KUCHING (May 15): The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Sarawak (ACCCIS) is calling for a Sarawak version of the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) to help the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the state amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its secretary-general Jonathan Chai said a state-level WSP, similar to the federal one implemented last year, would help businesses, especially the SMEs, from winding up.
He stressed that such financial assistance to SMEs would help, not just businesses, to avoid closure but also reduce the unemployment rate.
“Personally, I am in favour of the state government to provide for the Sarawak version of WSP as it will definitely help to avert the closure or winding up of our business especially the SMEs,” he said when contacted today.
He was commenting on Stampin MP Chong Chieng Jen’s recent call to the Sarawak government to introduce a WSP for the SMEs across the state.
Chong, who is state Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman and Kota Sentosa assemblyman, also suggested that the Sarawak government to come up with interest-free loans worth RM500 million for SMEs in the state.
According to Chai, the ACCCIS has proposed to the state government much earlier on to provide the local businesses with a WSP to incentivise the employers to retain their employees during the tough time.
Chai, who is also Kuching Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCGCCI) secretary-general, said such proposal had been put forward to the Sarawak government before the federal’s WSP concluded October last year.
Based on the feedback gathered by the ACCCIS, he said the employers in Sarawak found the WSP to be the most beneficial among the measures in the Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package provided by the federal government.
He said employers had pointed out that the WSP proved to be very practical in helping to ease the cash flow of their business operation.
On top of WSP, he also hoped that the state government could extend the subsidies for the utilities and assessment rates for a longer period to ease the financial burden of the business operators.
“With the bleak and uncertain economy climate under such extraordinary circumstances, most businesses are reluctant to add on more loan commitments and furthermore, with the assessment of their repayment capabilities based on the business income over the past one year or so, it would be quite difficult for them to get the loan approved anyway.
“We welcome any realistic proposals or practical measures which would help the businesses to overcome the hardships and challenges posed by the pandemic,” said Chai.
With the recent resurgence of the Covid-19 positive cases in the country and the slower than expected of the vaccine rollouts, he said they anticipated that the country’s economy would face more uncertainties and challenges ahead.
Given such gloomy outlook, Chai cautioned that the business community would be in a dire need of more aid measures from the government to keep their businesses afloat and avoid massive unemployment.