SME group calls for speedier Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, tax breaks, moratorium

The Small and Medium Enterprises Association (SAMENTA) Malaysia believes that the Covid-19 vaccine roll out should be expedited and incentivised for the business community to move forward.

The association had also called on the government to provide assistance in the form of tax incentives and to instruct financial institutions to grant moratoriums.

Businesses can operate in the latest round of the Movement Control Order enforced nationwide. However, the public has been urged to stay at home. On Tuesday, and for the next two weeks, eighty per cent of the civil service – some 750,000 people – will be working from home.

“Vaccination is key to the success of the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. We need to accelerate the vaccination roll-out,” said Datin Lorela Chia, SAMENTA’s International Trade chairman.

“There is a need to re-examine the current vaccination programme. Priority is to the higher risk working class and vulnerable age groups.”

She added that the government should allow the private sector to be involved in the procurement, importation and distribution of vaccines.

“Expedite the vaccinations for the local community by priming and equipping private hospitals and clinics for the arrival of supplies.

“Tax exemptions should be provided so that companies will take the initiative and pay for their employees’ vaccination, provided there is enough vaccine supply.”

She added that other forms of incentives that would help SMEs include assistance with utility and taxes and moratoriums.

“Bank moratoriums should be considered, even if there is no full lockdown, as many of our members, being retailers or manufacturers, are facing difficulties in servicing their bank loans, as the buying power is very weak.

“It will help if the government instructs all banks to grant a further six-month moratorium,” she added.

Chia added clear communication and harmonisation of local, state, and Federal rules in relation to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) will also help to ensure consistency in interpretation and enforcement by the authorities.

“Let’s take the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) that was enforced in Ipoh recently. The decision was made by the National Security Council, without the involvement of the International Trade and Industry Ministry. There was no mention if factories were allowed to operate 24 hours. This is difficult as many operations are not designed for start-stop-start operations.

“The government should also not be dishing out granular SOPs and leave it to the industry to manage. Keep SOPs simple. The guiding principles are physical distancing, sanitisation and face masks,” she added.