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LETTER | Covid-19 pandemic could not have come at a better time for many. It’s raining taxpayers' money and ministers are trying to outdo each other by dishing out cash. How else can you explain otherwise?

Latest is the announcement by the Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin yesterday that the Fire & Rescue Department personnel will receive RM200 per month throughout the implementation of the movement control order (MCO). Imagine that! An RM200 top-up to their salary and allowance.

She said that the incentives were in appreciation of their roles and service as frontliners as the country sought to combat the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.

We can understand the selfless roles played by the doctors and nurses who deservedly and rightfully has been given special incentive payment. No one will begrudge them receiving the special incentive payment.

They truly are the frontliners and are in the eye of the storm.

With respect, pray tell us minister, the role of the firefighters in the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Are there anywhere now raging fires or are firemen using the fire engines and fire trucks to rush and transport Covid-19 victims to the hospitals? So, what extraordinary service is being provided by the firefighters during this Covid-19 pandemic?

Let’s be honest, the firefighters are not suffering any loss of income. As part of the civil service, their monthly salary are assured and secured. What then really justifies and makes necessary, a further payment of payment of RM200 in addition to their salary and other allowances?

What the nation is going through is a Covid-19 health pandemic, not some bush-fires ala that happened in Australia where firefighters were fighting to douse the raging fires. 

It would be understandable had the incentives been paid during the haze and the dry season where there are greater incidents of fires. 

But to pay firefighters during a health pandemic is nothing but simply an affront to those SMEs and other small businesses who are crying out for help to save their businesses and ensure jobs are not lost.

It’s becoming clearer by the day that the RM250 billion stimulus package ( that too a huge chunk from the taxpayers' own money) announced by the government is nothing but one big gravy train dished out to secure the votes of the targeted voters.

Just imagine, when the Singapore government for the next six months is subsidising 25 percent of the salary of every Singaporean employee and Canadian government going even better by subsidising 75 percent of the employees' salaries, we have the government here instead of helping employers and businesses is raining even more taxpayers' money on those whose income is already assured and secured.

What a misspelt priority, particularly when the SMEs, the chambers of commerce, the business communities are already predicting that without real help the economy is going to collapse and if that happens jobs are going to be lost. Some are predicting that if help doesn’t come now, by May the economy will collapse.

We await another minister announcing that their staffs are frontliners battling the Covid-19 pandemic and as such, they too deserve incentive payment from the RM250 billion pie.

Editor's Note: We have it on record that sanitisation works to combat Covid-19 are conducted by firefighters. In fact, a nationwide drive to disinfect public spaces began today and the operation is led by the Fire and Rescue Department.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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