LETTER | By now, we know that the government had to postpone the tabling of 2021's budget to November, whereas the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) is expected to be presented next year.
This is understandable, considering the social and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak locally and globally.
Indeed, it is paramount to ensure next year's budget and 12MP truly reflect the current situation and the future of Malaysian citizens.
I offer this piece to submit my propositions relating to these topics from the perspective of a person identified with the disabled community in Malaysia.
Let me begin by highlighting some of my concerns, so I can conclude this piece on a more positive note.
First, my biggest worry is the focus of allocation concerning disabled people's affairs and development remains exclusively under the responsibilities of the ministry charged with social welfare, although disabled people's issues are cross-ministerial and cross-sectoral.
Even if there is an allocation that impacts disabled people's inclusion within the responsibilities of other ministries, for example, in education, the allocation proposed is just barely sufficient for correcting certain issues, but neither necessarily transforming the ecosystem totally nor at least planting necessary foundations for such changes.
It also seems that we sometimes forget about the previously and currently enacted action/strategic plans regarding disabled people's affairs and development; hence some allocations and programmes do not match the aspired long-term goals.
This is where the ten members appointed to the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and organisations representing disabled people at large must act as check and balance, reminding the government about the objectives and targets in these plans.
I strongly believe 12MP must put forward at least these three five-year goals:
- Strengthening the human rights protection of persons with impairment and/or chronic illness in their personal and communal lives;
- Ensuring transformative equality through meaningful systemic and structural changes, which among others, guaranteeing direct participation of persons with impairment and/or chronic illness in the decision-making process;
- Harnessing usable, affordable, safe, and sustainable technologies for decent and meaningful living among persons with impairment and/or chronic illness.
For the first goal, the government must give serious and urgent attention to reviewing and enhancing all laws and policies relating to disabled persons, from the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 and other relevant laws to existing policies such as tax incentives for hiring disabled employees and welfare assistance.
This includes developing and enacting new laws and policies where necessary to fulfil the above-mentioned second and third goals.
As for the second goal, the government with the direct participation of organisations representing disabled persons must start the reform process of relevant sectors and institutions such as education, decent work, media, social protection, and so forth.
At the very least, the government, with the cooperation of the organisations representing disabled persons, can build up the building blocks for such reforms within five years.
Among other structural reforms, the Department of Development for Persons with Disabilities must be strengthened to become a full-fledged national government agency which is no longer located under the Department of Social Welfare.
Moreover, the next five years should focus on the re-alignment and integration of so many existing programmes such as community-based rehabilitation centres, independent living centres, and so on.
Finally, for the third goal, the federal government must encourage state governments, local authorities, higher learning institutions, and the business sector to collaborate with the disabled community in mapping and producing technologies relevant to the community's needs, from the smallest devices and apps to bigger systems such as public transportation networks and accessible smart cities/villages.
To this end, I strongly advocate for a specific chapter or cluster on agendas and visions relating to disabled people's affairs and development in the 12MP, while ensuring general initiatives for the whole population are inclusive for all citizens.
This is what I called 'disaggregated inclusionism'.
Disaggregated inclusionism, to put it simply, refers to an inclusionary approach that reflects the diverse needs of a population in a country.
All ecosystems and mechanisms in society must be made inclusive of all groups of people without dismissing specific measures for certain groups of people according to their needs and circumstances.
The disabled community in Malaysia has similar needs and rights as other citizens such as education, employment, health, social protection, and so forth.
However, this heterogeneous group of people has diverse specific needs, for instance, in terms of devices and services, thus requiring specific laws, policies, and grants to meet those necessities.
Plus, the disabled community in Malaysia is among the historically marginalised groups in social, economic, and political spheres even today.
Consequently, in the 2021's budget and the next annual budgets succeeding it, all ministries must allocate an appropriate amount of funding to initiate policies and programmes, including establishing new structures and hiring disabled employees, tallying to the three goals espoused above.
The writer is a doctoral candidate at the University of Malaya and actively engage as an independent consultant/researcher focusing on disabled people’s issues.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.