Govt assistance goes a long way in uplifting those in need

Raising the poverty line income (PLI) shows the government is keeping abreast of the realities on the ground. Now that we’ve realised that a larger group needs policy intervention, the government can help raise the standard of living for more urban and rural poor.

The revision in the national PLI is helpful in terms of allowing more households to fall under the new threshold and be included in government aid and targeted programmes.

With the revised PLI, it is estimated that 15% of the eight million households nationwide are living below the line. So the government needs to have long-term plans to reduce this to a level that will not be socially destabilising.

The pandemic has set back economic progress in terms of eradicating hardcore poverty and relative poverty. As such, short-term measures under the stimulus packages have been helpful. But in the longer term, there needs to be more effort to reduce unemployment and raise income levels through increased productivity and skills. These can be through raising wage levels and improving conditions for those in the informal sector.

In addressing low incomes and those below the PLI, it is also important for Putrajaya to focus on job creation and increasing investment levels. We need to create a virtuous cycle of economic investment that creates high-wage jobs and fair living wages for low-skilled jobs and support continuous skills upgrade.

– Sunway University Business School Professor of Economics Dr Yeah Kim Leng

The past one year has been tough as the global economy was mired in recession due to the pandemic and the Malaysian economy was no exception.

In that sense, the government has done what it takes to ensure the economy will remain afloat as addressing the health crisis was the main priority. And the measures have been quite decent, the way I see it.

Obviously, (measures to help those below the poverty line) such as the cash transfers have really helped the poor in alleviating their financial burden to some degree. Business grants like Geran Khas Prihatin (*GKP) and microfinancing have also been instrumental in helping the SMEs.

Going forward, the main focus should be for the government to continue steering the economy in the face of the new normal and technological advancement.

(*GKP is a one-off RM3,000 cash payment and financial help given by the government to eligible micro SMEs as a way to alleviate financial hardship and stimulate the economy.)

– Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid

The settlers are happy with the government’s move to restructure Felda, to go back to its original structure and to return this to the settlers.

Anything that helps the smallholders, we are glad of such measures as well.

Buying back the shares of FGV, we welcome that. However, the issue here is the pricing of the shares because the current price is very low compared to when it was listed.

So we have to see what happens to the pricing; is it based on current value or the face value back then.

We hope Putrajaya will continue to consider the needs of smallholders in their further measures and not just the big companies.

Another measure for smallholders that we welcome is the recent announcement on the farming insurance. It’s the first time this is introduced. We support that.

But the government will have to work out the mechanism and the premiums so that it doesn’t burden smallholders. But this is a good move.

– National Association of Smallholders Malaysia deputy president Adzmi Hassan

Our plea to the government to not only focus on restructuring Felda but on the descendants of settlers has been heard.

We have been treated very well in the past 65 years but there was a lack in direction for settlers’ children and grandchildren to make the best of what is given.

KAF has 11,000 registered members and represents five generations of the original 112,000 Felda settlers nationwide.

I myself am from Felda Gedangsa in Hulu Selangor, Selangor.

The Perikatan Nasional government has put the right people in charge of Felda. They made it their mission to engage and hear the needs of those residing in Felda settlements throughout the country.

Under the Prihatin packages, we did receive all the assistance just like all the other Malaysians. We are never short of being given assistance.

However, in the past years, assistance has mostly targeted the settlers.

One must realise that of the 112,000 original settlers, only 40% are still around. The descendants like me who are the third generation are the inheritors of our parents’ and grandparents’ wealth in Felda settlement schemes.

We are bound by the laws when it comes to managing our land. Therefore, when the government finally decided to restructure the institution of Felda and target the descendants of Felda settlers, we are very excited and happy as this is not only timely but long-overdue.

There are now three million descendants of Felda settlers in the settlements nationwide, and millions more who married descendants of Felda settlers.

The settlements are the blood and sweat of our forefathers and we want to work with the government to ensure that all the help that they give us will bring out the best of Felda descendants.

We want to play our part to make Felda a strong institution that can give back to the nation’s economy.

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