By ILONA ANDREW
KOTA KINABALU: A survey by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) Sabah found that 26 per cent of the state’s tourism players lost their jobs due to the enforced Movement Control Order (MCO).
The findings of the survey also showed that 32 per cent of workers received a pay cut and another 43 per cent are on unpaid leave.
IDS Sabah Executive Director Anthony Kiob said the respondents are struggling financially due to the absence of tourists during the MCO and are unable to pay their workers accordingly as well as cover their operational costs.
“Sabah relies heavily on the tourism sector and this is the sector that contributes most to our gross domestic product (GDP). Unfortunately, this is the sector that is most affected by the MCO.
“Sabah is popular among the Chinese and Korean tourists and these are the two countries that were among the first that experienced the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
He added the tourism operators face a bleak future as no tourist arrivals are allowed in Sabah at the moment.
To counter the impact of the MCO, the government introduced an economic stimulus package which offer the operators 15 per cent discount on monthly utility bills, wage subsidy for employees, and bank loan moratorium.
“However, about half of the respondents revealed that they are still unable to sustain their business even with the availability of the stimulus package as the MCO is extended.
“Our survey also highlighted that the tourism players are looking forward to reviewing the measures by mid-May to address the economic slowdown due to MCO.
“They foresee that the subsequent fears to travel will have longer impact on the tourism sector and the state’s economy,” Anthony said.
He stated that some of the other suggestions put forward by the industry players include waiving the electricity and water bills all together for a period of six months instead of just giving 15 per cent discount on monthly bills.
“They also proposed for the wage subsidy to be extended for another three months, or until the pandemic is over or business is back to normal,” he said.
The respondents also expressed hope that the bank moratorium will be extended until the end of the year 2020, Anthony said.
Other suggestions put forward include special grants for freelance tour guides, dancers and musicians; suspension of EPF contributions from employers to employees for 6 months; allowing certain business to re-open for limited hours, but with restrictions, in stages during the MCO; and an aggressive campaign on domestic travel assisted by the government after the MCO is lifted.
Feedback from the business sector indicates that they want the government to visit the operators who are badly affected by the MCO, to ensure that they can move forward after the MCO episode.
IDS Sabah has been carrying out a number of surveys targeting at selected business sectors that are badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the MCO.