Extending wage subsidy is a better option

Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) is proven to be a better safeguard in ensuring jobs are saved.

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Published by The Malaysian Insight.

Extending the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) by another three months for companies that still face cash flow problems is a better option than extending the six-month loan moratorium because the former is proven to be a better safeguard in ensuring jobs are saved. 

Going by the fact that a bigger portion of the deferred loan repayments under the moratorium was utilised more by individuals to the tune of RM38.4 billion, as compared to RM19.3 billion by businesses, we can safely assume the main reason why there are calls for the moratorium to be extended is the fear of the rakyat on losing jobs, facing pay cuts or being put on unpaid leave.

In a live address to the nation on Monday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said about 65% of households have benefited from the moratorium on loan repayments, totalling RM38.4 billion.

He also said more than 2.5 million jobs have been saved through the implementation of the WSP as well as the employee retention programme under the Prihatin and Penjana stimulus packages.

“Additionally, more than 313,000 businesses, including micro-businesses and SMEs have benefited from the packages,” he added.

The fear of an impending bad time probably have resulted in many individuals who could opt-out of the moratorium to opt-in so that they can still save for these rainy days, as 90% of borrowers have taken advantage of the moratorium, according to a poll by the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK).

This saving for rainy days is further reinforced when only 21% of those who took up the moratorium spent the money on daily necessities compared to 48% who used it to build an emergency fund.

But at this stage in the development of the economy, what is needed is not savings to build emergency funds; rather it is spending in order to drive consumption, which is one of the main drivers of growth in the economy during time of recession which the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to generate. 

And people will spend accordingly if their worries over losing their job, receiving a pay cut or getting a no-pay leave are assuaged through measures like extending the WSP.

The beauty about the implementation of the WSP is that unlike the moratorium which is automatic, an employer needs to apply for it at any time from April 1 to September 30, with the wage subsidies being paid from the month the application was submitted. 

This means applications that are made in September before the deadline of 30 September will, on approval, receive a six-month wage subsidy from September to February 2021.

It also means the WSP will not be bunched up because those who can withstand the cash flow problem arising from the movement control order (MCO) will not apply in April and would apply later, say in June, which in turn means the WSP will be paid to them from June to November.

WSP is a financial aid paid to local employers of employees who earn RM4,000 monthly and below. Initially, the subsidy was for a period of three months, but this was extended to six months in total.

Beginning June 15, the employment retention programme (ERP) was incorporated under the WPS, thus including employees who have been instructed to take unpaid leave, provided that they work in the tourism or other sectors that are still prohibited to operate during the recovery MCO. 

At the end of the day, the issue here is of saving jobs which benefits many people via the WSP, as opposed to moratorium which is just a form of postponing obligation to another day which benefits only those who are having difficulty meeting their obligation to pay their loans during this trying time of Covid-19 pandemic.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said deferred loan repayments under the moratorium are estimated to have reached RM55.2 billion as at July 13.

Extending the moratorium to a further six months will only balloon the amount and burden the banking industry which had already done their part by agreeing in the first place to forgo compounded interest on the six-month moratorium.

It will also burden those who opt-in for the moratorium extension with a 12-month future obligation to pay their loan especially when they can afford to opt-out of the moratorium extension.

It is with this in mind that Zafrul had suggested if ever an extension is given, it should be done on a case-by-case basis, targeted at those who are really in difficulty to meet their obligation to pay their extended loan. And the extension doesn’t have to be for another six months as it could be a shorter period depending on the situation of the borrowers in difficulty. 

And hopefully the banking industry can again play their part in continuing to forgo compounded interest on these people in difficulty during this trying time with this targeted extension. After all, the banks can afford to be generous with the smaller number involved.

Jamari Mohtar and Amir jalal are part of the research team at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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Diterbitkan oleh Free Malaysia Today, Malaysiakini & Berita Harian, gambar daripada Free Malaysia Today.

Melanjutkan tempoh Program Subsidi Upah (PSU) kepada 3 bulan lagi bagi syarikat yang masih menghadapi masalah aliran tunai setelah tamatnya program tersebut pilihan lebih baik daripada melanjutkan moratorium pinjaman 6 bulan kerana PSU ternyata sangat berkesan dalam melindungi rakyat dari hilang pekerjaan.

Oleh kerana sebahagian besar penangguhan (moratorium) pembayaran pinjaman berjumlah RM38.4 bilion melibatkan individu berbanding RM19.3 bilion yang melibatkan perniagaan, kita boleh mengandaikan sebab utama gesaan agar moratorium dilanjutkan adalah kebimbangan rakyat akan kehilangan pekerjaan, menghadapi pemotongan gaji atau mendapat cuti tanpa gaji.

Dalam ucapan yang disiarkan secara langsung Isnin lepas, Perdana Menteri Muhyiddin Yassin mengatakan sekitar 65% isi rumah mendapat manfaat daripada penangguhan pembayaran pinjaman berjumlah RM38.4 bilion.

Beliau juga berkata lebih dari 2.75 juta pekerjaan berjaya dikekalkan melalui pelaksanaan PSU serta program pengekalan pekerja bawah pakej rangsangan Prihatin dan Penjana.

