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Friday, 28 February 2020

(The Star) New landmark Kuantan 188 is the pride of Pahang

KUANTAN: The Kuantan 188 tower, formerly known as Menara Teruntum, has been handed over to the Pahang government.

East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) chief executive officer Baidzawi Che Mat said the council was proud to hand over Kuantan 188, following the successful completion of the iconic and strategic public infrastructure in September last year.

“This new landmark is the pride of Pahang, being the tallest tower in the East Coast and second tallest tower in Malaysia, after KL Tower.

“I am confident that this new icon will be able to spur tourism in the state as well as bring about spillover socio-economic activities that will benefit the people, ” he said at the handover ceremony held at the tower.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail received the keys to the tower from Baidzawi during the ceremony.

Baidzawi said the Federal Government, through ECERDC, had been working closely with the Pahang state government to implement various high-impact public projects in the effort to realise the government’s vision of Shared Prosperity.

Wan Rosdy (right) and Baidzawi (middle) taking a tour of the tower.

“We are proud to have played a role in realising the construction of this iconic Kuantan 188 project. It is part of our strategy to create destinations by laying the foundation needed to generate interest and add value to surrounding areas that could boost tourism and other economic activities, ” he added.

Kuantan 188 is the latest landmark to be completed in the East Coast Economic Region (ECER).

The design concept of the tower, with its upright and tapered profile, is inspired by the shape of the traditional Malay spear tips as found on the Pahang state coat of arms.

The design of the tower’s viewing deck is inspired by the flowers and leaves of the white teruntum plant.

The tower is part of a series of projects to enhance the Kuantan Waterfront and is designed to be a major tourist attraction for both local and foreign tourists.

“Kuantan 188 will complement other tourism attractions that showcase the richness of Pahang’s history and heritage, as well as its natural endowments.

“With its viewing decks, restaurant and other activities available in the tower, as well as the surrounding attractions in the wider Kuantan Waterfront development, it will be a tourist magnet for years to come. This will further spur the socio-economic development of ECER, particularly in Pahang, ” said Baidzawi.

He said apart from Kuantan 188, other tourism projects in Pahang implemented by ECERDC that had been completed last year included the upgrading of facilities at the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah, the interactive Rainforest Discovery Centre at Taman Negeri Endau-Rompin and Temerloh Titik Tengah Semenanjung.

As for the name change from Menara Teruntum to Kuantan 188, Wan Rosdy explained that the latter was more catchy.

“We had a discussion on the tower’s name. Some felt that Menara Teruntum has no commercial value and we chose Kuantan 188 that signifies the height of the tower, ” he said.


(The Star) Street market a new attraction in JB

JOHOR BARU: The newly-developed commercial tourism centre called B5 Johor Street Market will focus on attracting local tourists.

Damansara Asset Sdn Bhd executive director Yusaini Sidek the street market will serve as an option for locals to come with family and friends to enjoy an array of Johor cuisine at the bazaar.

“Covid-19 has made many cancel or postpone travels abroad. We hope they will come here instead, ” he said, adding that the virus had affected the flow of foreign tourist into the state.

“The market was initially planned to tap into Visit Malaysia 2020 and Visit Johor 2020 campaigns.

“We had lined up various arts and cultural activities for the tourists who visit, ” he said after giving media members and tourism industry players a tour of B5 Johor Street Market at Jalan Dato Muthuthambi here.

Yusaini added that the street market, a centralised retail tourism centre, was the first of its kind in the country with all of Johor’s unique features gathered in one place.

The commercial tourism centre is spacious and has reached its full occupancy of 219 traders.

“Travel agents can help promote this place to tourists, both local and foreigners.

“We have four cultural performance every day and the attractions change every festive season and during school holidays.

“Tourists can take part in cultural activities, enjoy local food and buy local souvenirs, ” he said, adding that they were targeting between five and six million visitors in the first year of the street market’s opening.

Yusaini said the market had also reached its full occupancy of 219 traders, with 40% offering food and beverages and 60% in the retail and culture sectors.

“Entrepreneurs are divided into three groups, retail bazaar, box park kiosk and retail lots rented out at a reasonable rate.

“The bazaar will offer different items during the day and night, ” he added. The B5 Johor Street Market was developed by Johor Land Berhad (JLand) and is managed by Damansara Asset Sdn Bhd - a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johor Corporation (JCorp).

The groundwork started in February 2018 and was fully completed in February this year with a total development cost of RM40mil.

“We expect a return of investment of three to four percent during this first year and see it increase to six to seven percent subsequently, ” he said.

The B5 Johor Street Market will be operating daily from 10am to 10pm.


(The Star) Call for dual carriageway to ease congestion

SIBU: Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) will listen to residents of Jalan Ulu Sungai Merah and turn the road into a dual carriageway.

Pelawan assemblyman David Wong said residents had complained that the construction of a traffic light intersection at Jalan Ulu Sungai Merah - Jalan Ling Kai Cheng would worsen traffic congestion.

They said unless the road was turned into a dual carriageway, the traffic congestion would never be solved and only get worse.

SMC chairman Clarence Ting, who visited the site with Wong, said however that widening the road would not solve the congestion.

“A passageway at the inner part of the road could help. Dual carriageway, four lanes or even five lanes on each side are of no use as the inner part of the road is a dead-end, ” he said.

Ting said there was now a need to build a new road at the inner part of Jalan Sungai Merah to link it to other roads as an escape route.

“I hope that the authority concerned would consider building this new road as soon as possible, ” he said.

As a temporary measure to ease traffic congestion, he said the council would be opening up space in front of SMK Ulu Sungai Merah and SJK Nang Sang for parents to drop or pick up their children.

“The principal of SMK Ulu Sungai Merah came to see me recently to complain about the congestion. The school has 1,200 students, ” he said.

On the construction of the traffic light intersection there, Ting said the project was approved by the previous administration.


(The Star) Almost ready to serve public

Penang's first Urban Transfor-mation Centre (UTC) is 80% completed and expected to be operational in June.

Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng said the renovation work being carried out by Penang Development Corporation (PDC) would be completed next month.

“After that the premises will be handed over to UTC to set up their equipment, system and furniture.

