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).


Al-Manar said...

Salaam to you. I have not been here for some time.

I do not subscribe to the way the money is given out. In my vicinity. I gather, a lot of the easy money has gone to pay for the joy of the aadicts.

We all can see better use of that money given into trusted hands within the community - not the political ones!

norzah said...

I certainly share your view, Pakcik Al-Manar. But the recipients of BRIM3 swam to be so happy with their gift. Some may not have seen that much money in their hand at any one time.