KUALA LUMPUR (July 17): In a rare move, Malaysia's Ministry of Finance (MOF) has invited opposition lawmakers from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) to the ministry's office in Putrajaya to discuss the country's Covid-19-driven National Recovery Plan (NRP) with Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz on Thursday (July 15), during which the DAP representatives presented a RM45 billion recovery and stimulus plan for the MOF's consideration.

The DAP said in a statement today said the MOF had invited DAP secretary-general and Bagan member of Parliament (MP) Lim Guan Eng, Damansara MP Tony Pua and Batu Gajah MP V Sivakumar to the meeting with Tengku Zafrul.

"The meeting was held on July 15, 2021 (Thursday) at 5pm. We took the opportunity to present suggestions and proposals by the DAP via a memo to the minister," Pua said in the statement.

In the document presented to Tengku Zafrul, the DAP said the RM45 billion recovery and stimulus plan comprised a RM4 billion allocation for for the Ministry of Health (MOH), RM30 billion portion for economic grants and subsidies, RM6 billion allocation for hiring incentives and RM5 billion portion for households.

The DAP said since Malaysia imposed the nationwide phase one of the total lockdown in June 2021 to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by phase one of the NRP and the subsequent Enhanced Movement Control Order in several Klang Valley enclaves and localities, economic activity in the majority of sectors, especially those deemed non-essential, has come to a standstill.

"This has negatively affected livelihoods, our supply chains and investor confidence. It is clear that the time to strike and make substantial cash injections into the economy is now.

"Any delay will result in more jobs lost, leading to more Malaysians requiring economic support to survive. The government will then have to fork out even more money to cushion the impact, or face further decrease of economic growth," the DAP said.

According to the DAP, the RM45 billion recovery and stimulus plan aims to ensure substantial investment in Malaysia's healthcare capacity to fight Covid-19 and implement a bold expansionary fiscal policy to support households and businesses.

The DAP said the country needs to increase its Covid-19 testing and tracing capacity as vaccination is being ramped up.

"The MOH must ramp up testing, and by extension, keeping the test positivity rate well under 5% is critical. We should not be hesitant to increase the number of tests for fear of increasing the number of detected cases. Failure to have a comprehensive testing strategy would mean a higher probability of community spread if positive cases remain undetected.

"We must increase the capacity of our healthcare system," the DAP said.

On fiscal policy, the DAP said the bold expansionary fiscal policy must complement and be coherent with a major review of the current pandemic risk control measures.

The DAP said if there is insufficient spending in strategic areas now, this will require the government to ramp up spending on welfare in the upcoming months due to the inability to save jobs and businesses.

According to the DAP, the country must move past the arbitrary distinction between essential and non-essential sectors when differentiating lockdowns. 

"It does not make any sense for many low-risk non-essential sectors to be shut, while certain potentially high-risk essential industries are left to operate without any revision in guidelines or standard operating procedures (SOPs).

"Instead, every industry must be risk-assessed via science-based and data-driven SOPs, ensuring there is pre-emptive risk assessment in accordance with the risk of transmission, clearly distinguishing between indoor and outdoor spaces," the DAP said.

The DAP said creating and preserving jobs should still be the first line of defence in saving livelihoods. 

The lack of investment in this area may lead to more segments of Malaysians needing to rely on welfare aid to survive in the future, it said.

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