Assistance to B40 group should reach only deserving individuals and done on a temporary basis, says economist

Any increase in welfare aid to poor families should be encouraged but the government must also ensure that it is extended only to those who deserve it.

At the same time, it must also be acknowledged that this is only a short-term measure and will not solve the long-term problem of low incomes among those in the B40 group.

There should be another plan that produces a positive outcome in the long term, according to economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam.

Ramon, who is director of the Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute, also pointed out that a holistic approach is essential to ensure that only the deserving ones receive such aid. Otherwise, those who really need it could be left out.

“The government should also disclose details such as the cost and the implications that may follow. We don’t want to overdo anything and find that we cannot afford it in the end,” he told theSun when commenting on Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s proposal that the government raise the monthly Social Welfare Department aid to the B40 group from between RM200 and RM300 each to RM1,000.

While on a visit to Sandakan on Saturday, Muhyiddin said the proposal would be raised for discussion at the next Cabinet meeting.

Ramon said it is important to first ascertain how much is enough given that the cost of living varies according to location.

He said RM1,000 might not be enough for those in the lowest rung of the income ladder “but the government should be encouraged to disburse as much as it can afford to deserving households”.

Ramon also pointed out that such aid should be given with the condition that it is only temporary and the breadwinner of the family should seek employment.

He added that the basic needs of the family should take priority.
“Parents must make sure that the money is put to good use, such as providing for the family’s basic needs, including education and healthy food.”

Ramon said aid should also be extended to retirees, especially government pensioners.
“Not everyone has the means to live a comfortable life after retirement. The welfare of these people should also be looked into.”

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said the government must be clear about who is and who is not eligible for the aid.

“Is this only for those who are already receiving aid from the government, or does it also count those who have yet to be included in the scheme?”

He said the government must also state clearly how much the additional aid will cost and how it will be financed.

He proposed the quantum be based on certain factors, such as the cost of living.

“The cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is higher than in places such as Kuala Selangor so a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not do much good.”

He said the best way to determine how much each household gets is to use the Islamic financial management concept of Baitulmal.

The aid should also come with certain conditions to ensure that the recipient families eventually achieve financial independence, he added.

This article was originally published on September 1, 2020 in The Sun Daily, written by Shivani Supramani.

Photo by Bui Hoang Lien on Unsplash

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