KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 14): The National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) has urged the government to provide financial relief to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and micro businesses.

The NCCIM and the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) president Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap (pictured) in a statement today on behalf of the NCCIM called for greater attention from the government on the issues including financial assistance and relief measures to SMEs.

“Businesses, especially SMEs, small traders, retailers as well as the travel and tourism sectors would have to endure tough sales during this festive celebration and incur cash flow problems as some have already stocked up goods ahead of the festive season,” he said.

He suggested the government and banks continue to provide more compassionate support in facilitating borrowers’ loan repayment obligations under the special circumstances, and to extend wage subsidies to cover the affected sectors (besides tourism and retail as announced in Budget 2021).

He also urged the government and banks to provide one-off financial grants to small traders and microenterprises, provide rental relief and electricity discounts, allow payment of the tax balance for years of sssessment 2020 and 2021 in three monthly instalments, and to provide subsidies for the cost of vaccines for foreign workers for businesses, especially SMEs.

The association also urged the government to prepare the public for the vaccine drive, ensure the implementation of the state of emergency is fair and transparent, as well as ensure consistency in the setting and enforcement of guidelines related to the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

He said the government needs to establish a timeline of distribution of vaccines and the vaccination process with transparent and coordinated communication efforts, setting accurate expectations of when the vaccines will be available, as well as the source country, type of vaccine, priority groups, risks, benefits and supply.

According to him, the MySejahtera app must be further enhanced to speed up its extensive disease surveillance and contact tracing efforts.

In addition, mass or pooled testing and isolation of close contacts must be carried out within 48 hours.

He said the government can offer short-term contracts to unemployed people, including graduates, as swabbers/swab assistants and provide them with some training and guidance to help in contact tracing and mass testing,

“It is incumbent upon the government and health officials at all levels to embark on the right message, the right messenger and the right communication channel so as to instil public confidence and trust in Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.

While vaccinating the population at speed is an enormous challenge, he noted, the government needs to build up infrastructure, including logistics and distribution plans, as quickly as possible to enable mass-vaccination programmes.

Ter also said the implementation of the emergency rule must be carefully managed and enforced in a transparent manner and well communicated to instil confidence and ease investors’ uncertainties.

“More importantly, it must be lifted when the emergency decree has served its purpose as a protracted emergency period would undermine private investment prospects,” he said.

He said, during the emergency implementation period, the most critical considerations should be effective communications and dissemination of information.

“In this regard, the government's and regulator’s engagement with industry is essential prior to the implementation of public policy and the decree of the new ordinance so as to minimise disruption to businesses,” he added.

He also noted that among the issues the independent committee will deliberate over is for how long the order needs to be in place.

“This is of paramount importance to instil public confidence and trust while a timeline be laid out as to when the powers will be returned to Parliament and the people.

“Businesses and investors want economic and political stability as well as policy certainty to operate in a laissez-faire market economy and conducive investment climate,” he said.

Ter also said better coordination and partnerships among federal, state and local authorities are key to minimise business disruption when complying with the SOPs while protecting public health safety.

“In this regard, a single point of reference should be implemented to smoothen the implementation of the SOPs,” he said.

According to him, the federal and state as well as local authorities are not in sync with each other in handling the SOPs.

“The state governments and local authorities have superseded the guidelines and SOPs issued by the federal [government]/ministries, leading to confusion and inconsistency. This is uncalled for businesses during this extreme difficult time,” he said. 

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