PEMERKASA: Strengthening Our Economy Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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By: Muhammad ‘Aamil Azhar, Research Analyst, Institut Masa Depan Malaysia

On March 17, 2021, our government launched the Strategic Program to Empower the People and the Economy (PEMERKASA), a stimulus package valued at RM20 billion with a fiscal injection amounting to RM11 billion aimed at revitalizing the economy through various pro- business incentives in addition to providing better-targeted assistance to both citizens and affected sectors of the economy. PEMERKASA was announced after most of the necessary, yet restrictive stay-at-home orders have been relaxed, and daily COVID cases have gradually trended down. While many economic stimulus packages have been announced from the start of the pandemic, this plan is more holistic and comprehensive.

The government’s earnestness in achieving economic revival is evident through the more significant allocation given than the PERMAI stimulus. PEMERKASA’s allocation of RM20bil is higher than that of PERMAI’s RM15bil, and most importantly, PEMERKASA’s fiscal injection is markedly more significant at RM11bil compared to analysts figure of RM1.9bil for PERMAI.

COVID-19 has upended ordinary Malaysian’s lives and merely highlighted the legacy of how economic growth has become less inclusive than in the past, encouraging the perception that growth has not benefited all citizens equitably. Therefore, the stimulus’s fourth focus on “Ensuring Inclusivity” is an announcement that should be given a serious attention.

First introduced was an RM1.2bil allocation for the poorest members of society. A one-off RM500 payment will be given to B40 households who lost their jobs, and a similar payment of an additional RM500 is available for eligible recipients earning RM1,000 and below. Putting cash directly into the affected hands will allow them to purchase essentials and alleviate their hardships. Cash handouts are the most effective and direct way to allay help.

Additionally, to alleviate the plight of the urban poor, an allocation of RM100 million for more than 300,000 households, particularly the poor in urban areas, to buy essential food items has been earmarked. This help will be given through a cashless initiative that will benefit our local technological industries and reach an even wider range of poor people, a large sum of which do not have bank accounts.

Whilst those who have fallen even harder in life, the Prime Minister has promised an initiative to establish a brand-new homeless shelter, “Anjung Kelana,” located in Taman Desa Kuala Lumpur. Homeless shelters are a homeless service agency that provides temporary residence for homeless individuals and families. Shelters exist to provide residents with safety and protection from exposure to the weather while simultaneously reducing the community’s environmental impact. Shelter programs like this can help address homelessness’s root causes through a range of essential recovery support services, including mental and substance use disorder treatment, employment, and mainstream benefits.

Working persons with disabilities (PWD) who have long been disadvantaged in the labour market could see that the Prime Minister is someone who champions their rights. The increment of the minimum wage qualification for a disabled person to be given a Disabled Workers Allowance will allow 5,000 extra disabled workers access to the fund. Besides, no registration charges will be levied on PWDs who want to set up their businesses through the Malaysian Companies Commission.

An RM50 a day wage-replacement pay-out will be given to B40s who are forced to quarantine if they subscribe to mySalam. These forms of wage-replacement would allow those who own their businesses, in odd jobs or who work in a shift-based system to keep others safe and at the same time to be insulated from economic losses. The government cares not only for white- collar workers’ welfare but also for rubber tappers, sundry workers, and cleaners all nationwide.

PEMERKASA stands to be the start of the end of our economic slump. Proactive measures to revitalize the economy, as announced in the Prime Minister’s speech, and the protective measures to safeguard the rakyat’s socioeconomic status, will ensure that growth is aligned with shared prosperity principles.

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