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Coronavirus: The vulnerable in infected Malaysian economy


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Narrow-minded politics in relation to the disbursement of aid allocations to the people isn’t really what we need at this time, Mustafa K Anuar writes.

The entire nation, particularly the most vulnerable of the Malaysian populace, is suffering under the weight of the economic crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The poor, the marginalised, daily-wage earners, farmers, fishermen, nasi lemak sellers, building cleaners and odd-job workers are grappling not only with the vicious virus but also daily survival in the wake of the extended movement control order that was recently announced.

It was, therefore, a much-anticipated initiative of the federal government to have rolled out financial assistance and economic stimulus packages, such as the RM5.7m Covid-19 Fund and other forms of cash injections aimed at helping the needy as well as resuscitating the national economy.

More financial aid, especially for the bottom 40% and others in need, was expected from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Incidentally, political leaders are not the only ones who have shown concern about the pandemic and the soft economy affecting the needy.

In a move that is commendable and sensitive to the economic hardships of the ordinary people, 10,000 Pahang civil servants announced recently their willingness to take a two-month salary cut beginning April to contribute to the state Covid-19 fund to help daily-wage earners in the state, such as food sellers, hawkers and taxi drivers.

As if inspired by the conscionable action of these civil servants, Pahang state executive councillors have subsequently decided to cut 10% of their salaries for three months to contribute to the state Covid-19 fund.

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Other state governments are also getting into the act in an effort to help alleviate the financial burden of the needy. For instance, the Terengganu government will provide an additional RM9.6m for a phase four stimulus package to be distributed to 32 state constituencies to help the people affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The RM300,000 incentive for each state constituency will be distributed to petty traders, labourers, settlers, taxi drivers and trishaw operators who have been identified by the community service centres and the village community management councils.

Also helping out the needy is the Selangor state government. It was, however, unfortunate that it has withheld Covid-19 aid allocations from opposition state assembly members.

The funds concerned are instead to be handled by “constituency coordinators”. In turn, these opposition representatives are hoping to get additional funding from Putrajaya.

Clearly, partisan politics – even in this hour of need – has come in the way of speedy disbursement of financial aid to those in need. Politics is placed above people’s interests as if it is an unquestioned ritual.

It appears that such vulgar politics doesn’t stop here.

For instance, Putrajaya has reportedly recently withdrawn Langkawi MP Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s parliamentary constituency funding allocation, which, incidentally, constitutes taxpayers’ money.

Similarly, parliamentary constituency funding for lawmakers Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muar) and Fahmi Fadzil (Lembah Pantai) has also been withdrawn.

Once again, political differences and intense politicking have taken centre stage at the expense of the needs and interests of the very people in whose name these politicians claim to represent.

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Indeed, it is a betrayal of the people’s trust and interests when politicians start to lose sight of the importance of being magnanimous at a time when the entire nation, particularly the financially vulnerable, needs fast and adequate assistance of various kinds.

Moreover, we are all in this dire straits where narrow-minded politics isn’t really what is desperately needed.

Excessive partisan politicking among many of our politicians only exacerbates the plight of the needy.

Source: The Malaysian Insight, 27 March 2020

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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