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Why are 15pct of M'sians skipping meals to make ends meet?

MP SPEAKS | It must be very hard for Umno politicians to understand why 15 percent of Malaysians are skipping meals to make ends meet because they are disconnected with the situation on the ground. Do they actually care about the welfare of the people?

According to a survey by Merdeka Centre carried out from Nov 4 for a period of 10 days and involving 1,203 registered voters, the B40 (bottom 40 percent income group) earns an average monthly income of RM2,000 while the minimum cost of living in urban areas is RM2,530. Strangely, our minimum wage of RM1,000 is only half of the monthly average of the B40.

For the 2018 Budget, seven million recipients will receive BR1M aid. Considering all recipients are above 21 years old and of a voting age, BR1M is targeted at the 13 million or more registered voters.

This means that about half of our voting population are dependent on BR1M. Otherwise, it can also be interpreted as a whopping 22.5 percent of Malaysia’s 31 million total population earns below RM4,000 per household, the criteria for applying for BR1M.

Households with plenty of children and elderly parents will be most affected by the living costs. For every child, there are transportation fees and education fees on top of other necessities such as clothes, food and shelter. For every elderly parent, there might be extra medical costs incurred.

If we consider the unemployment rate given by the ministry which is at four percent, then there is not that much to worry about. However, is it true that only four percent are unemployed?

The trend of dual-income families is rising due to the high cost of living, but single-income families are still the norm. Data from the Welfare Department, Zakat Department and the district offices will confirm that more than four percent are unemployed and single-income families are indeed struggling to provide for their families.

University students are known to skip meals because they cannot afford it. A simple meal in urban areas cost between RM7 – RM10 per person. Even instant noodles can cost RM3.50 per cup and if students cook meals themselves, they will still need about RM300 per month for food.

Moreover, unless the students are on a scholarship, they still need to pay for lodging and transportation. How many poor families can afford such additional expenditure to secure a better future for their children? It has come to a stage where students are living on donated food packs.

All indicators that show our economy doing well do not reflect the true situation that most people are in. With the general elections near, stock markets will be looking rosy, our ringgit will strengthen, and cash aids will be handed out to build the confidence of the voters.

Even petrol prices will come down and maybe even the GST will be reviewed. But still, this does not change the fact that a large portion of our population is poor and starving.

The only way for us, if any, is to stem corruption and change the government this general election. Then maybe, we still have the opportunity to save our children from starvation.

ZURAIDA KAMARUDDIN is PKR Women chief, Pakatan Harapan Women chief and Ampang MP.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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