by MOHAMMAD ARIFIRIAZUL BIN PAIJO, Sarawak PAS Youth Chief
Sarawak PAS Youth highly welcomes the latest Federal scheme, Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia or BR1M in short which has been widely reported in the media of late. In fact, this RM 500 cash disbursement which targets a staggering 80% of Malaysian households nation-wide is rather over-due since the rakyat, particularly in Sarawak has been very much financially constrained over the past 4 years ever since the 2008 recession.
At the same time, we as Malaysians should always remember of the fact that the RM 2.6 billion allocation for BR1M as announced by the Prime Minister is undisputedly the people’s money i.e; our money as the responsible citizens of the Federation. No political party or coalition, be it BN or Pakatan Rakyat, should arrogantly claim that the wealth of the nation is theirs and not the rakyat. In reality, this RM 2.6 billion only represents approximately 1.0% of the total expected revenue for the country this year. Thus, it is not quite a strong argument for the ruling party to boast that BR1M is the ultimate attestation of BN’s sincerely caring policy. Such brouhaha about BR1M with disbursement programmes attended and graced by BN leaders throughout the country is a clear evidence of BN particularly in Sarawak, desperately in need of such public relations exercise to win over votes amongst the people. BR1M may not be an election candy as dismissed by one BN minister yesterday, but it is indeed, a pre-election candy.
Based on Sarawak PAS Youth’s conservative estimate, the expected total disbursement of BR1M to the Sarawak citizens will be in the order of RM 100.0 million which actually represents a minimal 3.8% of the total BR1M allocation. This amount is estimated to reach almost 200,000 low income households across the state earning less than RM 3,000 per month. However, as responsible citizens of Sarawak, it is only appropriate that we reflect upon such huge allocation of people’s money.
By the latest figures as furnished by the Sarawak State Government during the previous DUN sitting in June 2011, there are 55,975 poor households in the state, of which almost half are categorized as hardcore poor families. These families earn less than RM 520 a month, indeed a nasty reality for citizens living in such a land of abundance. By using this official data, it is estimated that an allocation of similar size as BR1M for Sarawak can actually eliminate incidence of hardcore poverty totally in the state, only within a year! Further analysis also reveals that with such RM 100.0 million allocation, Sarawak can in actual fact reduce its incidence of poverty of 5.3% (2009) by half to 2.7%, effectively disqualifying the state as the third state in Malaysia with the highest level of poverty.
PAS and our partners in Pakatan Rakyat has actually proposed in our Alternative Budget 2012 for Sarawak that RM 80.0 million is allocated specifically to significantly reduce cases of hardcore poverty in the state. And with an additional RM 20.0 million to approach the estimated BR1M figure for Sarawak, such allocation for the benefit of the Sarawak’s poorest appears rather negligible at only 2.5% in comparison with Sarawak’s expected revenue amounting RM 4.0 billion for 2012.
We would like the BN leaders be reminded that the RM500 given to the ‘rakyat’ in the BR1M program is not from BN but it is from the nation and the ‘rakyat’ wealth. For us in PAS and Pakatan Rakyat, zero poverty in Sarawak has never been considered as being in the realm of impossibility, rather it is a highly feasible and achievable proposition provided the wealth of the state is religiously administered with a sense of ‘amanah’ and integrity. With the BR1M gift at hand, as received by most Malaysians, let us not forget our brothers and sisters who could only enjoy this once-off token for a month, with the next and proceeding months still very much in their rather decrepit life under poverty.