KUALA LUMPUR: TAN Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah has criticised those who referred to 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) as “goodies” or “sweets”, saying the monies given were meant to help Malaysians cope with rising prices.
In an interview on TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini programme yesterday, Irwan, who is Treasury secretary-general, said the aid should not be seen as gifts from the government but rather as an effort to lessen the people’s financial burden.
He said even though the amount of aid had been raised from RM650 to RM950 next year, the monies would be distributed in three smaller installments to ensure wise spending habits.
“We want to make sure the aid goes towards each family or individual’s daily expenses rather than on luxury items,” he said during a segment on the 2015 Budget.
In response to those who criticised the practice of giving cash handouts, Irwan said the government had also put in place skills training and other programmes to help low-income individuals and households escape the poverty trap.
“There are those who criticise BR1M by quoting the famous phrase ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.
“In my view, we (the government) give the fish and we teach the people how to fish at the same time,” said Irwan.
“The aid given is temporary. Once the family or individual is able to earn an income above RM3,000, they will no longer be eligible to receive BR1M.”
He said BR1M would continue to be given to help the people deal with rising costs while the government carried out its subsidy rationalisation programme.
In the meantime, he said, subsidised fuel, such as RON 95 petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), would be exempted from the Goods and Services Tax to provide relief to consumers.
“We know that some people are already struggling, so we hope that by exempting fuels from GST, we can ensure that prices are kept at a reasonable level, especially on items that are expected to cost less when GST comes into effect,” he said.
Irwan said the government had also made an effort to address the concerns of the middle-income group through, among other measures, tax cuts and housing assistance.
This included, he said, the Youth Housing Scheme, which offers a funding limit on a first home of up to RM500,000 for young, married couples earning below RM10,000 per month.
“Property prices have risen greatly, so we have set the limit at RM500,000, which will allow them to buy homes around the Greater Kuala Lumpur areas, such as Rawang and Kajang, as well as apartments within the city centre itself.”