People and small businesses need more help, govt told

Two lawyers have urged the government to provide a moratorium for repayment of household bills, filing of tax returns as well as providing incentives to ease the cash flow of small medium enterprises and businesses.

Salim Bashir urged the government to consider meeting utility companies including water and electricity, to provide a moratorium on monthly household bills for the coming months.

“While the government’s effort in loosening requirements on the withdrawal from the Employees Provident Fund, I urge the government to impose a moratorium on tax payment, filing of tax returns, postponing tax audits, and granting tax relief to those in the lower and middle income brackets,” said Salim who is also Malaysian Bar president.

“There should also be stamp duty exemption on financial instruments, suspending civil proceedings against taxpayers on matters related to non-payment, holding in abeyance of EPF returns and payments on everything else the government has an interest in until the situation normalises.”

Salim also said since healthcare frontliners need financial aid and since the government has also called for public donations, senior government officials should also consider taking a month’s pay cut as a gesture to help cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“Volunteering a pay cut and introducing other measures to ease the financial tension will resonate with the people. We should emulate countries like Singapore and Hong Kong on this,” he said.

“We live in abnormal times and as the pandemic continues, sacrifices will have to be made to enable us to ride through the economic storm,” he added.

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Senior constitutional and local government lawyer Derek Fernandez said the government’s immediate economic priority is to ease the cash flow of SMEs and businesses to enable them to pay wages during the Movement Control Order period.

He urged the government to order a moratorium on all loan and credit card monthly repayments with no penalty or compound interest payments for three months and also order a relief of six months for paying income tax in advance.

“The government should also look at providing some contribution to employers to help pay wages using double deduction for taxes in the next three years.”

Fernandez also said the government should engage key manufacturing, engineering and industrial companies to repurpose their assets to manufacture ventilators and personal protective equipment, including masks.

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