林德宜:解決我們的社會經濟危機

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政府還能採取怎樣的措施,減輕中小企業財政負擔,提供貸款援助和其他援助?向低收入民眾(B40)提供援助會帶來政治好處,但確保僱用國內大部分勞動力的中小企業的生存,將帶來更大的經濟回報。政府現在需加強對中小企業的援助,以確保國家的經濟骨幹不會崩塌。

 

自3月由新冠病毒引爆全球股市大跌,也是自2008年金融危機以來,一週內最大的跌幅后,7個月后的今天,世界和馬來西亞的經濟前景又如何?

在2月下旬和3月初,市場迷漫著悲觀情緒。國際貨幣基金組織表示,2020年的衰退可能會比2008年的全球金融危機更為嚴重。經合組織(OECD)秘書長更警告說,全球經濟將需要數年的時間才能恢復。

今天,全球經濟的複蘇速度,比之前所預期的令人沮喪情況還要好,我們看到的前景是更樂觀的。大多數國家採取及時有效的政策減緩了對經濟的衝擊,減輕對家庭收入和企業的影響;生產和就業的萎縮幅度要比最初所擔憂的要小。

 

然而,經濟前景仍然充滿著不確定。實際上,疫情對經濟和社會造成的衝擊預計持續到2021年,甚至2022年,直到開發出疫苗並在世界範圍內普及。

令人擔憂的是,在放鬆限制和封鎖措施,經濟活動快速反彈之後,商業的調查顯示,有跡象表明全球復甦的步伐已開始失去動力。即使在發達經濟體中也是如此。在英國,一項估計是,英國當下的經濟比2019年底時萎縮了21.8%,而可能需要長達5年的時間才能恢復原有水平。

對於馬來西亞來說,國內生產總值(GDP)和增長率可能不會像最初擔心的那樣受到嚴重打擊。但是我們的經濟形勢仍然充滿不確定性。根據世界銀行的《東亞十月份經濟》報告,總體而言,我們將看到2020年經濟萎縮4.9%,而出口、私人投資和私人消費的所有關鍵指標都將下滑。

然而,世行預計經濟將于2021年復甦,估計增長率為6.3%。這項預測是基於疫情在馬來西亞和我們出口市場的國家,都受到控制的假設;並且全球經濟活動恢復到一定的常態,或許一些領域可取得U形的經濟復甦模式。

中小企業是經濟復甦以及經濟持續發展與繁榮的關鍵動力。這是所有擁有可信度的經濟報告和分析員(無論國外還是本地)都認可的。

以下是2019年中小企業對馬來西亞經濟的貢獻清單:

●數量有100萬,或佔企業總數的98.5%
●提供就業人口的48.4%(730萬人)
●為國民生產總值貢獻38.9%
●分佈在所有州,各領域,規模不等,從微型企業,小型企業到中型企業都有
●90%的中小企業服務於國內市場,但整個領域的出口值達1760億令吉

經濟和社會骨幹

中小企業不僅是經濟支柱。它們對社會穩定和凝聚力起著關鍵作用。中小企業對促進國家的團結與和諧之重要貢獻,一直沒有獲得經濟學家和媒體評論家應有的重視,甚至遭到忽略。

在此有必要提醒決策者和政界人士,中小企業日益成為多元族群合作和族際在各層面聯繫和互動的主要來源,這反映在包括公司股權,勞動力和其他層面。

同樣不為人所知的是,婦女擁有20%的中小型企業,從而促進了性別平等。

顯然,不管是基于經濟和社會因素,在短期和中期的未來,振興中小型企業應該是政府的首要政策重點。尤其在新冠疫情下,中小企業遭受到最大的衝擊。

儘管採取了削減成本的措施,並在政府的振興經濟配套下獲得援助,但整個中小企業領域仍處於危機處境。這可從報導和持續看到許多中小企業關閉、裁員和破產中看出來。

或許最危險的連鎖反應是對就業的衝擊。在疫情爆發初期,大馬經濟研究所預測,疫情可能造成240萬人失業。中小企業公會(SME)3月的估計,如果國內10%的中小企業在未來幾個月內破產,將導致多達100萬人失業。這還沒包括在服務領域的中小企業,如零售、餐館、旅遊服務、酒店、電影院、娛樂中心、體育和休閒場所僱用的200萬員工。這些企業中有許多至今還無法營業。

大型的中小企業面對著的風險,與其他中小企業是一樣。這一階層雖只佔總數的2.3%,但其提供的就業比例卻很高。在某層面上,因需求萎縮和客戶流失,中型的中小企業面對的風險是最大。一旦關閉,他們通常將很難翻身。

因此,在協助中小企業上,政府做得足夠嗎?政府還能採取怎樣的措施,減輕中小企業財政負擔,提供貸款援助和其他援助?向低收入民眾(B40)提供援助會帶來政治好處,但確保僱用國內大部分勞動力的中小企業的生存,將帶來更大的經濟回報。

這問題應是國內所有利益相關者應關注的。對於即將在國會辯論2021年預算案的議員來說,一個足于令他們思考的難受事實:如果當年用於拯救馬航、普騰、土著銀行、柏華嘉鋼鐵廠、聯邦土地發展局(FELDA)、一馬公司以及其他因管理不善、貪污和濫權的項目之款項,其中的一小部分用于加強中小企業,馬來西亞就不會陷入當下經濟危機中。

政府現在需加強對中小企業的援助,以確保國家的經濟骨幹不會崩塌。

《解決我們的社會經濟危機》(Addressing Our Socio-Economic Crisis)原文:

7 months after world stock markets went into free fall due to the corona virus outbreak and their largest single week decline since the world financial crisis of 2008, what does the economic future look like for the world and Malaysia?

