Malaysia announces $58 billion stimulus package to cushion impact of coronavirus

People watch live telecast of Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s speech on COVID-19 stimulus package in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, March 27, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 27 March 2020

Malaysia announces $58 billion stimulus package to cushion impact of coronavirus

  • Number of confirmed infections in Malaysia has doubled this week to over 2,000, the highest in Southeast Asia, with 23 deaths

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia announced a stimulus package worth 250-billion ringgit ($58.28 billion) on Friday, its second in a month, to help cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of confirmed infections in Malaysia has doubled this week to over 2,000, the highest in Southeast Asia, with 23 deaths. The government has extended curbs on travel and movement until April 14 in an attempt to contain its spread.
“We are a nation at war with invisible forces. The situation we are now facing is unprecedented in history,” Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin Muhyiddin said in a televised address to announce the support package.
“This unprecedented situation of course requires unprecedented measures. So, my dear brothers and sisters, and the children of this beloved country... please bear with me and my friends in the cabinet and the government.”
The new package largely includes one-off payments and discounts on utilities for people whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic, and to help small and medium-sized enterprises stay afloat and retain their staff.
The government will also set up a 50-billion ringgit loan scheme for larger companies, which will offer guarantees of up to 80 percent of the sum borrowed to shore up working capital in the corporate sector.
About 128 billion ringgit will be spent on public welfare measures, with 100 billion used to support businesses.
The package is in addition to a 20 billion ringgit stimulus plan announced last month.


EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

Updated 29 May 2020

EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

  • To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible

BRUSSELS: The European Commission pledged on Thursday to stay away from fossil-fueled projects in its coronavirus recovery strategy, and to stick to its target of making Europe the first climate neutral continent by the middle of the century, but environmental groups said they were unimpressed.

To weather the deep recession triggered by the pandemic, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a €1.85 trillion ($2 trillion) package consisting of a revised long-term budget and a recovery fund, with 25 percent of the funding set aside for climate action.

To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible, the EU’s executive arm wants to increase a €7.5-billion ($8.25 billion) fund presented earlier this year that was part of an investment plan aiming at making the continent more environmentally friendly.

Under the commission’s new plan, which requires the approval of member states, the mechanism will be expanded to €40 billion ($44 billion) and is expected to generate another €150 billion in public and private investment. The money is designed to help coal-dependent countries weather the costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

Environmental group WWF acknowledged the commission’s efforts but expressed fears the money could go to “harmful activities such as fossil fuels or building new airports and motorways.”

“It can’t be used to move from coal to coal,” Frans Timmermans, the commission executive vice president in charge the European Green Deal, responded on Thursday. “It is unthinkable that support will be given to go from coal to coal. That is how we are going to approach the issue. That’s the only way you can ensure you actually do not harm.”

Timmermans conceded, however, that projects involving fossil fuels could sometimes be necessary, especially the use of natural gas to help move away from coal.

The commission also wants to dedicate an extra €15 billion ($16.5 billion) to an agricultural fund supporting rural areas in their transition toward a greener model.

Von der Leyen, who took office last year, has made the fight against climate change the priority of her term. Timmermans insisted that her goal to make Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 remained unchanged, confirming that upgraded targets for the 2030 horizon would be presented by September.

Reacting to the executive arm’s recovery plans, Greenpeace lashed out at a project it described as “contradictory at best and damaging at worst,” accusing the commission of sticking to a growth-driven mentality detrimental to the environment.

“The plan includes several eye-catching green `options,’ including home renovation schemes, taxes on single-use plastic waste and the revenues of digital giants like Google and Facebook. But it does not solve the problem of existing support for gas, oil, coal, and industrial farming — some of the main drivers of a mounting climate and environmental emergency,” Greenpeace said.

“The plan also fails to set strict social or green conditions on access to funding for polluters like airlines or carmakers.”

Timmermans said the EU would keep investing in the development of emission-free public transportation, and promoting clean private transport through the EU budget.