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Covid-19: Sarawak unveils additional RM1.1b package to assist SMEs

KUCHING: The Sarawak government today announced a second stimulus package worth RM1.1 billion to ease the financial burden of the state’s micro, small and medium enterprises, as well as hawkers and petty traders to assure continuity of their business following this Covid-19 and Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (pix) said the Sarawakku Sayang Assistance Package 2.0 (BKSS 2.0) would encompass four measures.

Announcing the BKSS 2.0 at a press conference here today, he said the first measure would be to introduce interest-free soft loans of between RM20,000 and RM500,000 to ease the burden of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in paying their workers’ salaries.

“I hope this measure will ensure business resilience (for the SMEs) and job security for our people,” he said, adding the state government would subsidise interest rates amounting to RM80.7 million that would benefit more than 40,000 SMEs in Sarawak.

The state government is collaborating with Maybank, Hong Leong Bank and RHB Bank to offer this soft loan scheme which also comes with easy financing conditions, such as no collateral requirement. Interested SMEs need to apply to the participating banks directly.

The second measure involves a special grant of RM1,500 via Sarawak Pay, a mobile app for digital financial transactions that is expected to benefit more than 65,000 hawkers and petty traders in the state.

“The (state) government does not forget those who are outside the Internet coverage and may not have easy access to Sarawak Pay, especially registered petty traders with FAMA (Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority) and the Department of Agriculture in the rural areas, so they will be given cash vouchers,” Abang Johari said.

Other measures that he announced were reducing the two per cent interest rate for the micro credit scheme offered by the state government to zero per cent for a period of three and a half years and waiving rentals to SMEs in the retail sector renting on premises owned by the state government-linked companies.

The interest rate reduction is made possible through a fund of RM50 million injected by the state government, while the rental waiver will take effect for six months, from this month to September.

“SMEs make up over 75 per cent of our business sector, contributing 20 per cent to Sarawak’s gross domestic product and providing about 600,000 jobs. Therefore, I feel it is important to be responsive to the problems faced by the SMEs so that they can remain resilient in the face of economic pressures that are affecting us all,” he added. — Bernama