PETALING JAYA: The hardcore poor and other vulnerable groups hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic will gain some measure of relief from Pemulih, or the National People’s Well-being and Economic Recovery Package, the eighth and biggest aid package rolled out by the government on June 28.
While the payouts may not cover all their expenses, it would help meet their basic needs, said economists interviewed by theSun.
They also urged the government to trace more hardcore poor and those in the lower income B40 group who have yet to receive financial support.
“There could have been various reasons for this ... failure to register, lack of awareness and lack of accessibility to government aid,” Dr Yeah Kim Leng, Professor of Economics at Sunway University Business School, told theSun and pointed to the White Flag movement for a glimpse of the distress faced by families who have somehow been missed by the relief packages.
Some, especially those in the B40 and hardcore poor categories, and those who have turned jobless, have been forced to continue dipping into their savings and pension funds to meet immediate expenses.
Between July and December, cash aid amounting to RM10 billion will flow to those in need under the earlier launched Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat scheme and the Special Covid-19 Assistance (BKC) under Pemulih.
BKC, worth RM4.6 billion, will benefit over 11 million households, senior citizens and singles in the hardcore poor, B40 and M40 categories.
Hardcore poor households will receive RM1,300, with payments of RM500 each in August and November followed by RM300 in December. Singles will receive RM500, divided into payments of RM200 in August and RM300 in November.
Each B40 household will receive RM800 (RM500 in August and RM300 in December). Singles will get RM200 in August. For the M40 category, each household will get RM250 and singles RM100 in August.
Yeah said the entire government machinery, resident associations, community leaders and village heads should be mobilised in collaboration with civil society as well as charitable and non-governmental organisations to ensure the aid packages reach the intended recipients.
University of Malaya economics professor Datuk Dr Rajah Rasiah believes the aid packages have certainly benefited those who have received the funds. However, he pointed out that it was insufficient and from his personal observation, not all the needy are getting it.
“Instead of calling for those eligible to apply, the government should pro-actively search for them as there are also many in the B40 group who are illiterate and therefore have no media links. Apart from that, there are those who have no addresses,” he said.
Rajah pointed out that those in the B40 group would not have the means to repay their loans, even if an interest is not levied. As such, he said the loans should be written off.
Head of social, law and human rights research at Emir Research Jason Loh described the Pemulih package as “quite comprehensive” and agreed the cash aid will help to reduce the financial burden of those in the B40 and lower M40 groups.
More importantly, the government has to maintain the aid on a sustainable basis for the long term. “This is to ensure lower reliance on EPF withdrawals,” he added.
Loh also said a long-term strategic plan must be formulated to ensure that cash aid will only be provided on a permanent basis to the hardcore poor and lower categories of the B40, namely those with incomes below RM3,200 a month.