Malaysia's aid program abused as recipients buy handphones, lottery tickets and alcohol

Malaysia's aid program abused as recipients buy handphones, lottery tickets and alcohol
Customers leaving Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia at the Kelana Jaya LRT station in Petaling Jaya. There are 250 types of groceries under the brand name "Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia" being sold at the shop at very reasonable prices.

KUALA LUMPUR - THE 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) should be converted into vouchers or food stamps for the poor and underprivileged instead of cash handouts, say experts.

Prof Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Social Science Studies Faculty said BR1M was open to abuse, especially when the money was spent on unnecessary things.

He said there had been occasions when the money was used to buy mobile phones, lottery tickets and alcohol. "The government needs to make a policy change with BR1M because to scrap it altogether will be hard as it affects more than 7 million people."

"It is a challenge for the government to come up with a new policy, especially in monitoring rightful recipients of the money. Also, the mechanism is heavy because of the number of people involved."

"Perhaps the government could look into giving the poor, the homeless and underprivileged food stamps similar to those in the United States, which enable recipients to get free food. The government can give coupons so that people will be able to eat in local restaurants instead of cash handouts."

Atory said poor and underprivileged students could be given food coupons and book vouchers.

He said the idea behind BR1M was noble, which was to help the poor to buy essential household items and cope with the cost of living, but there had been instances when the money did not reach its intended target and was misused by some undeserving quarters.

Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the government should look into giving out Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) vouchers instead of cash, which could be used to buy essential items like rice, oil, clothes or sugar at KR1M shops.

"There is a tendency for recipients to spend the money immediately, so one way to resolve this is for the auditor-general to check if the disbursement system was foolproof.

"Government should explain the concept of BR1M to ensure there is no misunderstanding."

"BR1M is not a sustainable solution. People will ask for more and we don't want to become a welfare state."

"Our basic education system has to change. We need skilled people who can earn for themselves, build competition, increase productivity and contribute to the economy."

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