The RM15 billion Permai package with 22 initiatives announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday is a slew of measures designed to help those most directly and adversely affected by the continued disruptions caused by Covid-19.
The package, among others, target the frontline health workers who have been heroically and sacrificially looking after the sick and needy in the hospitals; the business community which has been severely hit by restrictions imposed by the necessary movement control orders; and the general public reeling from the effects of joblessness and a loss in income.
The new measures are obviously the result of consultation and the close monitoring and observation of the latest Covid-19 situation. This is as it should be.
The Government must be lauded for its speedy introduction of these measures, which are urgently needed to combat the Covid-19 outbreak, safeguard the people’s welfare and supporting the business community.
It is inevitable that, despite the best-laid plans of mice and men, there will be those who will fall through the cracks.
To address this issue effectively, three issues must be adequately looked into: There must not be any leakage in the implementation of these stipulated measures; there should be safeguards to ensure that the needy groups are well-targeted, and the relief measures are rolled out in a timely fashion.
And if, after careful monitoring of the implementation of the relief measures, it is found that the plans must be tweaked to ensure maximum bang for the buck, this should be done.
Already, there have been suggestions as to how this can be achieved. For instance, there is a view that loan moratorium should be given automatically to both corporate and individual borrowers to offset the effects of the economic slowdown.
It has also been suggested that PTPTN borrowers should also be given automatic moratorium, rather than they having to apply for this consideration.
Among the measures that are a boon to the workforce is the renewed wage subsidy programme which will assist employers to retain as many staff as possible, thus stabilizing the labour market. It is suggested that this programme be automatically extended until such time as the Covid-19 curve is flattened.
Another novel proposal in the Permai package is the one-off financial assistance to 14,000 tourist guides, and the 118,000 drivers of taxis, tour buses, and e-hailing vehicles, among others. It is hoped that this relief will also be extended for as long as that segment of the market remains depressed.
Would NGOs, orphanages, and old folks homes also be eligible for special grants?
Another aspect that needs looking into is the question of the rakyat’s mental wellbeing. Many individuals are facing mental health problems as a direct result of the restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
Counselling services could do with an injection of much-needed financial assistance to the Health Ministry to handle the increasing number of cases. A special allocation should also be considered to assist and motivate various NGOs like Befrienders KL and others to provide counselling to those severely affected by mental health issues arising from Covid-19.
Another novel suggestion is this: Would the authorities consider setting up a website where the rakyat can give immediate feedback on the efficacy and suitability of the relief measures.
While the authorities consider new relief measures if the pandemic continues, could the rakyat also consider doing their bit by starting a Community Chest to which citizens can make any contribution from RM1 and above as a show of compassion and solidarity? Management of this proposal can be worked out.
Money so collected could be used to boost the national effort so that, as a nation, we can proudly say to our fellow citizens, We Care!Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
Alliance for Safe Community