The PM has extended the MCO to 14th April. This is not unexpected, as China took 50 days to contain the spread of Covid-19. And that was after their government implemented harsh measures and poured in massive resources.
What is totally unexpected and unacceptable is that this government has yet to pledge and use any meaningful amount of its reserves, allegedly amounting to RM400 billion (according to the former pm economic advisor), to help the overall population and the economy.
The two biggest announcements to date are on (a) the EPF withdrawals, involving purely depositors own money and (b) bank moratorium on interests, deferred but accrued to protect bankers and not really to sincerely help borrowers. Basically, more time for borrowers but no mandated interests rate cuts from the rich bankers.
So far no pains for banks and no pains from this government. I suppose some of their MPs can continue to suffer through the MCO, floating in their own private swimming pools. This attitude has to stop.
I am acutely aware of the fiscal challenges, but if the government don’t spend now, the situation will be far worse later. A fair and reasonable expectation is the government pledging and paying out at least RM6 billion to RM10 billion per month, to protect jobs, stabilise consumption and the economy. Why is the government so reluctant to spend?
With the MCO extended, the challenge now is about the survivability of jobs, survivability of employers, direct aid to the poor (as savings run out), including those outside the EPF system (3 to 4 million of the working population who have no EPF to even withdrawn from) and migrant workers. The PM must roll out a comprehensive plan to tackle all the above as soon as possible. He promised to make another announcement this Friday, so let’s see if he will deliver something of substance.
However, it is an absolute PR disaster for the PM to announce the extension of the MCO today but failed to announce anything at all to address the economic fears generated by the very same announcement. This kind of cavalier attitude is not helping build the confidence Malaysia needs to weather through this crisis.