MP SPEAKS With Hari Raya fast approaching, I am very disappointed that the Agriculture Ministry has failed to implement the MyBeras programme, announced by PM Najib on Jan 28, 2016.
In tabling his recalibrated budget, Najib promised that families living in extreme poverty and registered with e-kasih would be eligible to receive 20kg of free 10 percent broken grade rice every month.
The implementation of the Myberas programme - slated for launch in March 2016 for a period of one year - has now been postponed twice.
The program follows the November 2015 scrapping by the government of the national rice subsidy ST15 percent broken rice programme, which was plagued with mismanagement, abuse and corrupt practices, costing hundreds of millions in taxpayers’ money annually.
During the November 2015 budget debate, when the Agriculture Minister announced dismantling the ST15 rice program in his winding-up speech, he spoke passionately about how he disagreed with feeding poor Malaysian citizens low quality broken grade rice.
He cited examples of how poor Thais and Vietnamese get to eat good quality Thai and Vietnam rice, and questioned why we feed the poor in our country with poor quality broken quality rice.
It should be noted that most households in Malaysia buy and consume 5 percent or 10 percent broken grade rice.
Yet just seven months later, it has come to my attention that the Agriculture Ministry is mulling the introduction of a new rice subsidy scheme to replace the ST15 percent broken rice programme, proposing a new 25 percent broken rice grade, a quality unfit for human consumption.
To add insult to injury, I have learned from sources in the rice industry that Agriculture Ministry officials have told them that it has also been decided to cancel and scrap the implementation of the MyBeras programme altogether.
I urge the Agriculture Minister, Ahmad Shabery Cheek, to publicly answer the following issues which require the minister’s immediate response:
I wish to remind the government that they have a responsibility to implement the MyBeras programme as promised by the PM to help our nation’s most vulnerable families living in extreme poverty.
It is utterly disgraceful for the Agriculture Minister to criticise the continued use of poor quality broken rice to feed our nation’s poor in Parliament if there are indeed plans to introduce the public to an even poorer quality of 25 percent broken rice.
I urge the government to immediately implement the MyBeras program without any further delay or excuse, and to find a replacement to the ST15 rice subsidy programme with good quality rice to offer immediate help to the rakyat suffering from the increasing costs of living.
GOOI HSIAO LEUNG is PKR's Alor Setar MP.