PETALING JAYA: Whichever way one looks at it, a hundred million ringgit is a lot of money. For a majority of us, even a small percentage of that sum would amount to more than what we can accumulate in our entire lifetime.
Even in the best of times, offering one person that large a sum of money would be a shame.
It has been reported that Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has withdrawn his request for a residence from the government, allegedly worth RM100 million, despite being entitled to the property as a former prime minister.
At a time when millions are suffering from the fallout of a global pandemic, the “gift” would be appalling, to say the least.
Just to see how far RM100 million can take us if it was more fairly and evenly distributed, theSun spoke with selected individuals who are experts in their respective fields.
Jason Loh, who covers social, law and human rights matters at think-tank Emir Research, said it for everyone when he pointed out that the money could be used for the benefit of the rakyat.
To get a picture of how far the money can go, take a look at the Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia (BKM) cash aid, under which every household with a monthly income below RM2,500 is given RM2,000.
RM100 million would benefit 50,000 households for a month, which is more than 80% of the 61,713 households that, by the United Nations Children’s Fund and United Nations Population Fund estimates, now live in the 56 People’s Housing Project flats across the country.
Any household with an income below RM2,208 a month is deemed to be living below the poverty line.
Otherwise, the government could give RM20,000 each to smallholding farmers to finance a switch to an internet of things fertigation (fertilisation and irrigation) system that would raise yield in each farm by 33% and raise the farmer’s income by 23%.
The RM100 million could help to lift 5,000 farmers with farms of about an acre or two above the poverty level.
“It would also moderate the increase in the price of vegetables at the market,” Loh said.
Of course, the money could also be used to purchase laptops for B40 children, pay for food baskets for poor families and sanitary pads for girls and women who otherwise do not have access to such basic needs.
The RM100 million, according to Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Koh Kar Chai, could also go a long way in the healing process.
The money, if well spent, could pay a month’s salary for 18,000 junior doctors. Otherwise, it could cover the cost of treatment for 111,000 Covid-19 stage four or five patients, Koh said.
A lot more could also be done for education, for instance, to build more schools to reduce the need for double sessions, employ more teaching assistants and enhancing teacher training, according to Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.
“Besides that, the money could be spent on facilities and equipment for hybrid learning,” she said.
Noor Azimah said the RM100 million could have gone a long way towards underwriting the free breakfast programme.
Unfortunately, it has been cancelled, she said.
The money could also go towards addressing mental healthcare matters, according to Mental Health Aid Organisation.
“With the money, the government could create a robust and crisis-resilient mental healthcare system,” it said.
“The funding can be used to address the crucial gap in the mental health workforce. There is an acute shortage of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and counsellors,” the organisation added.
“This will ensure that as many people as possible will have access to quality mental healthcare and healthcare education without putting additional burden on the already overstretched public healthcare system,” it said.
As these experts pointed out, this is not an exhaustive list.
For instance, an injection of funds to address ageing healthcare, public transport, better education, proper housing or just to help people make ends meet is more beneficial than putting the money in the pocket of just one person.