“I understand 13 Federal Government agencies will move into Komtar and will be housed at Levels Two and Three, ” Teh said in a statement.

UTC, a Federal Government initiative under the Ministry of Finance (MoF), will bring services to the people.

“The renovation work for the proposed area covering about 44,000sq ft is expected to cost PDC RM20mil.

“As the tenant, MoF will pay the rental and facility management charges to PDC, the property owner.

“I lobbied for the setting up of UTC in Komtar a few times at the state legislative assembly.

“Finally, with the assistance of PDC, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, it will become a reality soon.

“Many other states have established UTCs such as Perak, Johor, Pahang, Kedah, Sabah, Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur, ” said Teh.

Teh added that the setting up of UTC Komtar would also help revitalise the area as many parties had shown interest in renting available units in Komtar.

Among the agencies that will operate at UTC Komtar are the Public Services Commission, Royal Malaysian Police, Immigration Department, Health Department, National Higher Education Fund Corporation, Road Transport Department, Inland Revenue Board, Telekom Malaysia and Tenaga Nasional Berhad, National Registration Department and JobsMalaysia.


(NST) Exsim geared up to launch projects outside of Klang Valley this year


EXSIM Development Sdn Bhd (EXSIM Group) is expanding outside of Klang Valley and has inked multiple agreements with landowners in Penang, Johor, and Perak.

The head of marketing and corporate communications, Michelle Siew told NST Property that the agreements were signed in the last few months and are part of the group's strategy to venture out of Klang Valley for expansion.

"We have secured the land, some via outright purchase and the rest we intend to develop jointly with the landowners. The signing stage is over. We are now planning the development and target to launch the projects starting this year," said Siew.

Siew said the projects will have a combination of residential and commercial properties and the ratio will depend on demand in the respective markets.

She said Exsim is all set to perform much better this year over previous years, despite the current property market slowdown.

The group expects its property sales to increase by at least 30 per cent this year, and it could surpass RM2 billion on the back of new launches in Klang Valley, and also in mainland Penang, Johor Bahru and Ipoh, she said.

Last year Exsim registered about RM1.5 billion in sales from its projects in Klang Valley.

"We aim to launch around RM2 billion worth of new projects this year. When we launch we always target 100 per cent sales through various initiatives and promotions. So we are bullish Exsim will meet its RM2 billion sales target.

"For us, we are confident about our product and our workmanship. A product in the right location, with an innovative design, and at the right pricing will always sell," said Siew.

Timber-turned property developer

Exsim was established as a timber company back in 2002. The group ventured into property development in 2009, focusing on residential, commercial and industrial projects in the Klang Valley. Its completed developments include Nouvelle Industrial Park @ Kota Damansara, Nouvelle Kemuning Industrial Park @ Kota Kemuning, Nouvelle Industrial Park @ Meru, The Treez @ Bukit Jalil, The Leafz @ Sungai Besi, Twin Arkz @ Bukit Jalil, Expressionz Professional Suites @ Tun Razak, Petalz Residences @ Old Klang Road,

To date, the group has launched a total of 21 projects with a gross development value of RM8 billion and there's another RM18 billion in the pipeline.

Among its ongoing developments is The Arcuz @ Kelana Jaya, Millerz Square @ Old Klang Road, D'Nuri Residences @ Desa Petaling, Ceylonz Suites @ Bukit Ceylon, and Nouvelle Industrial Park @ Kota Puteri.

Its latest project is Scarletz Suites, which is Exsim’s second commercial property development in Kuala Lumpur City Centre. It is a serviced residence of 604 units housed within a single 49-storey tower, located on Jalan Yap Kwan Seng.

The launch price of this project started from RM750,000, for units sized between 450 square ft and 575 sq ft.

Siew said Scarletz Suites is fully taken up and is expected to be delivered to owners in the third quarter of 2021.

Sukuk issuance for projects

Exsim is raising RM3 billion from two Sukuk issuances to refinance loans as well as buy more land and fund its working capital needs.

The issuances include a RM2 billion Islamic medium-term note programme (IMTN programme) which carries a credit rating of AA3/stable assigned by Ram Ratings Services Bhd, and RM1 billion Islamic commercial papers (ICP).

The Sukuk was structured by NewParadigm Capital Markets Sdn Bhd and guaranteed by Danajamin Nasional Bhd.

The IMTN programme is the first Sukuk structure in Malaysia to monetise the future sales earnings of a commercial real estate development project, whereby each tranche will be secured against a specific project.

Exsim group managing director Lim Aik Hoe said during the signing ceremony recently that the first tranche is backed by the executed sales and purchase agreements of Scarletz Suites.

He said the programmes will help Exsim achieve its next level of growth and provide them with liquidity for future projects.

The first Sukuk programme by Exsim was in January 2019 to monetise its residential real estate earnings.

(The Star) LBS revenue jumps 74.35% in 4Q19

PETALING JAYA: LBS BINA GROUP BHD’s net profit for the fourth quarter to Dec 31,2019 was marginally up to RM17.9mil from RM17.56mil in the same quarter of the previous year.

Revenue was up 74.35% to RM291.1mil.

The increase in both revenue and profit was largely driven by the good take-up rate and steady construction progress from its ongoing projects within the Klang Valley, Pahang and Johor.

Revenue and profit were mainly derived from projects in LBS Alam Perdana, Kita@Cybersouth, Bandar Saujana Putra, Cameron Golden Hills and Skylake Residence.

Projects within the Klang Valley remain the largest revenue contributor, accounting for more than 75% of the group’s revenue for the current financial year.

For the full year to Dec 31,2019, net profit was down 17.4% to RM70.67mil on the back of an 18.1% increase in revenue to RM1.33bil.

The group achieved sales of RM1.63bil in 2019.

On its prospects ahead, the group will continue to focus on project launches mainly in the Klang Valley.

While the prospects for the property industry remain challenging due to global and regional headwinds, the group’s prospects moving forward remain positive with unbilled sales of RM2.24bil.

This is well supported by 18 ongoing projects and a total land bank of approximately 3,980 acres as at Dec 31,2019.


