Subsidies are government’s responsibility to the people.
It is a form of financial aid given to a certain group or individuals.
It is surely not a bribe.
What makes a subsidy good or bad depends on how efficiently it was distributed.
Blanket subsidies are open to abuse.
For example, the previous petrol subsidy was beneficial to everyone in the country; the poor, the rich and even foreigners.
Petrol subsidy alone amounts to RM20 billion annually in government expenditure.
The federal government, on the other hand, spends about RM5 billion annually for the BR1M cash aid distributed to over seven million Malaysians yearly since 2012.
Unlike the blanket petrol subsidy, the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) however, does not benefit the rich and foreigners.
BR1M has been clearly defined, specifically targeting those who needed it the most.
Some will ask how a mere RM1,200 can help upgrade a person’s standard of living.
But this is a matter of perspective.
For those who don’t qualify for BR1M, RM1,200 might seem like a small amount.
But for those earning less than RM2,000 monthly, the cash aid if utilised properly can go a long way.
BR1M gives Malaysians in the lower income bracket some form of relief easing their anxiety over putting food on the table.
To others, it can be used to strategise their finances.
The RM1,200 may be small for those in the middle to the high-income bracket, but for a fisherman in Kuala Muda, a rubber tapper in Tekam or a paddy farmer in Yan, BR1M means a lot to them.
Not to forget the urban poor, those who live in big cities but are burdened with small salaries and high-cost of living.
Some are forced to eat half a packet of instant noodle in the morning, and the other half at night.
Suffice to say, these are the less fortunate who will benefit from BR1M.
Direct cash aid is one of the efforts made by the government to help reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
Although there are no restrictions on how one should spend the cash aid, people need to understand that it was a financial aid.
The best is to spend it on necessities or to keep it for.
There are those who misinterpret the cash aid and end up spending the money on unnecessary items.
This is where creating public awareness comes into play.
The aid recipients must be educated on how to spend the money prudently or else they will end up misusing the cash aid.
Without proper awareness, it can also lead to laziness or complacency.
With all said and done, BR1M is a good effort, particularly now, as Malaysia is transitioning into a high-income nation.
I believe we need some kind of measure to safeguard our society.
A society is often judged by the way it treats its weakest members.
The government will be judged not by how they treat the rich but how they treat the poor.
There is no point of building skyscrapers and developing mega projects when a sizeable segment of citizens continues to struggle to meet their ends.