COMMENT | Paradoxically, the greatest weakness of Muhyiddin Yassin’s economic stimulus package is the proud example that the prime minister gave of pisang goreng vendor Makcik Kiah and her family.
The rather contrived example of her is that she has a husband who is a government pensioner and currently a Grab driver and whose daughter is a PTPTN (student loan scheme) borrower. The household income of Makcik Kiah is below RM4,000 a month.
In his speech on March 27, Muhyiddin calculated that Makcik Kiah and family will receive cash support and savings of RM8,664 over six months or RM1,444 per month. If Makcik Kiah earns some money monthly, then she might – might – regain lost income. She won’t be delighted, like Muhyiddin said she will be.
But let’s switch – make it a lot more in touch with reality. Makcik Kiah is a pisang goreng seller still and earns RM1,500 a month. Her husband is a casual worker who earns some RM2,000 for a total income of RM3,500 per month, about the median income for rural households in Malaysia.
They live in a dilapidated private housing and pay rental of RM500 per month and make ends meet with RM3,000 per month – they don’t have Employees Provident Fund (EPF) accounts and little or no savings. The husband does not drive for Grab (no car) and has an old motorbike, the sole transport for the five of them. He does not volunteer for Rela – no time.
For the last two weeks, they have been tearing their hair out because they have no income. They have three young children, one of school-going age. Of the other two, one is an infant and the other a toddler.
They have run out of their meagre savings and don’t know when they will get more money. They are waiting for the RM1,600 payment from the government which will be made in two instalments. That first RM800 will be welcome but their immediate cash income has shrunk.
Consider their predicament: After paying rental of RM500, they have a disposable income of RM300 for April. What are they going to do for food? Five people on RM10 a day! And what about other expenses besides food?
How long is this going to last...