Support employees, minister tells employers

Azlan Othman

Employers are urged not to terminate employees if their businesses are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Employers must take note that employees help them to make money during good times. Hence employers cannot forget them. Employers must support the government and help reduce or lessen the burden to the government and employees,” said Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah when asked about the job security of locals during this hard time.

“If the employee is working remotely from home during this situation, employers should not deduct their leave entitlement as they are also considered working,” the minister added.

Asked about the relief effort to support local businesses beside what has been mentioned before, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew spoke about the interim measures in terms of monetary and fiscal policy measures where several sectors have been identified and also on online transfer.

“Many businesses have been affected by COVID-19. We need to see the businesses and industries that are impacted drastically.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah. PHOTO: JAMES KON

“But we must be cautious with the monetary policy as agreed by the banking association in the country like principal repayment. It will not be open to all as it impacts the banks themselves. We need to check the bank’s financial stability as well.

“Not all businesses are impacted drastically. Banks and the private sector have to cooperate. The government revenue is also affected by this outbreak,” the minister said.

On fiscal policy measures the minister said, “We focus on paying the Employees Trust Fund (TAP) and tourism. But if the other sectors need such assistance (if they are not in the category mentioned last week) such as restructuring of loans with the banks, it will also be looked into.”

Last week, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected some businesses in the country. Payroll, contributions to TAP and the Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP), and building rental among others were affected.

The Ministry of Finance and Economy has negotiated with stakeholders and agreed to implement a number of interim measures by prioritising three objectives: the assistance of cash flow for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and to maintain their operational viability; ensuring job security for locals; and protecting the well-being of residents in Brunei Darussalam.

The interim measures will commence on April 1 and continue for six months.

These measures include: a six-month deferment on TAP and SCP contributions for private sector employees earning BND1,500 and below in all sectors of the MSME category with employees fewer than 100; contributions by companies will be paid in advance by the government to ensure that the annual dividend payments to employees in the private sector will not be affected; companies are encouraged to submit an application to TAP via email at [email protected]; companies authorised to postpone TAP and SCP contributions are required to repay the government within a year after the expiration of the six months; the government financing the SCP contribution of the self-employed group within the stated period as a step to help the self-employed affected by the outbreak to ensure that they will have ongoing Survivorship Fund protection; and the provision of a 30 per cent discount on rental rates of government buildings for MSME according to the targetted sectors such as tourism, hospitality (including hotels and lodging houses), restaurants and cafes, air and water transportation, to help reduce operating costs.

Meanwhile, on long queues at ATM machines during pay day at the end of this week, the minister advised customers not to crowd banks.

On the high usage of data if online learning is introduced if the school holiday is extended, the minister said data package is cheaper now compared to earlier where one can get 20GB data for only BND50 compared to 8GB at the cost of BND50 previously.

“Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN) is working with the Ministry of Education to seek ways to increase data for student use such as for teachers to interact with their students through WhatsApp. But it should not be misused for entertainment,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yusof urged users, especially students, to use Internet positively.

“This data package must be used wisely for studies,” the minister said.

On encouraging banks to sponsor face masks, gloves and sanitisers which are of high demand but in short supply and expensive nowadays, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said banks’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an initiative and banks and financial institutons are encouraged to do such CSR.

“The supply of these products is limited as many countries need them and to bring it to the Sultanate is also a problem. But we are in talks with the suppliers on this matter,” the minister said.