KUALA LUMPUR: While focus has always been given to the lower-income (B40) groups in the annual Federal budget, the middle-income group (M40) are also in need of attention so that they do not fall into the poverty bracket, say academicians.
Associate Prof Dr Mohamad Fazli Sabri, who is the Deputy Dean (Graduate Studies and Industry and Community Network) of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Human Ecology, believes that the government must also focus on the M40 group so that they do not slide down any further.
Dr Fazli said, in the 2019 Budget, the government should focus on the people’s basic needs, which are food, housing, healthcare and transportation.
“It’s not new but the issue has never been resolved, given the high cost of living. Even though the previous government had embarked on the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Project (PR1MA), it was still out of reach for the B40 and M40.
“There is however improvement seen in the area of public transportation.
“All levels of income groups are very aware of the current challenging economic conditions. Therefore, each B40 benefit can be extended to the M40 albeit more selectively so that the target groups get to fully enjoy the benefits,” he said.
Dr Fazli said the government must have a mechanism and provide an income database for each household so that those who qualify can receive government aid. Without a database, it will be difficult to implement.
He said that when he was studying abroad, he had observed how those eligible for assistance through the government database had ‘Electronic Benefit Transfer’ cards, which could be used in certain stores to buy basic necessities.
“In each household, food takes up the majority of the spending, followed by transportation, upkeep and others.
“The people are hopeful that there will be an increase in salaries. However, looking at the situation today, it will be hard to accomplish. What the government can do is reduce the price of goods and houses,” he said.
Dr Fazli also expressed support for the concept of the ‘kedai rakyat’, which he said greatly benefited the community at large.
“The kedai rakyat has since been rebranded and hopefully, will continue to help the people tackle the cost of living. While it may be difficult to raise salaries, the government can provide basic amenities and needs at reasonable prices.
“The government, hospitals and insurance companies must devise a mechanism that allows Malaysians, especially the B40 and M40 groups, to have health insurance. Insurance companies should not think only about profit.”