Poll: Sarawak employers want govt to implement Wage Subsidy Programme nationwide
Only employers in Sibu, Selangau and Kanowit districts, which are under MCO, are entitled to apply for the Wage Subsidy Programme. — AFP pic

KUCHING, Jan 23 — Many employers agree that the Wage Subsidy Programme should also be implemented in Sarawak even though most areas in the state are under the conditional movement control order (CMCO).

Only employers in Sibu, Selangau and Kanowit districts, which are under MCO, are entitled to apply for the programme.

For restaurant owner Max Bong, he believes that everyone needs help during these trying times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) also have dozens of workers. Each has their own family. This difficult situation has already lasted for a year. It is not easy to maintain a business running like normal.

“Many businesses are unable to continue during this pandemic. It would be better if the state government could implement its own Wage Subsidy Programme for employers in the CMCO areas,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Bong added that a worker might be the sole breadwinner in the family, and might struggle putting food on the table as many had had their pay reduced as their employers were also suffering economically due to the pandemic.

“It is also difficult for employers to cut workers’ salary. Thus, any aid is much appreciated by everyone,” said the businessman, who runs two restaurants operated by 28 workers.

For spa and massage centre owner Dr May Then, she argued over the categorisation of the spa and wellness industry under ‘entertainment’ in Sarawak, but in Peninsular Malaysia, it was ‘tourism’.

“Because of this, the industry is dying here, with many masseurs having returned to their home countries like China, Thailand and the Philippines. They cannot come back as the borders are still closed.”

Then said the subsidy or stimulus package did not include foreign workers; thus, the operators had to bear the huge costs like paying for their workers’ Employee Provident Fund (EPF), Social Security Organisation (Socso), visa and immigration deposits.

“The pandemic is not going to end this year even with the vaccine — we need a permanent solution. The pandemic might be here for three to five years.

I know of a few students who go to school in fear, and many are under stress as they cannot sit for their SPM examinations and further their studies overseas.We are not challenging the government — we just want them to hear our plea,” said Then, arguing that the industry, regardless of size, still played a role in the country’s economy.

Tan Yit Sheng, a coffeeshop owner, believed that the government was taking a ‘wait-and-see’ stance and did not see the need to extend the wage subsidy to the whole of Sarawak.

He said should the Covid-19 situation worsen, the CMCO would be extended.

“If Sarawak were to be placed under the MCO like other states, I’m sure the state government would definitely come out with a good plan for the people.”

Meanwhile, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Sarawak branch chairman Datuk Sri Victor Hii said the Wage Subsidy Programme 3.0 should apply to all states in the country. This was to ensure business continuity for companies as disruption in operations in MCO states and areas would also have a direct impact on the operations of companies, particularly those depending on supplies and were part of the supply chain.

He also commended the government’s most recent efforts in introducing the Perlindungan Ekonomi dan Rakyat Malaysia (Permai) assistance package to ease the burden of the people and business sector during this unprecedented period. One of them was the Wage Subsidy Programme 3.0, projected to benefit 250,000 employers hiring more than 2.6 million employees in MCO areas, regardless of sector.

“FMM Sarawak appeals to the federal and state governments to extend the programme to all businesses impacted by the MCO and CMCO, especially the SMEs. Restriction on movements have impacted their cash flow and disrupted their supply chains because of interdependency of businesses located in different areas within a state or across states,” he said in a statement yesterday.

These disruptions had caused delays in production and delivery to customers in both MCO and CMCO areas — causing businesses to incur further losses, he said.

Hii added that the lack of wage aid in CMCO areas, particularly those in Sarawak, would cause more businesses to shut down, and increase the unemployment rate and adversely impact economic activities.

“We appeal to the government to review its decision and revise the eligibility and allocation for the Wage Subsidy Programme 3.0 to include Sarawak so as to cushion the impact on businesses, particularly SMEs.”

These interviewees were commenting on Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen’s suggestion for Sarawak to have its own Wage Subsidy Programme to supplement the federal government’s programme.

Chong, who made the suggestion on Thursday, observed that only three areas in Sarawak were entitled for the programme, while those involved in the tourism and retail industry would be given subsidy for only a month. — Borneo Post Online