Malaysia unveils additional $48b aid package as Covid-19 lockdown is extended

A deserted shopping mall during a lockdown in Kuala Lumpur on June 1, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday (June 28) announced a RM150 billion (S$48.6 billion) aid package to help Malaysia tide over a nationwide lockdown that has been extended indefinitely.

The package includes RM10 billion in direct fiscal spending by the government in the form of cash aid, wage subsidies and unemployment assistance.

"I'm aware of how hard things are for Malaysians after a year of battling the pandemic... I understand that aid should continue to be given out for as long as this crisis lasts," Tan Sri Muhyiddin said in a nationally televised announcement.

The full lockdown, imposed on June 1 and originally set to end on Monday, will not be lifted until daily new cases fall below 4,000.
Daily cases have persistently exceed the 5,000 mark and patients in intensive care units remain at a high rate.

The recovery, or Pemulih, package is targeted at assisting households and businesses affected by the pandemic while Malaysia remains under phase one of its National Recovery Plan.

A total of RM4.6 billion will be allocated for the special Covid-19 assistance scheme to help 11 million people, mainly the elderly and singles.

Those in the low-income and middle-income groups are set to receive between RM100 and RM1,300 in cash handouts. The first payment will be in August. Another RM500 million would be set aside for those who have lost their income, who will receive the aid in October.

A six-month moratorium will be given to all individual borrowers, including those in the high-income group and micro-entrepreneurs.
There will also be another round of withdrawals from the Employees Provident Fund, which will allow contributors to withdraw up to RM5,000 - or RM1,000 a month for five months.

Besides RM3.8 billion in wage subsidies, there will also be more tax breaks and grants, among other measures.

Mr Muhyiddin said Malaysia will also spend an additional RM1 billion to ramp up its vaccination programme, including RM400 million for vaccine purchases.

On Monday, Malaysia recorded 5,218 new infections, bringing the total cases to 739,266 cases.

Seven stimulus packages worth a total of RM380 billion were earlier provided by the government.

The new aid came amid public anger, as Malaysians have grown more desperate to make ends meet during the pandemic. But the announcement was met with mostly criticism from the public, who took to social media to voice their frustration.

"People have been asking for this government to cut off the ministers' salaries yet they still do nothing despite having been told off to do so multiple times ever since last year. Now they're telling rakyat (the people) to withdraw their KWSP (retirement fund) money?" said Twitter user @kiminrrr.

Another Twitter user @syzwnn criticised the late payment date for the cash handout: "Don't you have any sense of urgency, PM? They need to wait until August? Pity those who have lost source of income."

Some Key Highlights of Aid Package

- RM4.6 billion in cash handouts to 11 million people

- RM500 million in direct cash aid to one million people who lost their jobs

- RM1,500 over a three-month period for each of the 20,000 disabled individuals

- Six-month bank loan moratorium for all individual borrowers

- Five to 40 per cent electricity discount for domestic users from July to September, a 10 per cent discount for tourism-related businesses until December

- RM20 million in seed funding for the disabled or homeless to start a business

- Another RM1 billion for vaccination efforts, to buy enough vaccines for 130 percent of the population.

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