Malaysia has launched a fourth economic stimulus package valued at RM35 billion (S$11.4 billion) aimed largely at checking unemployment, which hit a 10-year high due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that the plan includes RM10 billion in direct fiscal injection, of which half will be spent on extending existing wage subsidies from three months to six months.
Another RM4 billion will be allocated to benefit workers, including for upskilling programmes and to improve the welfare of freelancers.
"The economy will take time to recover and there will be those who will still need assistance during this period. The government has allocated nearly RM9 billion that will benefit as many as three million workers," he said in a speech that was broadcast nationally on television and social media channels.
However, this new plan offers a reduced wage subsidy of RM600 monthly for up to 200 employees per company.
Previously, smaller companies with up to 75 workers were able to claim up to RM1,200 a month for April to this month.
The government has also put aside RM2 billion to fund the upskilling of jobless and young Malaysians, which is expected to benefit 200,000 people.
It also wants to spur companies to take on more employees by paying RM800 monthly for each new hire under the age of 40, and RM1,000 per month for those who are older or with disabilities. The government expects to spend RM1.5 billion to help 300,000 people find new jobs this way.
Prior to this new "national economic recovery plan" dubbed Penjana, the government had already rolled out RM260 billion in rescue packages to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, with RM35 billion coming directly from the Treasury.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin said these programmes had saved 2.4 million jobs, eased the cash flow of 11 million people and supported more than 300,000 companies.
But the Prime Minister added that a recession is still expected this year, with unemployment set to hit 5.5 per cent.
• Wage subsidy worth RM5.3 billion (S$1.7 billion) to cover RM600 a month per worker for three months.
• Employment subsidy of RM1.5 billion to create 300,000 jobs.
• A discounted commuter pass priced at RM30 a month for unlimited public transport rides.
• Grants for daycare centres and kindergartens as well as RM3,000 in tax relief for fees paid by parents.
• Shop Malaysia Online promotional campaign with government's RM70 million to be matched by e-commerce platforms.
• Banking sector to allocate RM2 billion in credit to assist small and medium-sized enterprises.
• RM1 billion financing facility for the tourism industry and tax breaks worth RM1.8 billion.
• Penjana Nasional fund worth RM600 million to push digitalisation of businesses and innovation.
• A RM50 million matching fund for gig economy platforms that contribute towards their workers' social security and Employees' Provident Fund.
• To encourage contactless payments, RM75 million will be spent to credit RM50 into the e-wallets of 15 million Malaysians.
• Full tax exemption for the purchase of locally assembled cars beginning this month to Dec 31.
More than 600,000 were already jobless in March, leaving the country with an unemployment rate of 3.9 per cent, the highest since June 2010.
According to Mr Muhyiddin, 83.5 per cent of the labour force is now at work, compared with just 67.2 per cent last month, when Malaysia eased restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19.
Most businesses have been allowed to reopen, although schools remain shut and the borders are still closed to tourists.
The strict curbs under the country's movement control order were first implemented on March 18.
A Cabinet committee is meeting today to decide whether to extend the eased controls beyond Tuesday, and what aspects of life and the economy will be given more leeway.
The number of new coronavirus cases has largely been in the double digits across the past eight weeks, with spikes mostly due to clusters among undocumented migrants in detention centres.
Malaysia reported 19 new cases yesterday, taking the tally to 8,266 infections. It reported its first death in two weeks, raising the number of fatalities to 116.