Representatives of households living in Kuala Lumpur City Hall Projek Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) low-cost flats surveyed during the last week of MCO and the first week of the relaxation of movement restrictions indicated that they preferred assistance that are more sustainable.
While there were also requests for a bigger amount of aid, DM Analytics managing director Muhammed Abdul Khalid said many low-income households surveyed wanted assistance that can have a more lasting impact on their livelihoods, such as equipment to start a burger stall, a place to sell goods or a microloan to start their own business.
Some 65% of the households surveyed found the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) cash transfers to be the most useful form of aid during the MCO, which lasted from March 18 to May 3. This was followed by the 20% who said rent exemption was the most useful, 8% for six-month bank moratorium on loan repayments and 7% for the i-Lestari withdrawals from their own Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Account 2 savings.
Low-income families in Kuala Lumpur were particularly badly affected by the Covid-19 crisis, with 25% of heads of households unemployed compared with the national unemployment rate of 5.3% in May. Their total monthly median income also fell by about one-third to about RM1,000 on average for June this year, compared with an average of RM1,500 for December 2019 even though only 31% of heads of households surveyed said they cut their working hours during the MCO.
The situation was more dire among female-headed households (ie single mothers), which the study found to have higher rates of unemployment (32% vs 25%) and lower rates of social protection (57% unprotected vs 52%) relative to the average among low-income households.
Without enough source of income, many households could quickly lose access to necessities like food or housing. Government’s stimulus packages are likely to address the cash-flow issues but only in the short term. More sustained support should be given especially to the women and children who need it the most.
The Government could work with NGOs and others in meeting specific needs rather than leaving it to the local M.P. or political party. A good action plan for B40 needs to be done that covers all races---essentially, jobs, opportunities for business start-ups, scholarships for children, tuition centres and health coverages for obesity and critical illnesses. Some may require counselling and shelters for women. Lifting people out of poverty is not easy or simple. It requires hard, sustained work.
PPR folk want jobs, not handouts — UN study, 24 August 2020, The Edge