Hotels in Sabah will continue to take a hit with the travel restrictions, says its small and medium enterprises association.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s small and medium business owners are generally happy with the Pemerkasa Plus package rolled out by the government but feel more can be done to push banks to provide interest rebates to businesses.

Sabah Small and Medium Enterprises Association president Foo Ngee Kee said the government could offer tax incentives to banks in exchange for interest rebates for businesses.

“Private landowners are given tax deductions if they reduce rentals by 30% or more. The government can give similar incentives to the banks,” he told FMT.

“Loan moratoriums and other repayment assistance only delay the instalments, but banks have never given interest rebates which can help reduce the burden of the borrowers.”

Foo said that despite the slow economic recovery, most banks in Malaysia were reaping huge profits.

He said the banks were making profits from interest payments from SMEs and businesses but few had reciprocated.

“We are not talking about a permanent reduction in interest rates but only rebates. There is the 10% electricity rebate and even ministers are giving up three months of salaries to fight Covid-19,” he said.

Foo also said the one-month extension of the wage subsidy programme was not enough, especially for SMEs involved in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Under the government’s lockdown plans, he said, it would be at least another six weeks before any kind of free movement was allowed.

“If the Covid-19 numbers in the peninsula do not drop significantly, we will still have restrictions of movements from there to Sabah.

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“Hotels depend on guests travelling from out of town or state, so our businesses will continue to take a hit.

“The wage subsidy is still one of the best ways to help us, but we need it for longer than a month,” he said.

The Sabah chapter of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents supported the call, saying it was appealing to the government for an extension of the loan moratorium and wage subsidy programme until the end of this year.

“We have also written to the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister (Khairy Jamaluddin) to fast track the vaccination programme for workers in the tourism industry.

“This will help speed up the reopening of borders to international travel,” its chairman, Lawrence Chin, said.

Meanwhile, Sabah Employers Association president Yap Cheen Boon said they were still studying the details of the Pemerkasa Plus package.

He said the government’s previous actions, especially its flip-flopping on SOPs, had not been reassuring for businesses.

“Our association is not holding its breath as yet. We will wait and see how all this pans out,” he said.

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