THE Malaysian Government recently launched the People and Economic Strategic Empowerment Programme (PEMERKASA) to mitigate challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Government will allocate RM1.2 bil to help 2.4 billion people from the B40 group as well as Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) recipients.
This will come in the form of one-off cash assistance of RM500 to those from the B40 group who have lost their income, and BPR recipients earning RM1,000 and below.
Both categories, involving recipients aged between 21 and 60, do not require them to submit applications, as the necessary cross-checks will be conducted through the Inland Revenue Board (LHDN), Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and the Social Welfare Organisation (Socso) database.
While PEMERKASA as a whole sounds like a well-rounded plan meant to ease the rakyat’s burden, a closer look at it reveals several problems, chief among them being the recipients of the one-off RM500 cash assistance.
Although the cash assistance is hoped to benefit folks in rural areas comprising odd-job workers, rubber tappers, fishermen and roadside stall owners who earn less than RM1,000 a month, how will the cash be distributed?
Not only that, how many of these people actually have an EPF account, a tax filing number in the first place, or even a banking account, for that matter?
If this is the case, how will they receive this cash relief if their information is absent from all Government databases?
It is no secret that there is a vast number of people living in rural areas who have, in the past few years, slipped through the cracks when it comes to receiving government aids and stimulus packages.
How will the Government extend its hand to help these people? What about people living in bigger towns and cities Now, this is complicated, seeing as to how nobody in big cities earn less than RM1,000, especially since the Government has mandated that the new RM1,200 monthly minimum wage be implemented since January 2020 in 57 cities and towns across Malaysia.
Even if there are people earning less than the minimum wage, they most probably do not have an EPF account, and again the question needs to be asked: how is the cash relief going to reach them?
The PEMERKASA stimulus package is a laudable effort by the Government to help those who are in dire need of cash assistance. However, the fact remains that there are still plenty of things that need
to be ironed out before this can be rolled out in June 2021. – March 31, 2021