PETALING JAYA: Economists have backed the government move to alleviate public burden through the Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia (BKM) intiative, which enables families to receive RM100 in addition to the current amount under the programme, while individuals will receive an additional RM50.

In response to backlash on social media, with the public claiming the money would be insufficient, economists said it all depended on how people managed their finances.

Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Dr Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said the government was walking a tightrope while ensuring the people’s survival, despite the present economic challenges.

He said BKM would benefit the community in terms of receiving aid, but the government should also be prepared to deal with another economic shock if it spends more than it can afford.

“On one hand, the government has to ensure its finances are sustainable while on the other, it has to look after those in vulnerable groups. BKM is helpful to the community, but the onus now is on the aid recipients to spend the money wisely,” he said.

“However, there could be some challenges on how the money is disbursed, especially to those who may not have access to a banking account. But this matter can be resolved with the financial institutions.”

Afzanizam said the fiscal space is there to provide aid, while high crude oil prices help increase the government’s revenue.

He added that the government must also be mindful of its finances because economic shocks in the next 12 to 18 months cannot be predicted. Hence, it is better for the government to be prepared.

He also suggested the government come up with effective policies, including target subsidies that can assist in the nation’s economic growth.

“Subsidy rationalisation will never be easy, but it is something that has to happen. Beyond that, the government needs to be efficient and effective in crafting and implementing relevant policies.

“At one point, MyKad may be touted as an avenue to deliver targeted fuel subsidies. Any mechanism that is practical is welcome, but the government needs to really study it before it is implemented,” Afzanizam said.

Meanwhile, economist Manokaran Mottain said those without a bank account should liaise with non-governmental organisations (NGO) to open one rather than blame the government for providing assistance via bank transactions.

He said the public should be wise in managing their finances so that BKM assistance will be carefully used.

“NGO can help identify the families and individuals who do not have bank accounts, and open one for them. The government can offer aid but the recepients should also do their part.

“B40 consumers should be given a purchase card to buy items from supermarkets with subsidised prices.

“For example, people with the card can buy rice that cost RM10 at a discounted price of RM8 and the supermarket can claim the balance RM2 from the government,” he said.