Penang identifies measures to cushion COVID-19 economic impact

GEORGE TOWN — The Penang government has identified four “longer-term” measures to minimise the adverse impact on the economy following the Movement Control Order (MCO) to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The measures comprise helping investors to catch up on the progress of their projects, helping small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) race to recovery, preparing to help potential job seekers, and implementing strategies for industry development.

In a statement today, Datuk Seri Lee Kah Choon, special investment adviser to the Penang Chief Minister, said while the COVID-19 situation is unprecedented in its scale, the state is versatile enough to navigate these uncertainties and seek out fresh opportunities.

“Looking at the economy as a whole, the demand disruptions are here to stay and the ripple effect will be far, wide and deep.

“To this end, public sector spending and the manufacturing sector will be the economic drivers to sustain us through the difficult time ahead,” he said.

Lee said the longer-term challenge is to put the country back to work as soon as possible by getting it into productive mode, which is the key to financial and social sustainability.

“Malaysians need more than ‘stimulus packages’ as they are merely short-term measures to ease the cash flow crunch of businesses and provide wage support to protect jobs,” he said.

Lee described 2019 as “a fantastic year” for Penang in terms of foreign direct investments, adding that most of the strategic projects are being planned and waiting for the MCO to be lifted so that physical implementation on the ground can proceed.

Hence under the first measure, the state government will facilitate in every possible manner so these investments can catch up on their implementation timeline, he said.

“Under the leadership of the chief minister, Penang Development Corporation and InvestPenang are in close contact with the investors in driving their plans and projects,” he said.

On the second measure, he said helping SMEs in their race to recovery is crucial for employment and preservation of the manufacturing supply chain.

“The federal and state government financial aids will temporarily relieve SMEs’ cash flow constraints. The conditional operation approval by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry for qualified SMEs during the MCO period is expected to reduce the financial distress of the SMEs,” he said.

Lee said although the job market in Penang remains stable, the current macro environment involves too many uncertainties and the state should be prepared for the worst.

“The state government, via the Penang Career Assistance and Talent Centre (CAT Centre), is ready to offer job-matching facilitation for those who are facing retrenchment due to the shifting of technology. The new industries in Penang are doing well and always hungry for talent,” he said.

He said with the implementation of all investments already in the pipeline, Penang is looking forward to create at least 13,000 new job opportunities.

Lee said Penang understands the importance of digital infrastructure to support the new norm in how businesses are to be conducted, and the setting up of Digital Penang to enhance the state’s digital infrastructure will further strengthen the state as the destination of choice for the digital economy.

“Sustainability is always the top priority of the Penang government. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary solutions and self-adjustments. Amid the prevailing headwinds, we must be ready to adapt and embrace new living, working and learning models.

“The state government is committed to ensure that Penang remains a conducive, desirable and sustainable destination for ‘work, live, play and invest’,” he added.

— BERNAMA