PETALING JAYA: Two experts have welcomed the Kita Prihatin package and its initiatives worth RM10 billion announced last week, with one saying further assistance could be extended to improve worker competency.
Economist Hoo Ke Ping, an adviser at Kingsley Strategic Institute, said the government had made the right choice to put the people first by introducing the package now, rather than waiting to announce it under Budget 2021 next month.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had said the wage subsidy under Kita Prihatin was expected to benefit 1.3 million workers and involved an allocation of RM2.4 billion while 200,000 micro-entrepreneurs were set to benefit from grants amounting to some RM600 million.
He also announced the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional 2.0 cash aid amounting to RM7 billion, comprising RM1,000 each for 3.7 million B40 households, RM500 each for 3.8 million unmarried individuals in B40, RM600 each for 1.4 million M40 households and RM300 for 1.7 million unmarried individuals in M40.
Hoo said the second round of cash aid and wage subsidies would help sustain households until they recovered from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Instead of using the money for roads and other development projects that will not bring much impact, the money must go to the people,” he told FMT.
“Prioritising the people by helping them keep their jobs and put food on the table is smart. They can continue to spend and multiply the economy.”
He added that without the three-month Wage Subsidy Programme 2.0 of RM600 a month for each employee for a maximum of 200 employees, more than a million people could have faced unemployment.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia research fellow Denison Jayasooria also supported the incentives, as they would prevent employers from retrenching their workers.
However, he said the package should focus more on those from lower income households and the Wage Subsidy Programme 2.0 should be extended to six months instead of three.
Jayasooria also warned that giving out “free money” to large groups above the poverty line index could foster a dependency culture.
He said the government could provide further assistance by investing in improving people’s language and digital skills in the workplace.
“It is better to build capabilities and invest in the community. Self-help empowerment is a better way forward than just cash transfers during a pandemic period,” he said.
He urged companies to take charge by linking up with the Human Resources Development Fund to improve worker competency and motivation for higher productivity.
This, he said, could be done by releasing staff for a day or two each week over a period of three to six months to upgrade their skills and knowledge.