In late February and March, pessimism was the consensus. The IMF chief stated that 2020 could see a recession worse than the 2008 global financial crisis and the OECD secretary general warned that the global economy will take years to recover.

Today the global economy has recovered more quickly than these gloomy scenarios have predicted and we are seeing a more optimistic outlook.  Prompt and effective policy support introduced in most countries have enabled economies to cushion the impact on household incomes and businesses; and the contraction in output and employment has been of a smaller magnitude than initially feared.

Nevertheless the economic outlook still remains exceptionally uncertain. In fact the toll of the pandemic on economies and societies is expected to continue into 2021 and even 2022 until a vaccine cure is found and disseminated worldwide.  

Of concern is that after the initial bounce-back in economic activity following the easing of confinement and lockdown measures, there are signs from business surveys that the pace of the global recovery has begun to lose momentum. This is the case even in the advanced economies. In Britain one estimate is that the UK economy is now 21.8% smaller than it was at the end of 2019 and may need as many as 5 years to recover.

For Malaysia, the GDP and growth rate may not be as badly hit as initially feared. But our economic situation is still extremely precarious. According to the World Bankˇs East Asia October Economic Update, overall we will see an economic contraction of 4.9% for 2020 with all the key indicators of exports, private investment and private consumption falling back.

However the Bank projects an economic recovery to take place in 2021 with an estimated growth rate of 6.3%. This forecast is based on the assumption that the pandemic is contained in Malaysia and in our export markets; and that global economic activity returns to some normalcy, perhaps in a partial U shaped economic recovery pattern.

SMEs: Backbone of Malaysiaˇs Economy and Society

The key driver for economic recovery as well as our continued economic development and prosperity are the small and medium scale enterprises. This is recognized by all credible economic reports and analysts - whether foreign or local.

Here is a list of the SME contributions to the Malaysian economy in 2019:
〈make up one million or 98.5% of all business establishments
〈Provide 48.4% of all employment (7.3 million persons)
〈contribute 38.9% to the national GDP
〈are located in all states, all sectors and range in size from micro-enterprises, small and medium
〈90% of SMEs serve the domestic market but the sector had an export value of RM176 billion

SMEs are not just a pillar of the economy.

They also play a key role in social stability and social cohesion. This vital contribution of SMEs to national unity and harmony has either been ignored or it has not been properly acknowledged by economists and media commentators.

Here it is necessary to remind policy makers and politicians that SMEs are increasingly the main source of multiracial partnerships and inter-ethnic linkages, relationships and interaction at many levels, including ownership, labour force and in other spheres.

Also not generally known is that 20% of SMEs are owned by women thus contributing to gender equality.   
 
Clearly, reviving the SME segment in the short and medium term future should be the number one policy priority of the Government for both economic and social reasons. This is especially since SMEs have been the main casualties of the Covid impact.

Despite cost cutting measures and some relief provided by Government stimulus measures,  the SME sector as a whole is still in crisis mode. This can be seen in the high numbers of reported and continuing shut downs, layoffs and bankruptcies.

Perhaps the most dangerous knock-on effect has been on employment. At the beginning of the pandemic outbreak the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research projected the number of possible job losses at 2.4 million. The Association of SMEˇs estimated in March that up to one million Malaysians could lose their jobs if 10% of small and medium enterprises in the country go bust in the coming months. This did not take into account the service industry part of SMEs which employs 2 million workers in retail, restaurants, tourist services, hotels, cinemas, entertainment centers, sports and recreation outlets. Many of these businesses continue to be closed today. Equally at risk are the top tier of SME enterprises. They constitute about 2.3% of the total but they account for a disproportionately large share of employment. In some ways these medium sized SMEs are the most at risk from demand destruction and customer loss. Once shut down, there is often no way back for them.

So is the Government doing enough and what else should the government be doing in terms of policy measures to reduce financial burdens and providing relief for loans and other obligations?  Providing assistance to the B40 group brings political advantage but ensuring the survival of SMEs which employs much of the nationˇs labour force will bring greater economic returns.  

These issues should be of concern to all stake players and stakeholders in the country.

A Reminder

Hereˇs an uncomfortable truth for our Parliamentarians meeting soon on Budget 2021 to think about

If only a small fraction of public funds that was used to bail out MAS, Proton, Bank Bumiputra, Perwaja, FELDA, Tabung Haji, 1 MDB and other mismanaged and graft and abuse ridden projects had been used instead to build up our SME sector,  Malaysia would not be in the economic crisis we are experiencing. Government now needs to step up adequate assistance to SMEs to ensure that the countryˇs economic backbone is not broken.

林德宜

公共政策分析學者

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