KUALA LUMPUR, 7 April 2020 – Self-employed and gig workers are among those left out of the additional RM10bil stimulus package to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs), says a think tank.
“This means that our hawkers, handymen, school bus drivers, artists, and property agents won’t be covered. These are some of the most affected groups during the movement control order (MCO) period, ” said Research for Social Advancement (Refsa) executive director Tan E. Hun.
Tan noted that Refsa and other think-tanks such as the Khazanah Research Institute and the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) had suggested that these groups of people be included under Socso’s Employment Retention Programme.
“In short, we think that the recent announcement is encouraging and will be able to lend some support to the ailing SME sectors.
“However, there are still many who fall through the cracks.
“We will need a blanket wage subsidy programme so that micro, small and medium companies as well as own-account and gig workers can all benefit from it, ” she said in a statement on Tuesday (April 7).
She said the government must be agile and quick to respond to this crisis with “bold and out-of-the-box thinking” to allow the economy to emerge from this crisis without irreversible damage.
“We are concerned that the tiered system of RM600 for firms with 200 pax above, RM800 for firms between 76-200 pax, and RM1,200 for firms under 75 pax might still come up short in solving the dilemma of SMEs in retaining workers.
“In comparison, Singapore subsidised up to 75% of the salary of each employee in highly impacted sectors, while the UK supports 80% of the monthly salary of each furloughed employee.
“While the three-month timeline is good, it may not be sufficient to cover the amount of time required for businesses to recover.
“Again, Singapore’s wage subsidy package fares better as it is for a nine-month period until December 2020, ” she said.
She added that there must be a distinction between the needs of micro enterprises with regard to the RM3,000 one-off handout.
“There’s no distinction on the type of micro enterprises in the handout of the one-off RM3,000.
“A T20 digital marketer at home and a B40 pisang goreng seller are both micro-enterprises if they registered their companies, but they certainly have different needs depending on how badly their businesses are affected, ” she said.
First published in The Star, 7 April 2020