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PETALING JAYA: The decision on whether or not to grant moratoriums to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is very much dependent on whether the banks think that the SMEs have repayment issues, says Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz.

However, the government can encourage policies that are helping and assisting the people, he said while expressing hope that banks and Bank Negara will continue to support the SMEs and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that are genuinely facing difficulties.

“I’m optimistic, together with Bank Negara, that our (economic) growth this year will even surpass our expectation, which is between 5.3% and 6.3%.

“We are on a growth trajectory, the economy is growing so we need to support the companies that are still in need,” he told a press conference on the sidelines of the Malaysian Banking Conference 2022 yesterday.

Tengku Zafrul pointed out that Malaysia’s economy has been growing strongly so far, thanks to rising domestic consumption, a stronger export sector and better loan growth, among others. Thus the measures taken during the pandemic-triggered economic crisis might not be the best solution for now.

He said limited resources should be used to help target groups, and blanket support might not be sustainable.

The minister noted that SMEs and MSMEs have received a lot of assistance from the government, such as financing with a moratorium in Budget 2022 under the Semarak Niaga initiative.

In fact, the Small and Medium Enterprises Association Malaysia or Samenta has been reported as saying that another loan moratorium will only exacerbate the SMEs’ problems.

Tengku Zafrul said the banks were starting to lend even more than the pre-pandemic level, adding that the banking sector’s net financing had grown by 4.9% in the second quarter of this year.

“The disbursement has actually surpassed the pre-pandemic level. It went up to RM71bil in the second quarter of 2022 compared to an average of RM57bil during 2017-2019. So, banks are still lending,” he said.