Correct several ‘major flaws’ in Penjana, urges PSM

Daily paid workers in the informal sector, such as restaurant helpers, need more assistance to make a living, says PSM.

PETALING JAYA: Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) today urged the government to rectify “major flaws” in the RM35 billion Penjana economic stimulus package as it does not address crucial issues such as loss of income in the informal sector and evictions from rental homes.

PSM chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar said although the Perikatan Nasional government had recognised the need for government intervention in addressing the country’s current economic downturn, it must be appropriate for the needs of society.

In a statement, Jeyakumar said the plan does not address the loss of income of the 1.5 million daily paid workers in the informal sector, such as restaurant helpers, people in the rural areas who do odd jobs around the kampong and others.

“All daily paid workers are part of the poorest 20% of our population who are now without any work. There is hardly anything for them in the Penjana package. These families are going to be in serious economic stress this coming month.”

Jeyakumar said several hundred thousand petty traders have also been without an income since March 18 as a result of the ban on bazaars and open markets during the movement control order.

Although these two groups were supported by the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) scheme which deposited a total of RM1,600 into their accounts in April and May, Jeyakumar said there was no follow-up in the Penjana plan.

“These two groups will have hardly any income going forward, and there will be those among them who will be facing difficulty in putting food on the table. This has to be reviewed urgently.”

Dr Michael Jeyakumar.

Jeyakumar also noted that around 25% of Malaysian families live in rented houses, most of whom are from the B40 group.

He said a large number of them would experience a drop in household income for the rest of the year, and some of them will face the prospect of being evicted by their landlords — an issue which was also not addressed in Penjana.

He proposed that the government set up housing rent tribunals in all districts to resolve rental issues using a tripartite formula whereby tenants unable to make full rent payments are helped by the government to settle an amount equal to 60% of their usual rental payment, with the landlord absorbing the loss of 40% of the usual rental payment.

He also said there was “muddled thinking” on the part of the package’s planners when trying to regenerate consumer confidence in sectors such as aviation, hospitality and tourism.

“The problem is the risk of infection. The government has to understand and accept that certain sectors of the economy cannot be rejuvenated until a medical solution — an effective vaccine or a good treatment protocol — is found for Covid-19.”

Jeyakumar also questioned the need to help housing developers sell luxury properties, an initiative which is projected to cost the government RM1 billion.

Instead, he suggested that the government should stimulate the construction industry by embarking on an ambitious programme of providing social housing — starting off with building 200 housing units in each district to be rented out to young families and those without their own houses.

“Such an approach would provide jobs for people in the construction sector and in the industries supplying the construction sector. At the same time, such an initiative would be socially just as it would be meeting a real need of the people.”

Jeyakumar also proposed that RM1,000 be transferred monthly to the account of the families which have no income, estimating that around two million families would require such a programme.

The party also suggested that every person in the country should get basic items such as food, shelter and medical care.

“There should be no compromise on this,” said Jeyakumar.

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