(The Star) I-Bhd profit at RM3.49m

KUALA LUMPUR: I-BHD net profit fell by 43.6% to RM3.49mil in the fourth quarter ended Dec 31,2019 from RM6.19mil a year ago, dragged by lower profit from its property development segment.

The group said the segment posted declining profits due to lower unbilled sales as there was no new project launches since 2018.

As of Dec 31, the group’s unbilled sales stood at RM97.2mil compared with RM112.9mil as at Sept 30,2019, it said in a filing with Bursa Malaysia.

Meanwhile, revenue was flat at RM47.16mil in the quarter from RM47.96mil a year ago.

For the property investment segment, the improvement in revenue for the quarter arises from the lease of additional completed properties in the segment.

However, the property investment segment posted a loss before tax due to the share of results of an associate.

On the other hand, I-Bhd’s leisure segment revenue and pre-tax profit has been sustainable for the fourth quarter in review.

As I-Bhd prepares for new project launches within i-City, the group would focus on enhancing the value of the of i-City development.

“Hence, great emphasis has been placed in enhancing the community’s experience and holistic living within i-City.

“i-City has come a long way since its inception. With its rapid development, i-City as Selangor’s ‘Golden Triangle’ has created new business opportunities and investments, ” it noted.

I-Bhd said it would also focus on the ongoing development of its investment properties and leisure assets such as GBI-rated corporate office tower, Double Tree by Hilton hotel and second Convention Centre that will contribute strong recurring income stream to the group.


(The Star) Conservative target by Sime Darby Property

KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Property Bhd is maintaining its 2019 sales target of RM2.3bil for this year as it expects a challenging outlook for the property market in 2020.

Acting group chief executive officer Datuk Wan Hashimi Albakri said the group had decided to set a conservative sales target for this year despite a stellar performance in 2019.

“We anticipate 2020 to be a soft, challenging market. With everything that’s happening at the moment, we expect sentiment to be affected, ” he said at a briefing. “However, Malaysia is a resilient country with good fundamentals. We will recover but it will take time.”

Wan Hashimi said Sime Darby Property planned to launch RM2.7bil worth of projects this year, adding that it would sell more properties within the affordable and mid-range price points in strategic locations.

“We’re looking at less than 20 projects this year. We have a breadth of products with differing price ranges from affordable to high end.

“But given the current market uncertainty, in light of the Covid-19 outbreak and the political situation, we’re offering more affordable range of products as that’s where most of the demand is right now, ” he said.

Sime Darby Property achieved sales of RM3.1bil in the financial year ended Dec 31,2019, boosted by contributions from City of Elmina, Bandar Bukit Raja, Serenia City, Putra Heights, KL East and Cantara Residences. Total sales had exceeded its target of RM2.3bil by 35%.

In FY19, it launched 2,917 units with a combined gross development value of RM2.3bil. Total unbilled sales were RM1.6bil as at Dec 31,2019.

The group reported an improved net profit of RM598.5mil for the year, mainly due to higher contributions from its core business of property development as well as one-off gains.

Revenue for 2019 rose 30% to RM3.2bil compared with RM2.4bil in the same period a year ago. The group registered a one-off gain of RM245.5mil from the disposal of properties.

Sime Darby Property is the country’s largest property developer in terms of land bank with 19,978 acres of remaining developable land, equivalent to a gross development value of RM86.9bil.

Wan Hashimi said the property sector received a huge boost last year in the form of the Home Ownership Campaign (HOC).

He said Sime Darby Property is hopeful that the government would consider extending the campaign this year.


(The Star) ‘Much-needed relief for industries affected by virus’

PETALING JAYA: The sizeable RM20bil economic stimulus package provides a much -needed relief for industries affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Socio-economic Research Centre (SERC) executive director Lee Heng Guie noted that the package is a broad-based economic stimulation which targets to mitigate economic pain as well as protect jobs.

“The size of the package is above expectations as we were looking at RM15bil.

“I hope the government will expedite the public investments.

“Measures targeting individuals and businesses, particularly the tourism sector meet our expectations and are rightly channelled to the sector, such as the encouragement of in-bound tourism through the disbursement of e-vouchers and personal income tax relief, ” he said.

Meanwhile, UOB Kay Hian head of research Vincent Khoo opined that the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) rate cut by 4% from 11% to 7%, came as a surprise as it was larger than expected, and a significant portion of this RM10bil from this cut is expected to be translated to an increase in consumer spending.

However, the impact of Covid-19 is still apparent, particularly evident in the retail sector, with low mall traffic.

“Overall, the economic stimulus package is a modest amount contributed by the government.

“Hence, this should not affect the nation’s sovereign credit ratings and there is no overspending, ” said Khoo.

On the SME segment, the Credit Guarantee Corporation Malaysia Berhad (CGC) is participating in Bank Negara RM2bil Special Relief Facility (SRF) for SMEs under the government’s 2020 Economic Stimulus Package.

The SRF is to alleviate SMEs’ short-term cash flow problems due to the COVID-19 outbreak and to assist them in sustaining their business operations.

In support of this, CGC is offering BizJamin SRF and BizJamin-i SRF guarantee schemes to SMEs affected by the Covid-19 outbreak from March 6 onwards to December 31,2020.

RHB Banking Group managing director Datuk Khairussaleh Ramli also announced that RHB is currently offering those who are affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, a moratorium of up to six months for monthly instalment payments of loans and financing, which are reviewed on a case-to-case basis.

“This stimulus package will help ease the financial burden faced by the business community and individuals in light of Covid-19 outbreak and headwinds in the local and global business environment.

“It comprehensively addresses the needs of businesses including SMEs during this trying period, in particular for tourism and infrastructure related sectors that are likely to be affected.

“The stimulus will ensure that the economic risks from Covid-19 is effectively managed.

“It will also further strengthen the economy by mobilising domestic sources of growth, boosting consumption and driving quality investments, ” he said.

Mah Sing Bhd founder and group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum lauded the government’s move to reduce the EPF’s minimum contribution rate which will potentially unlock up to RM10bil worth of private consumption, as well as the 6% service tax exemption for hotels, RM100 travel vouchers for Malaysian citizens, along with the personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 for domestic travel.

