COVID-19: PM unveils people-centric MYR250b economic stimulus package

In a special address today, prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a MYR250 billion economic stimulus package focused in cushioning the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The people-centric “Prihatin Rakyat” package will benefit all segments of the society.

“No one will be left behind,” said the Malaysian premier as he explained that the economic stimulus package is designed out of the government’s concern with the welfare of the people.

He added that the package is based on the country’s fiscal capability, ensuring that the fiscal account always has a surplus and its debt position is sustainable. He said that almost all the measures are one-off as to not burden the Federal Government’s finances in the medium term.

Out of the MYR250 billion total, MYR128 billion will go towards the people’s welfare, MYR100 billion to support businesses including Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and another MYR2 billion to strengthen the economy. This includes the MYR20 billion allocated in the previous 2020 Economic Stimulus Package.

Handouts aplenty

Addressing the people’s welfare, the government will be shelling out handouts worth MYR10 billion to the lower-income B40 and middle-income M40 categories to help them cushion the effects of the pandemic and the Movement Control Order currently in effect. Households and individuals stand to receive up to MYR1,600 one-off payments, through the months of April and May.

As announced in the previous economic stimulus package, B40 Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) recipients will not only be receiving their MYR200 incentives earlier but will also receive an additional MYR100. The balance BSH payments that will happen in July involves an allocation of MYR3.2 billion.

Also announced earlier was the MYR500 million allocation for the Health Ministry to boost resources to combat COVID-19. That aside, there’s also a MYR100 million allocation to hire contract medical personnel, primarily nurses. Today, an additional MYR1 billion will be allocated to the purchase of equipment and services, including obtaining specialist services from the private sector.

In appreciation to those on the frontlines protecting the nation from the COVID-19 outbreak, medical personnel will see an increase in their special allowance from MYR400 to MYR600, starting April 2020 until the outbreak is contained.

Next, the government has agreed to extend the special allowance of MYR200 for the police, army, volunteer corps (RELA), immigration and customs personnel who are directly involved in the enforcement of the Movement Control Order. This is effective from April until the end of the outbreak. This is expected to benefit some 169,000 personnel.

A total of 1.5 million Grade 56 and below civil servants including contract workers stand to gain a MYR500 on-off payment, to be issued in April. Government retires totalling 850,000 will also be receiving the same amount come April 2020.

To ensure there’s sufficient food supply as well as help reduce food prices and lower the cost of living, the government will inject MYR1 billion into the Food Security Fund.

The prime minister also announced a MYR270 million allocation for students of institutions of higher learning who will be receiving a one-off payment of MYR200 in May 2020. This includes all stages of tertiary education including matriculation, community colleges, polytechnics, IPTA, and IPTS.

Not forgotten are the vulnerable and less fortunate including senior citizens, children in shelters, the specially-abled, homeless, and indigenous people of Malaysia. The government in cooperation with NGOs and social enterprises will be channelling food supplies, health essentials and shelter at a tune of MYR25 million.

Following the move to allow EPF contributors to withdraw funds from their Account 2, the government is also extending this facility to Private Retirement Schemes (PRS). PRS contributors can make pre-retirement withdrawals of up to MYR1,500 from Account B without penalty, from April until December 2020.

Addressing the B40 group in the city, the prime minister announced a six-month moratorium of rental payment for residents and tenants of the People’s Housing Project (PPR). The moratorium involves 3,636 units of PPR housing that are either rented or in transit under the management of the Housing Ministry; the deferment will cost MYR5.7 million for 4,649 units.

The government is also increasing electricity bill discounts million that will be implemented in stages, at a cost of MYR530—between 15 percent to 50 percent. This is on top of the 2 percent for those in commercial, industrial, agriculture, and residential, as announced previously.

Free internet for all

On the subject of multimedia and telecommunication, the government is partnering telcos to offer free internet access to all Malaysians, with a total budget of MYR500 million. This is effect 1 April 2020 until the end of the MCO. That aside, the government is also investing MYR400 million to increase coverage and the quality of networks in the country.

e-hailing aid

Muhyiddin said he understood the plight of full-time e-hailing drivers impacted by the MCO. To lighten their burden, the government is extending a MYR500 one-off cash handout to 120,000 e-hailing drivers at a tune of MYR60 million. This will be disseminated starting 1 April 2020.

Business boost

Partnering the Central Bank (BNM), the government will allocate an additional MYR4.5 billion to aid SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs. A total of MYR3 billion will be channelled to the Special Relief Facility.

Additionally, the government will introduce a Wage Subsidy Programme to help employers retain their workforce. It will prepare a wage of MYR600 per month per employee (earning less than MYR4,000) for three months. This programme is expected to benefit 3.3 million workers with a budget of MYR5.6 million.

Ending his address, Muhyiddin said this:

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 resigned to 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.

This unprecedented situation of course requires unprecedented measures. So, my dear brothers and sisters, and the children of this beloved country, whether you are a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, Iban, Kadazan, Dusun, orang asal, please bear with me and my friends in the cabinet and the government. We are not perfect, but we are doing the best we can to pull through this crisis together, as one nation. God willing, we will come out stronger when this crisis ends and the dust settles. InsyaAllah (God willing).

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Vernon is the founder and chief editor of A graphic designer by profession, he has a deep love for technology, cars, gadgets, food, and travel. He tweets too much and is also known as a caffeine bacterium ("life's too short for bad coffee"). Bleeds Blue (go Chelsea FC!) and considers BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo cars to have in the garage--for true petrolheads, that is.