotel and retail sectors.
Won’t be as bad as last year, says MTUC
Malaysian Trades Union Congress deputy president Mohd Effendy Ghani said the partial lockdown was only in some states, and other areas would not feel as big an impact as the national lockdown in March last year.
“Compared to the first MCO, when everything stopped, at least some sectors are allowed to continue operations, which will be better for workers and the economy.”
Effendy said the government needs to be clear in their messaging to ensure workers and employers comply so that further restrictions aren’t implemented
He urged the entire workforce to abide by the SOPs handed down, as poor adherence will lead to extensions or further restrictions being implemented.