Saturday, July 4

‘Formalise’ to qualify for govt assistance

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Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan

KUCHING: Entrepreneurs from the ‘informal sector’ have been urged to reach out to the state government to get themselves formalised so that they will not miss out from benefitting from the various assistances provided by the government.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said while the government has implemented many aid packages to help revive the state’s economy post-Covid-19, many small businesses, particularly those in the informal sector, are not eligible to receive any of the aid such as the RM2,250 one-off grant given to those registered under their respective local authorities.

The term ‘informal sector’ refers to enterprises or businesses that are either unlicensed or being run part-time, but contribute significantly to the economy.

“Informal sectors do contribute to the household and state’s economy. I know for sure in Sarawak there are many of them, because in my constituency Bukit Sari in Lawas, I see many of them selling their farm and jungle produce at the local pasar tamu,” he said.

Awang Tengah, who was speaking at Agro Bank’s ‘Covid-19: Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Business Recovery and Strengthening’ forum here yesterday, said among the measures taken by the state government in helping the economy to bounce back was to offer microcredit scheme or soft loans for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) facing difficulties during the economic slowdown caused by the various movement control orders.

He said the newly set-up Sarawak Economic Action Council (SEAC) announced by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg in May, will look into the finer details on how to further help those in the informal sector overcome the post Covid-19 economic slowdown.

The problems faced by the informal sector were pointed out by Academy of Sciences Malaysia fellow and economic analyst Dr Madeline Berma earlier in the forum.

She said due to these entrepreneurs not being formally registered with the local authorities or having permits, they were not in the list of those eligible for aid or assistance from the government.

“Many people, especially in the urban areas, see these informal sectors as an eyesore. But to me, we have to provide a space for them.

“In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic slowdown due to the movement control orders since March, these informal sectors will be the worst hit. So I think the government needs to manage them properly,” Madeline said.

She added the government must now reach out to those in the informal sector and get them formalised so that they can be eligible for the various assistance packages that have been announced.

“This is important because we want to set up more business class in the state to strengthen our economy. Some of these informal sectors are nascent entrepreneurs – those who are just about to delve into entrepreneurship.

“So we need to start helping them,” she said.

Earlier, Awang Tengah highlighted the various assistances provided by the federal and state governments to SMEs affected by the pandemic, such as the wage subsidy programme as well as the Sarawakku Sayang Special Assistance (BKSS).

He also highlighted the setting-up of the SEAC with the aim of restoring and boosting the state’s economy post-Covid-19 for the long term, as well as to encourage the transition to digital economy in Sarawak.