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The prolonged Covid-19 lockdown has hit many industries, resulting in a global recession and redefining the workplace, with many lay-offs and cuts in operational costs for businesses to survive.

Our government has been trying to save small and medium enterprises and government-linked companies through measures such as stimulus packages, wage subsidy scheme, and working from home through teleconferencing and zoom in order to keep businesses functioning while trying to protect jobs and avoiding retrenchment.

The closures and relocation of companies have already taken a toll on some two million workers, many of whom are now unable to pay their utility bills and loans.

Some of them have to ask banks to extend the loan moratorium despite havig received retrenchment benefits. This is because many of these workers have debts with “Ah Longs” or money lenders, who charge exorbitant interest rates.

They are in dire straits. Faced with threats from Ah Longs, a big part of their retrenchment benefits goes to settling their debts.

With no financial planning prior to the pandemic, these workers – mostly from the B40 group and some from the M40 groups – are now having difficulties putting food on the table.

Their situation is made worse by rising food prices. Poor weather and lack of farmland are causing the prices of both fish and greens to go up by as much as 50%.

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association has put forward three proposals to the government following the extension of the movement control order (MCO) 2.0 until Feb 18.

It wants the loan moratorium to be extended in tandem with the MCO’s extension. It is also seeking an allowance of RM5,000 for each worker retrenched due to the MCO as well as a RM1,200 allowance or minimum wage for unemployed individuals.

Kudos to the proposal that civil servants contribute RM10 monthly to a special Covid-19 fund for at least three months to help individuals whose livelihoods have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this way RM48 million would be raised from the 1.6 million civil servants within three months, with ministers, deputy ministers, parliamentarians and state assemblymen probably contributing more to generate a bigger amount for the fund.

NGOs, civil servants, well-wishers can also render financial aid to troubled Malaysians in the B40 and M40 groups through crowdfunding.

As the saying goes, “Good deeds and kindness shine through during tough times”, where Malaysians also pulled themselves together donating in cash and other means during the Asian Financial crisis.

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu

Seremban