“This will enable consumers to have extra spending power, which in turn would boost domestic expenditure and consumer sentiment.

“This includes spending on purchase of a property particularly in the affordable segment targeted at first-time homebuyers.

“Our newly launched ‘Eazy to Own’ campaign ties in well with this move, ” he said.

(The Star) AirAsia and AAX see major challenges in first half 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Both AIRASIA BHD and AirAsia X Bhd that posted big losses in the fourth quarter ended Dec 31 (4Q19), foresee major challenges in the first half of this year as the airline industry have been severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

AirAsia’s acting chief executive officer and president for airlines Bo Lingam said the challenging start to this year with the ourbreak of the virus had disrupted some of the group’s businesses due to travel restrictions, flight delays and cancellations.

Despite the decline in demand for airline travel, he added that the group was taking proactive actions by managing capacity and costs to mitigate the challenging environment.

“They include active capacity management since early February, aggressive marketing push to pursue market share, redeploying capacity to domestic and intra-Asean flights as well as engaging and collaborating with industry stakeholders and authorities for incentives, discounts and rebates.

“With our proactive approach in managing the situation through these measures, in addition to stricter implementation of internal cost control, we believe we will recover as soon as possible and come out stronger, as we have shown in previous aviation shocks, ” Bo Lingam said in a statement.

Given the challenging environment surrounding the virus outbreak, AirAsia projects that it may not achieve its internal targets for 2020, though it expects to bounce back after Covid-19 dissipates.

AirAsia Bhd posted a second straight quarterly loss of RM384.5mil on revenue of RM3.36bil.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the consolidated airline group was positive at RM368mil in the quarter compared to a loss of RM91mil in 4Q18.

For full year ended Dec 31 (FY19), AirAsia made a net loss of RM303.7mil on revenue of RM12.45bil.

Meanwhile, AirAsia X also posted a net loss of RM95.80mil for 4Q19 on revenue of RM1.19bil.

Moving forward, it said the passenger bookings in the upcoming months were trending lower and the fares were expected to be under pressure given the outbreak of Covid-19.

“To mitigate the aforementioned risks, the company will launch extensive promotional campaigns and redeploy capacity into other core markets to counter the impact of the weak global economy as well as the virus outbreak.”


(The Star) RHB sees opportunities amidst challenges in 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The challenging economic environment currently could only be a short-term volatility that Malaysia would be able to see through easily, thanks to the country’s strong fundamentals.

RHB Bank Bhd group managing director Datuk Khairussaleh Ramli said there is ample liquidity and the country’s banking system was also stellar.

Despite all the challenges that the banking sector may face amidst the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, the protracting US-China trade war and the recent political uncertainty, he believed there are still opportunities.

“We believe our non-interest income will still be a main driver (of our earnings) and our fixed income portfolio is still strong in terms of potential gains.

“We think that quite a bit of things we have been doing such as for the affluent, SMEs and even the mid-cap markets will continue to provide some business for us, ” Khairussaleh told a media briefing on the group’s financial year 2019 (FY19) results yesterday.

He added that the bank is also monitoring its asset quality closely.

RHB Bank net profit for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31,2019 rose 9.83% year-on-year (y-o-y) from RM565.43mil to RM621.01mil on the back of a higher revenue which rose 3.37% y-o-y from RM3.31bil to RM3.42bil.

For the full financial year, RHB’s net profit jumped 7.69% y-o-y to RM2.48bil from RM2.31bil, mainly due to higher net fund based income and non-fund based, higher expected credit losses written back for other financial assets and the absence of the one-off impairment on other non-financial assets.

Its revenue grew 6.57% from RM12.69bil to RM13.53bil.

The group also declared a final dividend of 18.5 sen per share, bringing the full dividend for FY19 to 31 sen per share.

Khairussaleh said the dividend payout ratio of 50.1% was the highest ever declared by RHB.

The group has a dividend policy where the minimum dividend payout ratio is 30% of its net profit.

Khairussaleh said RHB has the capacity to maintain the dividend payout for FY20 if it can maintain its return on equity (RoE) of 10.5% and grow its loans by 5%.

“The industry will probably grow at 4% and for us, we think that mortgage will still be the strongest, maybe a high single digit growth.

“We’ve seen more and more mortgage borrowers coming from those purchasing houses priced RM500,000 and below, which is good and where the natural demand is.

“We’re also expecting a growth of slightly higher than 5% for the SME segment.

“For the corporate side, this is where we believe we’re going to face some challenges in growth, ” he said.

Commenting on the outlook of RHB’s Singapore operations, he said the bank still expected it to contribute as much as it did in total growth in FY19, with a high single digit growth.

While Singapore’s economy is expected to slow down, RHB said there was still some portion in the market share that it can win.

In Malaysia, the bank foresees another rate cut, largely depending on the Covid-19 impact and the global economic environment.

Khairussaleh said the recent slashing of 25 basis points (bps) by Bank Negara is expected to reduce RHB’s net interest income by 4 bps.

RHB’s share price rose 3 sen or 0.54% yesterday with 5.27 million shares traded.


(The Star) Malaysia has so much to offer, say travel bloggers

PETALING JAYA: Here’s a pop quiz. Where is the “Maldives of Asia”?That’s the moniker for the Tun Sakaran Marine Park located off Semporna. Comprising eight islands, it is known for its marine life and is a diving attraction.

“Sabah, in particular, has many picturesque islands. The Tun Sakaran Marine Park is popularly referred to as the Maldives of Asia.

“It is every nature lover’s dream vacation or dive spot,” said airline steward Azmeer Mustafa Kamal, 29.Azmeer, who blogs about his trips, is among the many tour guides and travel bloggers who are familiar with the lesser known gems in Malaysia.

He said Malaysia had much to offer people seeking domestic travel.“I love diving and nature. I think the beaches, islands and rainforests in Malaysia are a must-see,” he said.

He also encouraged Malaysians to check out Taman Negara Endau-Rompin, a protected tropical rainforest near the Pahang-Johor border.“It’s ideal for those who want to reconnect with nature and soak up the beautiful and dreamy scene,” he said, adding that Malaysians should support domestic tourism during these trying times.

