Image credit: Suara Sarawak

KUCHING (Nov 11): The state government is in the process of getting more banks on board to process small and medium enterprises (SMEs)’s applications for interest subsidy for Special Relief Fund (SRF) under Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) 2.0, said Assistant Minister of International Trade and Industry, Industry Terminal and Entrepreneur Development Datuk Naroden Majais.

He was responding to a question from Irene Chang (DAP-Bukit Assek) at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting today relating to SMEs that have applied for SRF.

“A total of 1,889 applications for SRF under BKSS 2.0 for interest subsidy have been received by the seven participating banks. Out of these, 1,879 have been successful and 10 have been rejected,” he said.

He added that consideration may still be given to the rejected applications, and encouraged the applicants to make appeal and give all the necessary details.

“At the same time, we try to get more banks so that more people will benefit from this (fund). We have appointed seven banks to process BKSS 2.0 SRF applications and they are Maybank, Public Bank, CIMB, SME Bank, RHB Bank, Bank Muamalat and Hong Leong Bank.

“We are applying to Bank Negara to get more banks (to participate) so that more applications can be received. There are people who have accounts in banks other than the seven banks and their applications may not be able to meet the requirements of seven banks so we are applying for more banks for people to have more access (to the assistance),” he explained.

The applications rejected by division were seven in Kuching, and one each in Bintulu, Miri and Sibu.

In responding to a question as to why assistance have not been given to tenants of private premises who cannot cover their rentals, Naroden noted that although there is no direct assistance given to tenants to cover their rental fees at private premises, the state government encourages owners of private premises throughout Sarawak to provide similar assistance to their tenants.

“By reducing their rental rates considering that the government has given them 25 per cent discount on their assessment rate as well as 15 per cent utility bills discount on commercial premises for nine months from March to December 2020.

“From my understanding, there are indeed many kind and compassionate Sarawakians who own business premises and have given similar assistance to their tenants during this challenging time,” he said.

When responding to similar SME-related questions posed by Ripin Lamat (GPS-Lambir) and Aidel Lariwoo (GPS-Sadong Jaya) on the initiatives or efforts of the government to assist the SME, Naroden said the government has implemented various types of assistance to help the SMEs affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said among the BKSS assistance for entrepreneurs or traders are two categories, namely financial and non-financial assistance.

However, he said entrepreneurs or traders cannot receive any assistance if they are not registered or do not have permits.

“That is why our ministry and other agencies conduct many workshops and seminars for entrepreneurs. There are about 42,000 SME entrepreneurs doing business throughout Sarawak, whereby 25,000 have not registered themselves.

“Therefore, I urge these 25,000 to register themselves so that they can enjoy the financial assistances provided by the government,” he said.

In a press conference later, Naroden explained that the government understands that not all applicants are clients to the seven banks appointed.

“That is why we are planning to appoint other banks. Among some of the banks under consideration are those with many branches or agents, such as Bank Simpanan Nasional, Bank Rakyat, Agrobank, and Bank Islam,” he said.

He added that applicants can always contact their respective banks online to check on the status of their applications.