Stimulus package fails to address employment issues, says Matta

Matta president Tan Kok Liang says the Malaysian tourism industry, which employs 3.5 million people, has seen revenues fall by a staggering 90%.

PETALING JAYA: A travel association has expressed disappointment with the economic stimulus package announced by the prime minister this evening – the second tourism-related body to do so – saying it failed to address the key issue of safeguarding employment.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) said the RM250 billion package did not meet the needs of tourism enterprises, particularly small-medium enterprises (SMEs).

Nor did it address issues related to staff retention.

“What will happen after the handouts are fully given out by May when employees find themselves out of a job because the businesses they used to work for have been forced to close shop?” Matta president Tan Kok Liang asked in a statement.

The package unveiled by Muhyiddin Yassin to cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic comprises, among others, RM128 billion for the people’s welfare.

This includes RM600 a month for three months for employees earning below RM4,000 whose companies’ income has dropped more than 50% since Jan 1.

But Tan said the tourism industry, which employs 3.5 million people, has seen revenues fall by a staggering 90% in March and is looking at a near-total loss for the next three months, which could force businesses especially SMEs to retrench employees.

He said tourism-related businesses have indicated a possible downsizing of staff from anywhere between 70% and 90% over the coming few months to simply survive.

“The package announced by the government does not address the fundamental needs of businesses and will eventually result in companies having to lay off employees to stay in business,” he said.

He said while both employers and employees were willing to compromise to keep people employed, the government was “making it somewhat difficult for everyone”.

This included Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributions being deferred, while the RM600 staff retention subsidy came with “questionable eligibility criteria”.

“From the way it looks, employees can look forward to some small relief in April and partly in May but after that, with the prospect of retrenchment looming, they’re essentially on their own,” he said.

Earlier, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) said the stimulus package fell below expectations, saying while it sounded impressive, industries directly impacted by the pandemic needed a little bit more.