Solo backpacker Mei Mei Chu said this was a good time for Malaysians to enjoy domestic holidays as the crowds were smaller.

Travelling locally would also reduce the risk of being exposed to Covid-19, she added.

She also recommended visiting the many beautiful national parks.

“There’s a Taman Negara in almost every state. For example, the Mulu national park in Sarawak is awesome,” she said.

Tour guide Chow Hoong Fai, who founded Jalan-Jalan Klang, a travel site offering tours to Klang, concurred that this was a good time for Malaysians to travel and learn more about places of interest in their own backyard.

Citing an example, Chow said Klang was not just about bak kut teh (meat in herbal broth) as it also offered delicious ci fen geng (tapioca flour noodles).

He also spoke about Kampung Baru Pandamaran, the second largest new village in the country.

“There is also Bagan Hailam, a Hainanese fishing village. Both places offer a myriad of mouth-watering food,” he said.

Other than the famous Pulau Ketam, Chow said the nearby Sungai Lima was a lesser-known sanctuary where visitors could check out the shrimp factory.

Travellers could also catch beautiful sunsets on the traditional fishing village built on stilts, he added.

“In Klang’s Little India (Jalan Tengku Kelana), visitors get to tour Hindu temples and learn fun facts from the facades of the statues,” he said. “You could also try making a thosai or a flower garland.”

“There is always something to explore in Malaysia.”


(The Star) Maybank not keen on digital licence

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYAN BANKING BHD (Maybank), which reported a net profit of RM8.2bil for the financial year ended Dec 31,2019 (FY19), is not keen on applying for a digital banking licence as its current licence both here and in Singapore already allows it to carry out such operations, its chief said.

“From that perspective, when we consider whether we should apply, we ask ourselves, why should we?” group president and chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Farid Alias said.

“I think the licence is meant more for institutions and entities that are not in the banking sector today, ” he said during a briefing on the company’s FY19 results here yesterday.

Farid said Maybank has been on a digital journey since 2014.

“We don’t (talk) about it much because we like to do first then talk, rather than talk and then try to prove we can do it.”

Bank Negara is set to issue up to five licences to qualified applicants to establish digital banks here while Singapore’s Monetary Authority of Singapore has already received more than 20 applications for up to five licences of such type, in the city-state.

Maybank, the fourth largest lender in Southeast Asia, yesterday said it made a net profit of RM2.45bil for its fourth quarter ended Dec 31,2019,5.15% higher than a net profit of RM2.33bil for the same period, a year earlier.

Net profit for FY19 stood at RM8.2bil – a new high – from RM8.11bil in 2018, boosted by banking and insurance and takaful segments, as well as a particularly strong fourth quarter, the bank said.

Revenue for the year was at RM52.84bil against RM47.32bil a year earlier.

Farid said Maybank will continue to be selective in balance sheet expansion, in line with the group’s risk appetite and amid economic uncertainties and issues like the Covid-19 outbreak.

The bank has guided for a group return on equity (ROE) of 10% to 11% for FY2020, taking into consideration slower economic growth and a lower interest rate environment.

Chief financial officer Datuk Amirul Feisal Wan Zahir said Maybank was also expecting a net interest margin (NIM) compression of 5 basis points in FY2020 as a result of such issues.

In FY19, the lender reported a ROE of 10.9% while NIM fell by six basis points to 2.27%.

On how big an exposure the bank’s current loan portfolio is to customers that are considered vulnerable to the current Covid-19 outbreak, Amirul said “quite small”.

Farid said the bank had completed a stress test on the impact of the virus outbreak, taking into consideration its exposure to the sectors directly impacted by it.

“We have more than sufficient buffers in terms of liquidity and capital, ” he said.

“I can’t tell you the exact potential impact on earnings but our exposure (to affected sectors like airline and tourism) is a lot less than 10%, ” he said.

“I’m hoping it will be a V-shaped recovery and that we can contain it early.”

In FY19, the group’s gross loans expanded by 1.2%, contributed by a growth in Malaysian operations where it outpaced the industry with a 4.9% expansion, according to Maybank’s statement.

The home markets of Singapore and Indonesia however saw a decline by 3.9% and 8.2% respectively, mainly as a result of write-offs and repayments as the group continued to manage its exposure in these markets, it added.

Maybank did not provide any loan growth projections for FY2020 as has been the case in recent times.

As at December 2019, the bank’s gross impaired loan ratio stood at 2.65% from 2.41% in December 2018.

The lender has proposed a final single-tier cash dividend of 39 sen per share, which together with the interim dividend of 25 sen per share, takes the full-year all-cash dividend to 64 sen per share or a 7.4% yield.

At market close yesterday, Maybank’s stock ended 19 sen higher to RM8.52, valuing the banking group at some RM95.8bil.


(The Star) Hidden gems aplenty in Perak and Johor

IPOH: For the adventurous traveller, some parts of the Silver State are like diamonds in the rough.

There are plenty of places that are not popular but interesting to visit, said Ipoh-based travel and food blogger Emily Lowe.

“In Selama, about 120km from here, there is a Gigantic Well in Kampung Bagan Baharu. And Kota Raja Bersiong in Ijok is said to be the hiding place of the legendary tyrannical king,” she said.

“Shutterbugs can take a trip to Chui Chak near Teluk Intan or Kampung Coldstream in Bidor for some amazing landscapes.

“Chui Chak has padi fields like those found in Sekinchan. Prior to the harvesting season, the golden brown fields are amazing.

“In Kampung Coldstream, there are disused tin mines where migratory birds can be seen, as well as several fruit orchards,” Lowe said.

Tourism industry players are urging Malaysians to holiday in the country with the hope that it will offset the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on local business.

Perak Tourist Guide Association chairman Roselyn Lim said travellers could experience the life of a fisherman with visits to Kuala Gula in Bagan Serai.

“They can go for river cruises to see how fishermen catch fish or harvest cockles. Apart from the fresh seafood, they can visit soft shell crab and belacan factories,” she said.Another quaint fishing village is in Pantai Remis, which has some unique and old temples devoted to deities from the Hokkien and Teochew communities, Lim said.

