Sarawak DAP asks state govt to implement own wage subsidy programme
Sarawak Pakatan Harapan chairman Chong Chieng Jen speaks to reporters at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur April 8, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUCHING, Jan 20 — Sarawak DAP today urged the state government to implement its own wage subsidy programme (WSP 3.O) for employers in areas under the conditional movement control order (CMCO).

Its chairman Chong Chieng Jen said he has checked with the Social Security Organisation (Socso) which has been entrusted by the federal government with implementing the programme, but it is only for employers in areas under the more restrictive movement control order (MCO).

He said in the case of Sarawak, only employers in the districts of Sibu, Selangau and Kanowit, which are under the MCO, are entitled to apply for the programme.

“Employers outside MCO areas engaging in the tourism and retail industries are also entitled to apply for the WSP,” he said.

Chong, who is also the Stampin member of Parliament, also feels that the wage subsidy of just one month granted to the employers is grossly insufficient.

He said this is because most businesses had suffered losses and resorted to their reserves to sustain themselves for much of last year.

He claimed since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year, the state government has not done much to help Sarawak’s small-medium enterprises (SMEs) to cushion the heavy burden of paying employees’ wages.

“With the state government mainly focusing a major portion of its development expenditure on the construction sector, the other sectors are left high and dry under the present economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Chong proposed that the state government implement its own wage subsidy to supplement the federal programme.

He said the state WSP should cover all loss-making employers whose businesses are still ongoing in the state for a period of three months, and that retrenched employees be given unemployment benefit for a period of three months.

“Besides the wage subsidy programme, the state government should also implement other stimulus packages and grants for SMEs,” he said.

On January 18, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that all employers operating within MCO areas are eligible to apply, regardless of sector.

He said eligible employers would receive a wage subsidy of RM600 for each of their employees earning less than RM4,000 for a period of one month.

“Besides that, the limit of 200 employees for each application will be increased to 500 employees.

“This initiative involves an additional allocation of RM1 billion, which is estimated to benefit 250,000 employers who hire more than 2.6 million employees,” he said when delivering a special address on the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Scheme (Permai) assistance package.