Sabah unveils second Covid-19 aid package worth RM240m

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the allocation was aimed at empowering the state’s digital economy. — Bernama pic
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the allocation was aimed at empowering the state’s digital economy. — Bernama pic

KOTA KINABALU, June 18 ― The Sabah government has unveiled the second phase of its Covid-19 Aid Package themed “Sabah New Deal” worth RM240 million to reactivate, rejuvenate and revitalise the state’s economy that had been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the allocation, which was an extension of phase one of the aid package worth RM670 million announced on March 25, was aimed at empowering the state’s digital economy.

In total, the amount set aside by the state government for the two packages is RM910 million.

Mohd Shafie said the Sabah New Deal package, which encompasses three objectives, was designed to navigate through the current challenging economic uncertainty faced by the state and ensure consistency in its forward move towards new normal transition.

“The three objectives are namely, to facilitate the transformation to digital economy, leverage and expand on the economic opportunities in agrofood and empowering human capital, and generate new employment,” he said when unveiling the package at the Sabah State Adminisrative Centre here today.

Shafie said the state government was serious in expediting its digital transformation initiative, which will kick off with the implementation of the State Government Digitalisation Programme, to improve quality, capacity and efficiency of the state public service delivery system.

Hence, the state is allocating RM35 million to upgrade all government computer servers by providing the paraphernalia, equipment and latest digital applications, including high-speed broadband internet at state government office buildings.

Mohd Shafie said RM60 million would be set aside to encourage the private sector, including small and medium enterprises (SME) in Sabah to go digital in their business.

Of the sum, RM50 million will be for strengthening the value chain and logistics, while the balance will be for developing a Sabah-based e-commerce platform.

The Chief Minister said assistance would also be provided to the agriculture sector towards expanding economic opportunities in agrofood, including an allocation of RM25 million for interest-free loans to the target group, with the first repayment to be made in January 2021 and the final in December the same year.

“Apart from that, RM13.21 million will be allocated to build six collection and marketing agricultural produce centres, namely in Sipitang, Keningau, Kota Marudu, Lahad Datu, Kundasang, Ranau and Telupid,” he said, adding that RM21.15 million would be set aside to enhance capacity and upgrade marketing facilities and logistics at Sabah Fish Marketing Sdn Bhd.

Under the Sabah New Deal package, he said the state government would also allocate RM20 million to the state Education and Innovation Ministry to empower and retrain individuals who had lost their jobs, as well as those unemployed and looking for jobs.

To stimulate tourism, he said the state government would also allocate RM5 million in travel incentives and matching grants for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) programmes, besides a special grant of RM10 million to upgrade tourism destination facilities.

To boost domestic tourism, he said all tourism spots managed by the state government such as the Sabah Parks, Sabah Art Gallery and Sabah Cultural Board would offer entrance tickets discount of 50 per cent for six months, once the facilities received the green light to resume operations.

Mohd Shafie said the state government would continue to assist SME entrepreneurs by reducing the rental rates of industrial buildings and business premises owned by the Sabah Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO); Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park and Lahad Datu Palm Oil Industrial Cluster by 30 per cent for a period of six months.

He said SEDCO has also agreed to defer repayment of loans by SME entrepreneurs for six months to help ease their financial burden.

The state government is also allocating a RM20 million grant to upgrade micro-enterprises and the rural cottage industry.

In order to stimulate the real estate sector, Mohd Shafie said the state government encourages the purchase of residential properties through the “Sabah My Second Home Programme” and deferment of payment of 50 per cent on the premium imposed on the conversion of land use.

The deferment of payments for six months for lower income housing scheme loans will benefit 584 borrowers, involving a monthly repayment of RM600,000, the chief minister said.

He said the state government would also allocate RM30 million to support ongoing efforts to manage and curb the spread of Covid-19 in Sabah. ― Bernama