Tourists, she added, could then visit the Segari Turtle Sanctuary, a 20-minute drive from Pantai Remis.

In Ipoh, Lim said, biking enthusiasts could rent bicycles, tour the city and enjoy the landscape along the Kinta Riverbank.

In Johor Baru, Malaysia Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong said the state government and tourism industry players had to work together to highlight Johor’s beauty and boost local tourism.

“I think this is a good time to venture into tourism attractions that include our rich history, culture and heritage,” he said.

He cited hidden gems such as Kampung Makam in Kota Tinggi as potential tourist attractions.

“The village houses several historically significant tombs, including that of Sultan Mahmud Shah II, the last ruler of Johor descended from the Melaka Sultanate.

“Kota Tinggi is known as Johor Lama (Old Johor). It has dozens of interesting historical sites and I think we should focus on highlighting such places,” he said.

Johor-based travel blogger Marlin Md Noor said Putuo Village, which is located 10km from Kulai town, was one of the lesser known but interesting places to visit.

“The best thing about the village is its bamboo forest, which has a calming vibe and is the perfect background to take photos.

She said there was also a cafe in the village where visitors could relax while enjoying the view of the bamboo forest.


(The Star) Lots of incentives in stimulus package

PUTRAJAYA: The 2020 Economic Stimulus Package has revealed many incentives that will assist those affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Interim Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced those who were impacted by low tourist arrivals will be given a one-off RM600 payment.

“The government acknowledges lower tourist arrivals has negatively impacted those reliant on tourism.

“The government will give a one-off payment of RM600 each to taxi drivers, tourist bus drivers, tourist guides and registered trishaw peddlers,” said Dr Mahathir when unveiling the Economic Stimulus Package 2020.

He also said government staff who had been in the front line of the country’s Covid-19 containment efforts would also be compensated.

“As a sign of appreciation to those in the front line protecting Malaysia from the contagion, government staff directly involved in the containment efforts will be eligible for a special monthly critical allowance of RM400 for medical doctors and other medical personnel, as well as RM200 for immigration and related front line staff commencing February 2020 until the end of pandemic,” he said.

To boost local consumption growth, Dr Mahathir said several measures will be introduced, including reducing the minimum Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution by 4% from 11% to 7%. This will take effect from April 1 to Dec 31.

“This will potentially unlock up to RM10bil worth of private consumption. Malaysian workers have the option to opt out from the scheme and maintain their contribution rate,” he said.

The payment of RM200 to Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) recipients, which is scheduled for May, will be brought forward to March.

“An additional RM100 will be paid into the bank accounts of all BSH recipients in May. Subsequently, an additional RM50 will be channelled in the form of e-tunai,” he said.

The government will also introduce several incentives that could help boost local tourism.

This includes a personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 on expenditure related to domestic tourism, as well as digital vouchers for domestic tourism of up to RM100 per person for domestic flights, rail and hotel accommodations for all Malaysians.

“An allocation of RM500mil is provided for the vouchers and tourism promotion,” said Dr Mahathir.


(The Star) GDP target within reach

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has revised its gross domestic product (GDP) to range from 3.2% to 4.2%, but is confident that the RM20bil economic stimulus package will enable the economy to achieve the higher side of the estimate, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic).

The interim Prime Minister said the revision was necessary following the global economic scenario and the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The government had initially forecast Malaysia’s GDP growth for 2020 to be at 4.8%.

Dr Mahathir said in 2003, Malaysia experienced a similar situation with the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which saw growth going down, but the economy still recovered as a result of a comprehensive economic stimulus package.

“In formulating this stimulus package, the government exercised prudence with respect to its fiscal position. As a result of the stimulus package, fiscal deficit is estimated to increase slightly to 3.4% of the GDP, compared to the original target of 3.2%,” he said when unveiling the Economic Stimulus Package 2020 here yesterday.

On how the government plans to finance the package, Dr Mahathir said the country has RM2 trillion to RM3 trillion in savings, which can be used for this purpose.

“At the moment, we have enough sources of money, but if necessary, we may issue bonds,” he said.

To ease cash flow for businesses, the government will allow deferment of monthly income tax instalment payments for businesses in the tourism sector, and companies affected by Covid-19 can revise their profit estimates for 2020 with respect to monthly income tax instalment payments, without penalty.

The government will also provide a 15% discount on monthly electricity bills to hotels, travel agencies, airlines, shopping malls, conventions and exhibition centres starting April all the way to September.

“We are also proposing to exempt the 6% service tax for hotels, effective March to August,” he said.

The government will also provide financing facilities for affected companies, where Bank Negara will provide special relief facility worth RM2bil in the form of working capital for small and medium enterprises at an interest rate of 3.75%, and RM200mil in microcredit facility with an interest rate of 4%.

“All banks are required to provide financial relief in the form of payment moratorium comprising restructuring and rescheduling of loans for affected businesses and individuals,” he said.

To boost the people’s income and reduce cost of living, four initiatives will be undertaken, including a facility of RM1bil to promote food production to meet domestic and export demands.

Fama will be allocated RM10mil to provide food storage facilities to help reduce food prices and grants of RM1,000 will be given to 10,000 local entrepreneurs to promote their products on e-commerce platforms.

Dr Mahathir said in addition, the government will allocate an additional RM2bil for immediate implementation of small infrastructure repair and upgrading projects in rural areas.

To boost business confidence, the government will accelerate investment projects for 2020 such as the solar power generation, the national fibrerisation and connectivity plan, and Tenaga Nasional Bhd’s projects for LED streetlights, transmission lines and rooftop solar installations.

“The implementation of the economic stimulus package cannot be successfully delivered by the government alone. We call on the private sector to play their part in ensuring the stimulus package is successful.

“At the same time, we call on the people to remain steadfast, brave and diligent in prevailing over the current challenges, and emerge even stronger after this episode,” he said.

(The Star) Tourism sector welcomes stimulus package

PETALING JAYA: While the tourism industry, which is hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak, welcomes the government’s stimulus package, other sectors say they have been left out.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) said industry players were happy the government heeded many of its proposals such as deferment of income tax, 15% electricity discount, and the suspension of the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) contribution as well as the 6% service tax for hotels.

