Monday, February 24, 2014

Cash Assistance for the Poor….

More than 30 years ago when I was in the civil service, I suggested that cash assistance be given to the poor in this country to ease their problems and allow them to focus full attention on their work and help them come out of the quagmire of poverty. After all,the poor and unemployed in many developed countries are given social welfare assistance (monthly cash payment) to enable them to live a decent life.

Of course the idea was considered as unacceptable or even stupid. "Give the poor some money and they will spend it in no time at all without having any long-term impact on improving their source of income. The famous reply was: 'give people some fish and they will have food for one day; teach them how to fish and they can have fish all their life.'Giving them subsidies, development projects, material and technical assistance etc was considered as a better alternative.

Well. the "Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia" or BRIM has now come to stay, if the present government remains in power. It's direct cash assistance given periodically (once a year to be exact) to those earning less that RM3000 a month, including those who are not married as yet. BRIM3 has just been given out and we see pictures of smiling faces of young and old in the newspapers and TV celebrating the magnanimity of the government. More than 3 million Malaysians will receive the gift when the distribution is completed. In addition the government is also giving cash assistance to ALL students in primary and secondary schools while book coupons are also given to help students buy text books and other school requirements.

All these are indications, of course, that the economy of the country and government finance are in a very healthy and promising situation. The financial burden of these cash assistance is nothing much compared to the Funds and Financial Assistance given to the the investment and development sector of the nation, especially to bail out GLCs which are in trouble. The difference is that while the investment and development funds are bound to bring in substantial returns in the near future, the cash assistance given to the low income people are just 'give-away' without any expectation of a financial return.The money can be spent in any way they like and that makes the recipients very happy. The extra money can of course stimulate extra spending and boost up business, for as long as the money lasts.

The question is, how far can the RM650 a year go? You cannot plan anything to make the best use of it because it is not a regular income, not something that you can take into account in your expenditure budget. A cash assistance of, say RM100 a month, can at least help to make ends meet, on a regular basis. But distributing the RM650 over a year will give only RM50+ a month. How much of a help is that? I think there are many other ways direct cash assistance can be given with better long term result in boosting the income of the poor.

But people are very happy receiving the once-in-a-while gift. Like kids receiving an angpow from a rich Uncle, with no conditions attached in terms of how you can spend it. So, happy spending folks! When the money is gone just wait for BRIM 4,5,6 etc.

, PS. Tun Dr Mahathir, the former PM of Malaysia expressed the following view on the BRIM cash assistance:

'Tambah Mahathir lagi, kerajaan telah memperuntukkan RM3.5 bilion kepada 7 juta rakyat Malaysia dan ianya disifatkan satu pembaziran dengan jumlah yang besar.( gist: the payment of RM3.5 million to 7 million is considered as a waste).

“Masih terdapat golongan individu atau keluarga yang miskin di negara ini, kita sepatutnya menggunakan peruntukan tersebut untuk membantu mereka,” jelasnya. (there are still poor individuals and families who should be assisted).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Transform or Reform?

Everybody wants to change for the better. But what is better? How do you ensure that the change is not for the worse? Sometimes one is not even sure whether the change (or changes) that came about is what you want and gives you a better deal in life or it's more retrogressive in nature. The same applies to a country as it does to a person.

When a person is transformed, we expect a change in his or her personality and character or maybe even in his or her physical look through modern plastic surgery. Always for the better but some old characteristics can be expected to remain, maybe in a more refined manner. If he were disrespectful or dishonest before, we expect hims to become respectful and honest. The change is not total but very markedly significant, moving from a negative to a more positive position or grading. But if a person is reformed, it means that he had undergone a radical change as in the case of a criminal who has undergone a reformatory confinement. We expect a restructuring of his or her personality, to the extent that some old habits or traits are entirely eradicated and replaced with new and healthy ones. A criminal might turn into a very religious and God-fearing person.high income=high cost of living

We in Malaysia seem to face a choice in our political development: a transformation (transformasi) or a reform (reformasi). I don't think anyone had cared to explain to us the difference except that one is mooted by the government in power and the other by the opposition. The government had embarked on a program of political and economic transformation, to become a developed nation by 2020. Well, we are only some six years away from the target and only three to four years away from the next GE.Much has been done by the government to transform things on many front with a very intricate/sophisticated system of evaluation which the common man may find difficult to follow.yee sang,prosperity for all (but the poor)

But certain things are obvious in spite of the success shown by the self-developed indicators. Some of the so-called political transformation in the parties that form the coalition government do not show convincing results and too much of the old characteristics remained as before or as some say in an even worse form. Can a party change or transform itself when most of the old personalities remain
without undergoing any radical change? The attitude they show in facing pubic complaints about rising costs (if you don't like the country go elsewhere, if certain things are costly don't buy them, let's cut public expenditure -on administration and services - and subsidies to reduce government spending etc.), show a haughty or some say, a stupid response. While many steps are being taken to reduce government expenditure, billions are being spent on the creation of multifarious Funds (who distribute them?), subsidising private companies which had taken over public services through privatisation and are not doing well because of exorbitant pay packets for high executives (often ten times or more that of senior government officials) and expensive management style not checked by government, and giving periodic handouts to the low income people to assist in keeping up with the rising cost of living.a long way to go

The transformation programs have been going on for a couple of years now and the public is evaluating their result. The old trademarks of the parties in power are still the same in spite of the addition of new faces for they must follow the ethics of the old vanguards or be thrown out. The reformists have been in power in some States for quite some time and are yet to show results better than the transformists.There seem to be too much squabbling in their ranks and one can understand why they cannot do much being surround by the transformists. The water woes in Selangor is case in point where the State cannot tackle the problem the way it wanted because of Federal influence.

So, transformasi or reformasi, things go on as usual. Do our young citizens understand the issue or are they too busy watching TV with all the choice of programs now made available by Astro. They seemed to so engrossed by the modern TV dramas and soap operas while the modern handphones served all other communication meeds, that they don't care if the costs of thing doubled or tripled. After all their parents are still paying the bills until they set up a home of their own and they find out that even a one-storey terrace house might cost almost a million ringgit. The water and electricity bill can take away a huge chunk of their income and annual evaluation rate for their homes might leave them constantly in the red.