A pilot scheme of the Social Welfare Department’s cashless card has come under the spotlight following a recent protest by some people with disabilities, activists and supporters.
The protesters were unhappy that, under this scheme, 50% of an aid recipient’s monthly financial aid is credited into a JKMPay cashless card. The funds in the card can only be used to buy goods at JKM panel shops. (The remaining 50% is banked into the aid recipient’s Bank Islam account, from which it can be withdrawn using an ATM card or a bank debit card.)
The protesters are concerned that this scheme severely restricts the aid recipients’ freedom of choice to spend their aid money where and how they please. Many aid recipients may find it difficult to reach these JKM panel shops.
The deputy minister for women, family and community development has clarified that not all card holders are affected under this pilot scheme, which is optional. Pilot scheme recipients are selected based on interviews, she said, adding that the scheme only covers new aid recipients. She claimed the allegation that the scheme covers all recipients with disabilities was based on a misunderstanding.
The JKMPay scheme began last February under a six-month pilot phase involving 2,000 out of 550,000 social welfare recipients. In Malaysia, those who qualify for financial aid from the Social Welfare Department receive only RM450 monthly if they are working and RM350 if they are unemployed – which is well below the national poverty line income of RM2,208 for a household.
Obviously, many are confused and concerned about this scheme.
The ministry should clarify if the scheme will remain optional and whether it will be extended to other aid recipients in the future.
The minister should engage fully with all relevant stakeholders and go down to the ground to understand the implications of the scheme for the recipients. Any changes made to the existing system should aim to make life easier for the target group.
The ministry must assure aid recipients that the scheme is entirely voluntary and no one will be obligated to enrol in it. It must also ensure that the prices of goods sold at these panel shops are not more expensive than in other shops. Also, it should spell out the criteria for the selection of shops to be included in the approved panel.
If the government is serious about promoting an inclusive “Malaysian family”, it should not initiate any aid scheme that will make life more difficult for target groups.Aliran executive committee
27 January 2022