MAH chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said the relief was really needed for industry players to survive and recover.

“The proposal for personal income tax relief originated from us, an idea we submitted to the Finance Ministry for the past two years as part of the budget preparation process and its introduction here is timely and would benefit the rakyat directly.

“We also welcome the RM100 digital voucher for Malaysians that would fit well with all the current promotions that local tourism stakeholders are offering,” he said.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) said the stimulus package would help spur domestic especially the hotels as room occupancy had dropped to between 20% and 30%.

“It will also encourage domestic spending which will help strengthen the ringgit against foreign currencies,” MATTA deputy president Mohd Akil Md Yusof said yesterday.

Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association president Datuk Ho Su Mong said the stimulus package should have been more inclusive.

The measures did not provide much for the restaurant industry, he said.

He said the 15% discount on monthly electricity bill should be extended to all retail businesses including the restaurant industry.


Thursday, 27 February 2020

(NST) Stimulus package to help ease businesses' financial burden: Corporate leaders


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s RM20 billion economic stimulus package will help ease the financial burden faced by the business community and individuals, said RHB Banking Group managing director Datuk Khairussaleh Ramli.

This is in light of Covid-19 outbreak and headwinds in the local and global business environment.

Khairussaleh said the package comprehensively addressed the needs of businesses including small and medium enterprises (SMEs) during this trying period, in particular for tourism and infrastructure related sectors that are likely to be affected.

“The stimulus will ensure that the economic risks from Covid-19 is effectively managed. It will also further strengthen the economy by mobilising domestic sources of growth, boosting consumption and driving quality investments,” he said.

RHB Bank is currently offering those who are affected a moratorium of up to six months for monthly instalment payments of loans and financing, which are reviewed on a case-to-case basis.

Meanwhile, Mah Sing Group Bhd founder and group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said the stimulus package was timely, as it would spur improved consumer confidence, which is a key factor in property purchase.

He welcomed the move to reduce the Employee Provident Fund’s (EPF) minimum contribution rate by four per cent from 11 per cent to seven per cent, which will potentially unlock up to RM10 billion worth of private consumption.

“This will enable consumers to have extra spending power, which in turn would boost domestic expenditure and consumer sentiment. 

“This includes spending on purchase of a property particularly in the affordable segment targeted at first-time homebuyers,” he said.

Leong said the 15 per cent discount in monthly electricity bills for the tourism sector including hotels and shopping malls was a direct injection to ease these businesses’ cash flow, which the group appreciates for its Ramada by Wyndham Meridin hotel and Star Avenue shopping mall.

Leong said the company looks forward for more incentives and support from the government in stimulating the overall economic activity.

“The group is looking forward for more property-friendly incentives to encourage home ownership. As affordability remains as the key concern for homebuyers today, we hope the government can consider more relaxation measures such as speedy implementation for the RM600,000 threshold for foreigners to buy high-rise properties, waiver on the Real Property Gains Tax, and relaxing the current regulation of property sector.

“We are also hopeful for the continuation of the Home Ownership Campaign or an introduction of a new scheme with more incentives such as higher margin of financing, tax relief and lower interest rate for first-time buyers, reinstate maximum loan tenure to 45 years, as well as allowing other income sources for loan applications,” he added.

(NST) Mah Sing looks forward to more property-friendly govt incentives


KUALA LUMPUR: Mah Sing Group Bhd hopes the government will implement more property-friendly incentives to encourage home ownership.

Its founder and group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum, commenting on the details of the newly-announced 2020 Economic Stimulus Package, said the housing developer was also looking forward to more incentives to aid first-time housebuyers.

“As affordability remains the key concern for homebuyers today, we hope the government can consider more relaxation measures such as waiver on the Real Property Gains Tax, and relaxing the current regulation of property sector.

“We are also hopeful for the continuation of the Home Ownership Campaign or an introduction of a new scheme with more incentives such as higher margin of financing, tax relief and lower interest rate for first-time buyer.

“And also the move to reinstate maximum loan tenure to 45 years, as well as allowing other income sources for loan applications,” he said in a statement today.

Leong believes that the stimulus package will among others help spur investor confidence in the wake of the global economic slowdown following the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We appreciate the government’s move to reduce the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) minimum contribution rate by four per cent (from 11 per cent), which will potentially unlock up to RM10 billion worth of private consumption.

“This strategy will enable consumers to have extra spending power, which in turn would boost domestic expenditure and consumer sentiment,” he said.

Leong was also upbeat over the government’s move to provide a 15 per cent discount in monthly electricity bills for the tourism sector, which include hotels and shopping malls.

“We believe the strategy will be a success as a direct injection to ease these businesses’ cash flow.

“Additionally, we laud the government’s move to further aid the tourism sector with the six per cent service exemption for hotels, RM100 travel vouchers for Malaysian citizens and personal income tax relief up to RM1,000 for domestic travel,” he said.

(NST) Malaysia has enough money for stimulus package, says Dr M


PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has almost RM2 trillion of savings from Bank Negara Malaysia, Tabung Haji, Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) and the Employee Provident Fund (EPF), said interim Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said it will make use of some of these savings to disburse the Economic Stimulus Package.

“In EPF it has almost RM1 trillion which is huge and there are also other savings that we can pay for the Stimulus Package,” he told a press conference after announcing the Economic Stimulus Package totalling RM20 billion here today.

He also said the country has enough money at the moment and would only issue a bond to fund the Stimulus Package if it deemed necessary.

The government introduced the 2020 Economic Stimulus Package to safeguard the economy from impacts associated with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Asked on the disbursement methods for the economic package as there is no sitting cabinet due to the country’s political developments, he said, it would be carried out accordingly to established bureaucratic procedures.

On whether the government still committed to fiscal consolidation post-economic stimulus package, he replied: “Yes we are”.

In an earlier announcement, Dr Mahathir said due to the global economic scenario and impacts from COVID-19 outbreak, Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2020 is estimated to be in the range of 3.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent.

“I believe, the economic stimulus package will enable the Malaysian economy to achieve the highest point of the range.

