KUALA LUMPUR – The economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected most businesses.
Craft entrepreneurs who operate in the interior regions of Sabah and Sarawak were left in the lurch because they could not go out to forage for forest products in the initial stage of the Movement Control Order (MCO) that was enforced on March 18.
Their sales were badly affected due to the lack of promotional activities, forcing many of them to resort to other means to earn a living.
Empin Galing, 60, who hails from Kampung Gansurai – about an hour’s journey from Kota Belud, Sabah – said his craft business was badly hit by the crisis.
“My fellow villagers and I who make crafts from woven rattan were not able to market our products to our retailers who cancelled their orders as they didn’t want to incur losses because no one could tell when the pandemic will end.
“It’s fortunate that we live in the kampung where we can try to find something to feed our families,” he told Bernama.
Ray of hope
Empin, who is from the Dusun Tindal ethnic group and the head of Kampung Gansurai, said he has been involved in the rattan weaving industry for 10 years. This father of five has participated in exhibitions in Sabah and the peninsula, including in events held in conjunction with National Craft Day organised by the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Kraftangan Malaysia).
The last time he visited the peninsula was in March this year, just before the pandemic struck the nation, to promote his handicrafts during the National Craft Day celebrations here.
Now that the nation is in the recovery phase of the MCO, things are looking up for Empin and his fellow craft entrepreneurs.
According to Empin, initiatives by the federal government, through the PRIHATIN Economic Stimulus Package and PENJANA Economic Recovery Plan, have given them a ray of hope to resume their businesses.
Referring to the CENDANA Recovery Initiatives under the PENJANA plan for the creative industries, Empin hoped that the measures would help to revitalise the craft industry’s business activities.
Under the PENJANA plan for the creative industries, incentives of up to RM30,000 will be provided to skilled artisans, craft makers and producers nationwide for the development and production of their products.
“My friends and I have already submitted our applications for the CENDANA Recovery Initiatives under the Craft Industry Choice category. We will make use of the benefits given to us to buy raw materials such as rattan core of different sizes and other things we need for our craft-making business,” Empin said.
These initiatives, he added, would help to plug some of the losses they had incurred during the pandemic.
“I hope all entrepreneurs involved will utilise these initiatives fully as it is a shot in the arm to get their businesses going again,” he added.
Holistic and inclusive
Describing the PRIHATIN and PENJANA initiatives as appropriate “interventions” that would support economic recovery, Universiti Malaysia Sabah head of International Relations Programme at the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Heritage Dr Ramli Dollah said they would benefit the people of Sabah, particularly those living in the interior regions who have been badly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The holistic and inclusive nature of both PRIHATIN and PENJANA is exactly what the people need as it ensures that the benefits reach the targeted groups.
“The main issue that deserves due attention is the economic recovery of the people. In this matter, not only should they be given assistance but adjustments should be made to the mode of delivery to ensure that people living in interior areas are not left out,” said Ramli.
Pointing to Sabah and Sarawak, he said people living in the interior neither have access to the Internet nor possess the necessary skills to submit their applications online for the government aid.
“As such, improvements should be made so that the aid can reach the hands of the people who deserve it,” added Ramli, who is from Semporna.
He also said that the aid packages reflect the caring attitude of the Perikatan Nasional government, led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in safeguarding the welfare of the people regardless of ethnicity and geographical boundary and urged the people to vote wisely during the Sabah state election on Saturday (Sept 26).
On Sept 17, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz said 1.93 million people in Sabah and Sarawak have received benefits worth RM2.1 billion under the PRIHATIN and PENJANA initiatives.
Apart from that, almost 100,000 micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises have received benefits worth RM1.4 billion through the employee wage subsidy and PRIHATIN special grant schemes, as well as micro-credit loans from TEKUN Nasional and Bank Simpanan Nasional.
According to the website cendana.com.my, the PENJANA plan for the creative industries is a set of initiatives to revive the creative industry, including the arts and culture industries under the government’s PENJANA Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan, administered and managed by MyCreative Ventures and CENDANA and supervised by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia.
The plan for the creative industries was designed to help the arts, culture, entertainment and event industries to adapt to the new normal and assist industry practitioners and businesses affected by COVID-19. The initiatives under CENDANA will focus, in particular, on the needs of the arts and culture industries.
The main objective is to enable creative industry practitioners and businesses to resume their activities and sustain the livelihood of those working in the industry.
Among the initiatives is CENDANA Craft Industry Choice which is aimed at elevating the Malaysian handicraft industry by recognising and acknowledging Malaysian artisans, craft makers and producers of traditional arts, crafts and endangered trades for the sustainability of the Malaysian crafts economy.
This category selects and provides incentives of up to RM30,000 to skilled artisans, craft makers and producers nationwide for the development and production of their products, as well as support infrastructure maintenance and improvement.