Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Financial aid still needed on path to Covid-19 recovery

Many continue to struggle even as the country begins moving towards the endemic phase of Covid-19.

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While many are taking advantage of the government’s move to further ease social and economic restrictions for the fully vaccinated, Muhammad Syazwan Zainal Abidin is not among them.

Crowds of people have been heading to the malls and crossing state borders as Malaysia makes its way towards the endemic phase of Covid-19, but Syazwan is still struggling to recover from the pandemic’s toll on his finances.

At 31, he now has less than RM1,000 left in his savings account.

He used to work at a shop selling electric goods in Kuala Lumpur. But then that pandemic hit, and his salary was slashed by half.

“I used to earn more than RM2,000 working at that shop, but then my salary was cut because of the drop in sales, especially after the movement control order was enforced,” he said.

Eventually, he stopped working there altogether.

“Without a source of income, I was forced to dip into my savings,” Syazwan told MalaysiaNow. “Now, I have less than RM1,000 left.”

Unable to afford living on his own anymore, he began renting a place with his friend.

He now does freelance work as a make-up artist while cooking and delivering food on the side.

Things are looking up for him but his income is still nowhere near as much as it used to be, and he remains on the lookout for a permanent job.

Syazwan is among many who were severely affected by the pandemic and who are still struggling to regain their footing, even as the country looks towards a gradual road to recovery.

The long months of lockdown and contraints on economic activities have seen businesses fold and thousands left without a job.

According to Kalpana Sambasivamurthy, executive director of the Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM), more than 2.6 million individual borrowers and 86,000 SMEs took a moratorium from June 1 to Sept 10.

She said the numbers were based on recent statistics issued by Bank Negara Malaysia.

On June 28, Muhyiddin Yassin who was prime minister at the time announced a six-month moratorium on bank loan repayments available until the end of the year to all segments of society from the B40 to the T20.

Applications for the moratorium, to be given automatically, require no documentation.

Asked about the ongoing efforts of banking companies to help those affected by Covid-19, Kalpana said the Financial Management and Resilience Programme or Urus was likely the best solution.

“With the economy now on the path to recovery, banking companies are committed to continuing to provide assistance to borrowers,” she said.

“We are confident that the Urus scheme is the best way to help those who need assistance in a comprehensive and holistic way, and to ensure the continued resilience of the financial system.”

Urus was announced by ABM on Oct 14 together with the Association of Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions Malaysia and the Association of Development Financial Institution of Malaysia, to help those affected by Covid-19.

Through the scheme, the banking industry will provide a sum of RM1 billion to finance a reduction in interest/profit costs including profit benefits for B40 borrowers.

It includes a three-month interest/profit exemption and reduction in instalment payments for up to 24 months, as well as a reduction in interest rates.

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