THE prime minister had announced the Permai assistance package to help navigate us through the second movement-control order (MCO 2.0). I was desperately waiting for the announcement because as someone who is directly impacted by this pandemic like many others, this could be the lifeline to survival. However, as I was listening in, I was completely disappointed with the initiatives offered, especially for the self-employed. I was really waiting for auto-moratorium packages and at least three-month cash assistance for families and individuals impacted by the pandemic and not just one-off.The self-employed are now the second biggest group in the Malaysian workforce. In 2018, there were 2.86 million own-account workers, out of a total of 14.8 million working adults. Based on statistics from DOSM, during the first MCO nearly 50% of self-employed have lost their jobs while 90% of the remaining are still working with a lower salary. Although this may be past statistics, we can use these figures as a benchmark of the coming situation in Malaysia. Most probably the figures have risen and worse as most of their savings have depleted, accumulated debt, and with a lower consumer spending, which is leading to a major disaster for self-employed.As someone who works in the education sector specialising in preschool for children, I am suffering and have utilised a huge portion from my savings and I’m not sure how much longer I can depend on it. The government has allowed registered child centres to operate with standard operating procedure (SOP) in hopes that this will encourage parents to send their children. However, the opposite is happening where many of the parents choose not to send their children. They are fearful of the safety of their children and how can you blame them? The reality is bleak with cases increasing day by day. Who would risk the safety of their children? Besides that, some of them are impacted financially such as losing their job or experiencing a salary cut. Hence education might not be a priority for now.Based on my engagement with banks on applying for a moratorium, I am only eligible for loan reduction instead of a full moratorium because I belong in the self-employed segment. Although I did not lose my job but my income is heavily impacted and with monthly expenses which I still have to pay, how can I still afford to pay the bank loans? Why is there a distinction between salaried and self-employed? This is one of the gaps in targeted moratorium because it is a general rule that does not apply for all cases. Why am I penalised from the assistance just because I am self-employed? How can I pay my school rent, utilities, expenses, and teachers’ salaries on top of paying my bank loans? Furthermore, most teachers have families to feed and the wage subsidies of RM600 are just not enough to cover their basic expenses.The auto-moratorium was implemented by the government from March until September during the first MCO. After September, targeted repayment assistance was introduced. However, the targeted assistance was implemented under the assumption that the economy will be functioning and this is not clearly the reality on the ground. Look at us now with MCO 2.0, darurat and the slow moving economy. Shouldn’t the government revise its options and revisit the auto-moratorium option?Besides that, the banks are also not accommodating, instead of providing solutions that will help the impacted customers, they just provide alternatives which will bring them profit in the long run. Many are charging their clients with higher rates and with longer tenure.Based on the initiatives under Permai, bus and taxi operators can enjoy a 12-month moratorium and lower monthly repayments. Why not provide it for across all other important sectors too such as education?I am begging for the government to consider helping the people suffering through this pandemic by implementing effective incentives which will help us survive during these challenging times. My suggestion is that the government implement the three months auto moratorium across all sectors and provide at least three-month cash assistance to the people struggling, especially the B40 and M40 community to help them survive. I don’t think the government can look at this situation and just turn the other way until the pandemic is over when it comes to the survival of the people. It’s clearly a question of if the government is accountable enough to protect or just let the people rot? Whatever decision the government chooses will have a significant impact to how the voters will vote in the future. – January 27, 2021.* Suzanne Lee reads The Malaysian Insight. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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