We need Plan B if lockdown goes on, Putrajaya told

(FMT) – Economists see a need for the government to consider measures other than the provision of stimulus packages to sustain the economy.

Ramon Navaratnam, a former deputy secretary-general of the Treasury, told FMT he wondered how many more stimulus packages could be rolled out if the Covid-19 pandemic were to prolong.

He also said cuts in the salaries and allowances of ministers and civil servants, while important, were not significant enough. “More must be done,” he added.

Pemerkasa Plus, announced by prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, is the seventh package since the start of the pandemic in Malaysia.

Navaratnam warned that prolonging the closure of the economic sector meant having to offer more financial aid, which would then force the government to borrow more or seek other means to raise federal revenue.

He said the best thing to do now was to accelerate mass vaccinations so that the economy could reopen as soon as possible.

“The sooner Covid-19 is brought under control, the better,” he said. “If it takes too long, we won’t be able to afford to sustain the battle.”

However, Ahamed Kameel Mydin Meera said vaccinations, although they would help slow down the pandemic, was not an ultimate solution as the virus was always mutating.

Kameel is the former dean of the Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance at International Islamic University Malaysia.

He told FMT he saw Pemerkasa Plus as “commendable but surely not enough”.

“The government must seriously think of revamping the monetary and financial sector of the country,” he said. “This is because it is not right that this one sector places itself as a risk-free sector while being entrusted to serve the real economy.”

He also said increased borrowing would only worsen the economy in the long run.

In order to help businesses resume in the coming months, he said, it would be necessary for government-owned banks to provide debt reliefs, tax reliefs and working capital finance to small and medium enterprises.