KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 14): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob told the Dewan Rakyat today that the government is considering calls to compel lenders such as banks to waive interest fees on deferred loans to help ease the plight of the rakyat who are burdened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Referring to a supplementary question raised by Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) in the Dewan Rakyat today, the prime minister said that the government will try to assist as much as possible as it is aware of the situation in the country and is in discussions with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) at the moment.
Ahmad asked if the government is considering implementing a non-accrual moratorium as household debts have increased by 93.3% due to the pandemic.
Earlier today in a statement, the MoF instructed banking institutions to work on the exemption from interest payments for recipients of the bank loan moratorium immediately.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz said in the statement that this will involve recipients of the moratorium from the bottom 50% of all Malaysians, in terms of income classification, for a period of three months in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Following a Cabinet meeting on Sept 10, Zafrul said the Cabinet ministers had approved a proposal to table amendments to the Temporary Measures for Government Financing (Covid-19), which entail raising the ceiling limit of the Covid-19 fund to RM110 billion from RM65 billion previously as well as increasing the statutory limit of federal government debt from 60% to 65% of gross domestic product.
"The amendments to the bill will be tabled for approval in the Dewan Rakyat this October and are aimed to, among others, strengthen the public health system, especially to curb the spread of Covid-19 and treat Covid-19 patients, improve direct cash assistance to the rakyat, and support business continuity, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as micro SMEs," he said.
In response to queries in the Dewan Rakyat, Ismail Sabri said that the incidences of poverty increased to 8.4% last year compared with 5.6% in 2019.
He said that this was due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which also raised unemployment to 5.9%.
He added that the government has forked out RM3.14 billion to provide electricity bill discounts for 8.8 million households and RM106.8 million for 1,121,385 food baskets to be distributed to the less fortunate.
He also said that these are all merely short-term plans and the government is looking at mid- and long-term plans to assist the rakyat.
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