KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) has sent an “SOS” (distress signal) to the federal government for the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) to be expanded to seemingly minor players in the tourism sector.
Its president Foo Ngee Kee in appreciating that the WSP has been extended under Budget 2021, said a number of businesses that were not in the loop for targeted assistance are actually directly related to industries that have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He cited seafood restaurants and shops selling locally made products and handicrafts.
“We welcome the government’s move to extend the wage subsidy programme under Budget 2021 because it can to some extent, reduce the burden of SME operators in their effort to retain their employees.
“However, the programme is limited in extent, so not all SMEs could benefit from it.
“We therefore hope the government will not be too stringent on the eligibility for the programme because many businesses in the state are related to the tourism sector,” he told Bernama.
The WSP was extended for another three months specifically for the tourism and retail sector at a rate of RM600 per month for workers earning RM4,000 and below. The limit per application by employers was also increased to 500 employees from 200.
The government allocated RM1.5 billion for the programme, which is expected to help about 70,000 employers and 900,000 employees.
Foo said travel and hotel agencies would automatically benefit from the programme, but in all fairness, he said, traders whose businesses are connected with the tourism sector deserved consideration too as they have similarly suffered the effects of the pandemic, having to shut down when tourists stopped coming.
“More than 50 per cent of their sales and earnings are from tourism so hopefully the government will include them in the programme,” he said.
Meanwhile, Foo urged the government to award contracts for village road constructions and rural school restorations to G1 and G4 SME contractors that reside within the areas earmarked for the projects.
“It will allow these rural based SMEs to sustain their business in the present challenging situation and also minimise the transmission of Covid-19 as the contractors and workers would not necessarily have to travel out,” he said. -Bernama