The 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) and the Cost of Living Aid (BSH) that replaced it are in need of reform, said Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
Responding to reports that BSH would be reduced and eventually abolished, Nik Nazmi said the cash payout schemes need to be reformed to better reduce inequality and enable aid recipients to support themselves.
He said any change must ensure that existing recipients would not be worse off, and called for a plan for recipients who are unable to work, such as the elderly and the disabled.
Citing the success of conditional cash transfers, such as the Prospera programme in Mexico and the Bolsa Familia programme in Brazil, Nik Nazmi said that such programmes lead to improved health conditions, educational attainment, social mobility, labour market as well as household economic outcomes.
“These plans must be transparently formulated and clearly communicated to the public to avoid creating anxiety or misconceptions.
“There is also nothing wrong with ensuring the payments are tied to positive behaviour – such as making it conditional for the children of receiving families to be immunised, as well as in education or training...
“No one denies that it is always better to give people a hand up rather than a handout. But genuinely needing assistance – especially from one’s own country – should never be stigmatised.
“Pakatan Harapan cannot afford to be on the wrong side of history in this matter, and its arch always rests on the side of compassion,” he said in a statement today.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad reportedly said the quantum of the BSH payouts would be gradually reduced and eventually scrapped.
Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, meanwhile, reportedly said the scheme ought to be discontinued because it contained elements of corruption.
'A stupid excuse'
In a series of tweets today, Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin opposed either reducing the payouts or abolishing it.
He said Azmin’s excuse for abolishing the payouts is "stupid (dangkal)," and the system could be improved with better means testing and imposing conditions on how the payout can be spent.
“Cash transfers is a policy adopted by many other countries. It helps immensely with the cost of living of the B40 low-income earners.
“If the payment of cash is corruption, then stop paying ‘bonuses’ and ‘duit raya’ to civil servants. Be consistent,” he said.
Saya bantah pengurangan atau pemansuhan BR1M. Alasan @AzminAli sangat dangkal. BR1M boleh dikukuh dari segi pengesahan penerima yang layak (better means testing) & perbelanjaan bersyarat (hanya boleh guna untuk beli barang2 tertentu sahaja).— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) 26 August 2018
For the record, the Harapan manifesto promised that existing BR1M recipients would continue to receive payments, while the payment process would be freed from discrimination and partisan politics.
It also promised to improve the system to make it more equitable.
“The targeted welfare programme will function as a universal social safety net for all qualified citizens, just like the system in many developed countries,” the manifesto read.