Budget 2021: Banks embrace responsibility to continue assisting customers in difficult times

Budget 2021: Banks embrace responsibility to continue assisting customers in difficult times
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KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 6): The various initiatives announced in the government's Budget 2021 are welcomed by banks who say that it remains expansionary while maintaining the targeted financial support and fiscal reliefs for vulnerable communities and businesses impacted by the social, financial and economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Budget 2021 was formulated to ensure no one is left behind, they say, which also focuses on protecting livelihoods and revitalising businesses to aid Malaysia's economic growth well on the road to a sustained recovery.

During this trying time, banks say they remain committed to actively engaging and assisting their customers by providing further assistance, such as the expanded targeted repayment assistance programme.

Below are bankers' views on the National Budget:

Maybank Group president and CEO Datuk Abdul Farid Alias

Datuk Abdul Farid Alias
Maybank Group
President & chief executive officer / Chairman of The Association of Banks in Malaysia

I applaud the initiatives by the Ministry of Finance and Bank Negara Malaysia to introduce the enhanced targeted repayment assistance scheme for the B40 income group and micro enterprises, as well as the continuing assistance to SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and hard-hit industries like tourism.

This budget also allocates around RM8.5 billion to protect and create jobs as well as provide various training programmes. Organisations should support this agenda and strive to preserve jobs, invest in reskilling and upskilling their employees, and take care of their workers' welfare so that together, we can overcome this extremely challenging environment and uncertain period. In our view, organisations should not feel pressured to reduce staff costs by retrenchment in order to maintain profits and dividends. All stakeholders must work together to ride out this storm.

We should also embrace the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and new normal in our economic, business and social activities as the pandemic does not look like it will go away anytime soon. More efforts should be put in place to help companies, especially the micro enterprises and the SMEs, to operate safely. While the current SOPs can work in most circumstances, there are also alternative channels to the traditional and physical ones in fulfilling demand and supply of products and services, hence the budget incentives for technology adoption, automation and digitalisation.

OCBC Bank CEO Datuk Ong Eng Bin

Datuk Ong Eng Bin
OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd
Chief executive officer

Despite the constraints on revenue brought about by the pandemic, the 2021 National Budget has done well to focus primarily on helping Malaysians cope with the current challenges, with particular emphasis on those negatively affected as well as the front liners.

The budget also lends much-needed support to businesses by making the economy even more resilient. These are all noteworthy as the banking industry continues to work very closely with Bank Negara Malaysia and the Ministry of Finance in playing our role to achieve the ideals contained in the budget.

Public Bank founder, chairman emeritus, director and adviser Tan Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow

Tan Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow
Public Bank Bhd
Founder, chairman emeritus, director and adviser

During this trying time, Public Bank will continue to actively engage and assist customers by providing further assistance required under the expanded targeted repayment assistance programme.

Public Bank will continue to be fully supportive of the government's measures by facilitating continued access to financing, particularly business financing for the small and medium enterprises. In addition, we will continue to support financing for affordable housing, in line with the government's efforts to promote homeownership among Malaysians.

CIMB group CEO Datuk Abdul Rahman Ahmad

Datuk Abdul Rahman Ahmad
CIMB Group
Group chief executive officer

CIMB welcomes our role as enablers of the recovery by participating in the expanded targeted loan assistance programme. It is optimal that assistance to borrowers is done in a targeted manner to ensure funds are specifically channelled to individuals and companies in need, including those affected SMEs, B40s and M40s.

This is more effective as those who can afford resuming their payments should do so to avoid incurring higher costs and to ensure the banking system remains healthy, backed by good asset quality to support additional lending activities.

RHB group MD Datuk Khairussaleh Ramli

Datuk Khairussaleh Ramli
RHB Banking Group
Group managing director

It is indeed encouraging to see much support provided to vulnerable groups, especially the B40 segment, through the continuation of fiscal stimulus packages including the enhancement to payment assistance for loan and financing.

We also welcome the government's targeted action plans to continue supporting and ensuring sustenance of the worst hit segments especially the SMEs.

With an expansionary Budget 2021, downside risks to Malaysia's economic growth next year are likely to be more limited compared to 2020. At the current juncture, the three risks that we are closely monitoring are the timing of a commercial adaptation of an effective Covid-19 virus vaccine, the path of global economic growth, and volatility in global financial market conditions.

We will continue to play an active role in supporting our customers throughout this challenging time.

AMMB group CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir

Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir
AMMB Holdings Bhd
Group chief executive officer

The call for financial institutions, specifically banks, to provide focused attention and assistance to B40 borrowers and micro enterprises by way of the extended repayment assistance is necessary and apt.

To date, AmBank is pleased to have approved close to 100% of repayment assistance applications for loans and facilities, amounting to more than RM11 billion for individuals and SME customers.

The government's RM1 billion allocation as an incentive for technology and high value-added investments as well as the RM500 million High Technology Fund from Bank Negara Malaysia are important as they allow our local businesses to become more competitive in the global arena, while also contributing to the overall value chain.

For more Budget 2021 stories, click here.

Kathy Fong