Foo Ngee Kee
KOTA KINABALU: Small And Medium Enterprise Association of Sabah (SME Sabah) supported Sabah Economic Advisory Council (SEAC) Chairman Tan Sri David Chu’s call to the Government for all sectors to be opened without delays.
Its President, Foo Ngee Kee, said based on a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development And Cooperatives (MEDAC) involving 6,664 entrepreneurs, one-third did not receive the various forms of aids, with 60 per cent of them were suffering from at least one form of mental health condition during the lockdown due to a decline or loss of income, debt or financing issues and risk of closure of business, and 90 percent had no insurance.
He said MEDAC Minister, Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, was reported to have sounded the alarm warning that the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector could collapse by October 2021 if the lockdown were to prolong. Some 580,000 businesses (49%) of the MSME sector will be expected to collapse if they are not allowed to resume their business by October 2021.
With these business closures, MEDAC estimated that more than seven million Malaysians will become unemployed. Wan Junaidi also said that once closed these businesses will not be around to help rebuild the economy when allowed to reopen later.
Foo said it is critical for the Government to act now in saving livelihoods with a more dynamic and effective sets of SOPs to cover all economic sectors and not just the essential economic sectors.
Due to the protracted uncertainties of when the Covid-19 pandemic can be put under control, he said relief aids like the wage subsidies, moratorium or repayment assistance and others will not be enough for MSME to survive.
“As long as the risks of escalating the Daily Active Cases (DAC) are manageable, the Government should now be actively looking into allowing all such economic sectors in Sabah to be opened.
“For example, a family operating a retail shop should be allowed to open although not selling essential items as defined by the current Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Their operations are similar to a retail pharmacy where customers are met at their shop front and their orders taken. Not more than two shop assistants can be in the shop to fill orders from customers waiting at the shop front. Imagine the daily cash flows that these family shops will be able to get which can help their shop stay open,” he said in a statement today.
According to Foo, after 18 months since the first Movement Control Order (MCO) in March 2020 and a number of MCOs relaxing and tightening SOP, businesses have been greatly impacted with a massive loss of business revenues.
“There are no official tracking of the number of businesses that had folded and/or the number of business with limited cash reserves to continue their operations as compared to the various reports and analysis of the DAC.
“Without bearing in mind these livelihood indicators when considering the revision of the SOP which is based solely on the DAC, any decisions by the Government will be at best a lopsided policy skewing towards saving lives and not livelihoods,” he said.
He said while the Federal Government have good reasons to impose stricter SOP due to the high DAC in a number of West Malaysian states; however, for states like Sabah, where over the past few months the DAC have been well controlled between 200 to 500 daily active cases, a more relax set of SOP should be allowed.
“Fortunately, the Sabah State Government did adopt a more relax set of SOP which include allowing dine-ins and non contact sports, which the State Government should be complemented for this brave move and the successful strategies in nipping the problem in its bud by imposing target EMCOs in areas detected with high DAC.
“This is a better approach to balance lives with livelihoods. Over the past few months Sabah’s DAC are still under control,” he said.
He said by allowing more economic sectors, such as the family stores, to open where the risks of escalating the DAC are manageable, more SMEs will be given a chance to gather some sales revenue (valuable cash flows) to help partially pay wages, loans and other operating expenses. In doing so SMEs are also helping Government to save jobs and reduce unemployment in addition to making statutory contributions like EPF, EIS, SOCSO and HRDF to the Government.
“One of the three main objectives of PEMERKASA+ of supporting the continuity of businesses will be better achieved by allowing more economic sectors to open.
“With more economic sectors opening there will be increase movements, and therefore monitoring and enforcement of the strict compliance of SOP is critical. To assist the enforcement personnel a few WhatsApp hotline numbers are to be added to the MySejahtera app for the public’s reference and use to send in photos to report any violation of SOP that they come across to the enforcement authorities.
“This way swift actions by the enforcement officials can be taken on those violators to help control the spread of the Covid-19 virus and deter others from breaching the SOP,” he said.
Testing should also be stepped up in a well-planned manner, he added.
“Testing facilities are to be enhanced to allow more samples to be tested each day locally. Early detection and isolation of active cases by getting the test results quickly is critical in minimising the spread of the Covod-19 virus in the community.
“The above measures to control the spread of Covid-19 virus together with the current speeded up vaccination programmes towards achieving herd immunity and with opening up of more economic sectors will be a much better approach to balance saving lives and livelihoods.
“Therefore, we urge the Government to urgently look into Chu’s proposals to open up all sectors of economy and allow those fully vaccinated persons more freedom of movement to help in the economic recovery,” he said.