by Kevin Chong
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Datuk David Gurupatham, co-founder of Industries Unite

Industries Unite (IU), comprising 112 business groups that represent over 3 million businesses, held a virtual press conference addressing their concerns in regards to the Government’s four-phase recovery plan. According to them, 80% of their members can no longer sustain themselves and meet their financial obligations; 40% have been forced to close down, and 20% more are likely to shut down in the coming months. 

Referring to the exit plan that the Prime Minister has laid out earlier this month that estimated the reopening of most businesses by the end of August, the IU seems to have “lost confidence” that these targets can be met. With positive Covid-19 cases going up to nearly 6,000 cases daily, the goal of lowering it to below 4,000 cases seems a little bit far-fetched. 

As of now, the Government has yet been able to fully vaccinate 10% of the population, which further expresses the IU’s concerns, since the third phase of the plan states that Covid-19 cases are expected to reduce to 2,000 in August 2021, while 40% of the entire population would have fully vaccinated. 

Though Datuk David Gurupatham, co-founder of Industries Unite, acknowledges that some of the steps taken by the Government was in the right direction, he believes there is more that could be done to save local businesses from shutting down. 

Virtual Press Conference with local business owners

Datuk David Gurupatham shared a list of suggestions that could help soften the blow during the Full Movement Control Order (FMCO).

1. Increase and accelerate capacity of the vaccinations nationwide 

  • Procure and increase the supply of vaccines, all vaccines approved by the  WHO can be procured without lengthy local trials. Overseas tests should  suffice.
  • Allow registered pharmacies to purchase vaccines from the approved WHO  list and offer for sale to licensed private practitioners and doctors.
  • Private GP’s areto be allowed to vaccinate without red tape, they are already  empowered to do so by law.
  • Begin a nationwide campaign to encourage people to register and to vaccinate, educate the vaccine hesitant public, improve the communication of the need to  vaccinate by fully mobilizing both digital and traditional media and all necessary resources.
  • Publish daily vaccination data according to age groups and location. 
  • Allow an amnesty to undocumented foreign workers and encourage them to  vaccinate. 

2. Financial Assistance to Assist Businesses to stabilize and recover. 

  • A further reduction in utility bills, TNB bills, especially commercial rates 50%. 
  • Procure the reduction of data charges by telcos. 
  • Reduction or deferment on Federal and State taxes and levies which affect  businesses such as the entertainment tax, levies for foreign workers, renewal of  business licenses, etc. 
  • 6 months deferment of statutory obligations such as EPF and SOCSO. 

3. Automatic moratorium for businesses and individuals on an opt out basis.

  • The application process defeats and delays the objective. 
  • The current targeted moratorium is subjective. If this is to continue, there must be an independent ombudsman.
  • The bank requirements are unattainable by many. Banks have declined their customers’ requests verbally or put  the matter in KIV, making it difficult for anyone to make a complaint.
  • Expand the moratorium to include all financial institutions.
  • The interest rate to be fixed at a cost of funds basis.
  • The tenure for Moratorium has to be for a period of 6 months from now or 6  months from when the economy is fully open for businesses, whichever is  later. 

4. Widen the scope and depth of the wages support scheme 

  • The current wage support subsidy isn’t cast wide enough. 
  • The categories of the affected business that can apply should be increased based on need.
  • The wage subsidy should be at least 30% of the employees’ nett salary.

5. Rental relief

  • Different traders require different levels of rental rebates.
  • Government gives grants to landlords to the equivalent level of the rental reduction.
  • The current tax relief for landlords has little or no impact as the tax relief is only useful if these landlords are in profit.

6. Targeted financial support for B40 and M40; target spending on products and services.

  • Estimated 600,000 people formerly in the M40 category are now in the B40 category and these numbers are likely to rise exponentially.
  • The current one off payment of RM1,500 is woefully insufficient.
  • Online purchases are favoring business overseas, outflow of capital. Lower priced fake items from phantom sellers mostly located overseas.
  • No action is taken against these online platforms from selling fake goods that are affecting real businesses.

7. Suspension of tax installments

  • We ask the Government in these instances to compute and accelerate refunds to ease cash flow. 
  • We ask that the Government consider if it is possible to defer tax payments by affected industries to be deferred for the duration of the total lockdown.

8.  Unlock private capital/digitalize the cooperative/encourage peer to peer lending.

  • Under the Cooperative Act, cooperatives are allowed to borrow from and lend to  individuals.
  • Digitalising the process of peer to peer lending, App based, will reduce cost, red  tape and allow verifications and speed up applications, disbursement and  repayment of these micro loans on a peer to peer basis.
  •  A digital tokenization of government financial assistance and utilization of credit  coupons into the smart chip of the IC’s of recipients of these micro loans, grants  and assistance which can be spent on locally made essential items.

9. Targeted and immediate lifting of restrictions on businesses to operate..

  • The vaccination plans must be targeted also towards prioritizing businesses and the economy. 
  • Do away with essential and non-essential labels.
  • The Covid 19 battle must be targeted, locality by locality, building by building, district by district, State by State.
  • High economic value neighbourhoods to be prioritized, for example when there is a large concentration of businesses workers and people.
  • Businesses should be allowed to operate with enhanced SOP’s in these areas.

10. Gig economy overlooked.

  • Entertainment, especially music and live events promotes all kinds of industries. However, musicians and those daily paid and contract workers in this industry, often fall through the cracks as they are not registered with government agencies such as the tax department, EPF and Socso.
  • The previous one-time monetary assistance does not help sustain their lives that are at a standstill. 
  • Please consider a monthly stipend for people in this category who are severely and critically impacted by the lockdown. 

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