While the Malaysian Bar comprehends the rationale in the extension of the recent Conditional Movement Control Order (“CMCO”) to most of the states in our country, we are nevertheless concerned by the fact that the slowing down of the economy will adversely affect the most financially vulnerable groups.
The unemployment rate in our country is rising and many are facing salary reductions due to this pandemic. It was reported by the media that we have already seen a 5% to 7% decrease in economic activities in the Klang Valley during the first part of the CMCO, which has now been extended until 6 December 2020.1 Although the Malaysian Bar applauds the Government for providing support in the form of economic stimulus packages, wage subsidies, and specific relief facilities for the past several months, we believe that more can be done to assuage the financial burden faced by the rakyat.
In light of the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic, the Malaysian Bar humbly calls on the Government to take further action to assist the rakyat. We propose that there be a further extension of the wage subsidy programme beyond 31 December 2020 and an automatic moratorium on loans for individuals and businesses. Following the tabling of Budget 2021 last Friday, 6 November 2020, with regard to the withdrawal of RM500 for up to 12 months from Account 1 of the Employees Provident Fund (“EPF”), we urge the Government to consider allowing contributors to withdraw higher amounts from their Account 1.
The Malaysian Bar has worked tirelessly for the past few months engaging with stakeholders and making proposals to the Government to improve and refine the assistance that ought to be provided to Members of the Bar, as well as members of the public. We have sought for grants to be given to law firms in order to cover their operating expenditures, and we are calling on institutions to expedite payments owed to law firms for any and all completed legal services rendered. We also call for an increase in productivity in Government agencies that law firms are dependent on, so that lawyers can carry out their services effectively for their clients.
The Malaysian Bar is also urging the Government to enable a blanket tax exemption on personal income tax and all sales taxes, customs duties and service taxes for individuals. We are also imploring the Government to grant tax exemptions for all professional bodies, businesses and companies for their business income earned for 2020 and 2021.
The aftermath of the pandemic will be felt for years to come. We sincerely hope that the Government will heed our calls to further advance the economic relief to the rakyat so that our country can move forward stronger and with greater unity despite these difficult times.
13 November 2020
1 “Worse yet to come for businesses”, The Sun Daily, 12 November 2020.