“In formulating the stimulus package, the government exercised prudence with respect to its fiscal position. As a result of the stimulus package, the fiscal deficit is estimated to slightly increase to 3.4 per cent of GDP compared to the original target of 3.2 per cent of GDP,” he said.

In 2003, the government introduced a stimulus package of RM8.1 billion to boost the economy that was hit by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pandemic. -- BERNAMA

(NST) Malaysia's GDP to grow up to 4.2 per cent this year


PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow between 3.2 per cent and 4.2 per cent this year, bogged down by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Interim Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad believes a RM20 billion economic stimulus package unveiled today would enable the economy to achieve the highest point of the range.

“In formulating the stimulus package, the government exercised prudence with respect to its fiscal position.

“As a result, our fiscal deficit is estimated to slightly increase to 3.4 per cent of GDP compared to the original target of 3.2 per cent,” Dr Mahathir said at a press conference after announcing the stimulus package here.

He said the package would not be able to be delivered by the government alone.

“Therefore, the government calls on the private sector to play their part in ensuring the stimulus package is successful,” he added.

In 2003, Malaysia experienced a similar situation with the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that began in East Asia, which had seen tourist arrivals plunging regionally.

That played a role in bringing Malaysia’s GDP growth down from 7.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2002 to 4.6 per cent in the same quarter a year later.

“However, as a result of the comprehensive economic stimulus package, the Malaysian economy recovered to 6.5 per cent in fourth quarter of 2003. Insya-ALLAH, the 2020 economic stimulus package will be as successful,” he added.

Dr Mahathir also called on the rakyat to remain steadfast, brave and diligent in prevailing over the current challenges and emerge even stronger after this episode.

(NST) Unlocking private consumption worth RM10 billion, extra RM50 e-Tunai


KUALA LUMPUR: A reduction in the minimum contribution to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) announced in the 2020 Economic Stimulus Package to combat the impact of COVID-19 is set to potentially unlock up to RM10 billion of private consumption.

Interim Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the reduction by employees will be reduced to seven per cent, from the current 11 per cent now, a reduction of 4 per cent.

“(However), Malaysian workers have the option to opt-out from the scheme and maintain their contribution rate,” he said when announcing the RM20 billion stimulus package themed: “Bolstering Confidence, Stimulating Growth, Protecting Jobs,” in Putrajaya today.

He also said the payment of RM200 to all Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) recipients scheduled for May 2020 will be brought forward to March 2020 and an additional RM100 will be paid into the bank accounts of all BSH recipients in May 2020.

Subsequently, an additional RM50 will be channelled in the form of e-tunai.

Previously, under the RM30 e-tunai Rakyat initiative, the government has set allocation of RM450 million.

With an annual income of RM100,000, Malaysians aged 18 and above are entitled to participate in the campaign that started off on Jan 15 and ends on March 14. Registration closed on March 9.

The three e-Wallet operators that are part of the initiatives were Touch n Go, Boost and GrabPay. -- BERNAMA

(NST) Matta praises economic stimulus package


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (Matta) has praised the 2020 Economic Stimulus Package announced by interim Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today.

Its deputy president Mohd Akil Mohd Yusof said the RM20 billion economic stimulus package would help to boost domestic tourism which have been severely affected by low number of foreign tourist arrivals due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We are very happy that almost all our requests have been approved.

“We hope our current 3,500 members will make full use of the allocation to promote existing facilities, so that they are able to cope during the difficult period.

“The stimulus package will be able to boost hotel occupancy rate, which is already down 20 per cent to 30 per cent,” he said, at a press conference here today.

Mohd Akil also revealed Matta would be organising a special exhibition titled, Matta Fair “CutiCuti Malaysia” at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, from April 4 to 6, in efforts to promote domestic tourism.

Earlier today, Dr Mahathir announced the economic stimulus package in Putrajaya to address economic risks associated with Covid-19.

According to him, the package was anchored on three strategies, namely mitigating impact of Covid-19, spurring rakyat-centric economic growth and promoting quality investment.

The stimulus package offers Malaysians personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 on expenditure related to domestic tourism; digital vouchers for domestic tourism of up to RM100 per person for domestic flights, rails and hotel accommodations through a RM500 million allocation, and additional matching grants for tourism promotion.

Dr Mahathir added the government would relax existing guidelines that restrict the use of hotels by government agencies in order to help compensate the reduced tourism demand.

(NST) 2020 Economic Stimulus Package gets approval from hoteliers


KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) is upbeat about the 2020 Economic Stimulus Package as it has successfully addressed its main worries.

Its chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said the stimulus package touched on two of MAH’s key concerns - the next strategy to ease cash flow and financial burden as well as to drive the tourism sector during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Strategies laid out such as the deferment of income tax, 15 per cent discount on electricity, suspension of Human Resources Department Fund (HRDF) contribution and six per cent service tax for hotels are the things we want. And we are thankful that the government listened,” he said in a statement.

The stimulus package valued at RM20 billion, has various strategies formulated to ensure Malaysian economy remains on solid foundation, while facing economic risks associated with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yap also said the government had even approved some of the proposals presented during meetings with various Ministries.

“We get to see, among others, our proposals on special deductions, grants and incentives for training and development via HRDF have been approved.

“We have encouraged hotels to conduct and provide more skill trainings to employees during this period, which will translate into competitive advantage when the market recovers.

“It is also timely to get the personal income tax relief of which the Rakyat will benefit from it directly,” Yap said, adding MAH welcomed the RM100 digital voucher for Malaysians that would boost promotions offered by local tourism stakeholders.

Yap said the association was satisfied with the move to ease the procurement of government and its agencies for events or meetings at hotels.

“Apart from the tourism specific initiatives, we can clearly see the government is sensitive to the people’s welfare based on many cash and non-cash assistance announced today.

“The industry will continue to play an active role, both in engaging with the government and sharing its responsibilities as well as to extend similar assistance to (relevant) partners in ensuring a sustainable tourism sector,” he said.

Earlier, interim Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad unveiled the much-awaited 2020 Economic Stimulus package, aimed at stimulating Malaysia’s economy and mitigating any adverse impact resulted from the Covid-19 outbreak and other external uncertainties.