“Tambahan pula, lebih 800,000 perniagaan, termasuk perniagaan mikro dan perusahaan kecil dan sederhana (PKS) mendapat manfaat dari pakej tersebut,” katanya lagi.

Kebimbangan mengenai ketidakpastian akan berlakunya suasana rudum pada masa yang terdekat menyebabkan sebahagian besar individu yang tidak memerlukan moratorium untuk mengikut serta demi menabung untuk hari-hari sukar kerana 90% peminjam memanfaatkan moratorium tersebut, menurut tinjauan badan kaunseling kredit dan pengurusan hutang (AKPK).

Penabungan untuk hari-hari sukar itu diperkukuhkan lagi apabila tinjauan itu juga mendapati hanya 21% yang menyertai moratorium menggunakannya untuk keperluan harian berbanding 48% yang menggunakannya kerana ingin menabung bagi mengumpul dana kecemasan untuk masa-masa sukar.

Namun, dalam keadaan perkembangan ekonomi masa kini, apa yang diperlukan bukanlah tabungan untuk mengumpul dana kecemasan; sebaliknya yang penting erbelanjaan bagi mendorong peningkatan penggunaan yang merupakan salah satu pemacu utama pertumbuhan ekonomi pada masa kemelesetan yang dijangka muncul akibat wabak Covid-19.

Pastinya rakyat akan berbelanja sewajarnya jika kebimbangan mereka mengenai kehilangan pekerjaan, potongan gaji atau mendapat cuti tanpa gaji ditenangkan melalui tindakan seperti melanjutkan (PSU).

Apa yang menarik mengenai pelaksanaan PSU adalah tidak seperti moratorium yang bersifat automatik, seorang majikan hanya perlu memohon pada bila-bila masa dari 1 April hingga 30 September untuk menyertai PSU, dengan subsidi gaji dibayar mulai bulan permohonan dikemukakan.

Ini bermakna syarikat yang memohon pada September sebelum tarikh akhir 30 September, selepas diluluskan, akan mendapat subsidi gaji 6 bulan dari September hingga Februari 2021.

Ini juga bermakna PSU tidak akan menyaksikan longgokan pelaksanaan bermula serentak pada bulan yang sama kerana syarikat yang dapat bertahan dalam berdepan masalah aliran tunai ekoran perintah kawalan pergerakan (PKP) tidak akan memohon pada April kerana mereka boleh memohon kemudian, katakan pada Jun, yang seterusnya bermakna subsidi upah akan dibayar kepada mereka dari Jun hingga November.

PSU bantuan kewangan yang dibayar kepada majikan setiap syarikat untuk setiap pekerja tempatan yang memperoleh gaji RM4,000 setiap bulan dan ke bawah. Pada mulanya, subsidi ituuntuk jangka masa 3 bulan, tetapi kemudian dilanjutkan sehingga 6 bulan.

Mulai 15 Jun, program pengekalan pekerjaan (ERP) digabungkan bawah PSU, lantaran itu merangkumi pekerja yang diarahkan untuk mengambil cuti tanpa gaji, dengan syarat mereka bekerja di sektor pelancongan atau sektor lain yang masih dilarang beroperasi semasa PKP pemulihan.

Dalam hal ini, isunya mengelakkan kehilangan pekerjaan yang ramai. Rakyat akan mendapat manfaatnya berbanding moratorium yang merupakan penangguhan wajib ke 1 hari yang lain di mana manfaatnya akan dinikmati oleh mereka yang sukar memenuhi kewajipan membayar pinjaman akibat wabak Covid-19.

Menurut Menteri Kewangan Tengku Zafrul Aziz, pembayaran pinjaman tertunda bawah moratorium dianggarkan mencecah RM55.2 bilion sehingga 13 Julai.

Melanjutkan moratorium hingga 6 bulan lagi hanya akan meningkatkan jumlah pinjaman tertunda dan membebankan industri perbankan yang memainkan peranan mereka sebelum ini dengan menyetujui untuk melepaskan pembayaran faedah kompaun dalam moratorium 6 bulan.

Ia juga akan membebankan mereka yang memilih untuk melanjutkan penangguhan moratorium dengan kewajipan masa depan untuk membayar hutang tertangguh 12 bulan kemudian terutama apabila mereka mampu memilih tidak melanjutkan tempoh penangguhan.

Lantaran itulah, Zafrul mengesyorkan jika moratorium dilanjutkan, ia harus dilakukan berdasarkan kes tertentu yang disasarkan kepada mereka yang benar-benar mengalami kesulitan untuk memenuhi kewajipan membayar pinjaman tertunda mereka. Tempoh lanjutan itu pula tidak semestinya 6 bulan kerana ia bergantung kepada keadaan peminjam bermasalah.

Semoga industri perbankan dapat sekali lagi memainkan peranan melepaskan bayaran faedah kompaun oleh kumpulan sasar para peminjam yang menghadapi kesulitan dalam keadaan mencabar ini. Lagipun, bank sememangnya mampu bermurah hati dengan penglibatan jumlah peminjam yang agak sedikit.

Jamari Mohtar dan Amir Jalal adalah sebahagian daripada pasukan penyelidik dari EMIR Research, sebuah organisasi pemikir bebas yang berfokuskan kepada pencernaan saranan-saranan dasar strategik berteraskan penyelidikan yang terperinci, konsisten dan menyeluruh.

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