End this culture of back scratching

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By Mariam Mokhtar

When several handouts like BR1M are given to certain sections of the rakyat, it would be prudent to start a national debate on this apparent generosity of the government, because the country cannot isolate itself from global economic turmoil.

End this culture of back scratchingThose who benefit will be pleased, whilst the ones who do not qualify will be disappointed. The money has come from the public in the form of taxes paid to the government; both the taxes paid on income and those which are included in the cost of food, clothes, petrol, etc. The taxpayer and the business community funded the largesse of the government, but neither played any role in the decision-making process of giving out these handouts.

A young couple who lives in Ipoh was naturally pleased about the windfall although the husband’s response was more measured. He is a despatch rider in a travel agency and his wife has taken a break from teaching to look after their first child.

He declared, “I have misgivings about the RM500 BR1M payment. At first, we were pleased for we managed to buy some things for our baby. I now wonder if perhaps, the money could have been better used for child-care facilities to help parents and young children.”

“In a few years time, my wife would like to return to work, but with child-care being so expensive, I wonder if the government handouts could and should have been used to invest in this scheme. I think that there are better uses for the RM500.”

A surveyor from Taman Meru was furious that his hard-earned money, paid in the form of taxes, was used to subsidise someone else’s lifestyle. He said, “I work hard and pay taxes, just like any other responsible citizen. I cannot claim any of that back, but my neighbour, who is unemployed and lives off his young wife, is qualified to receive the BR1M payment.”

“It is not fair. I would rather the government used the money to create jobs or taught people some skills, so that they could contribute towards the state. My neighbour has chosen to remain unemployed. Unlike him, I have no choice but to pay my taxes otherwise the inland revenue department will hound me.”

One pensioner has claimed that the handouts are “demeaning” to people. She said, “The payments may help some of the very poor people, but the danger is that it gives them a sense of entitlement, for the wrong reasons. Soon, they will regard such payments as a must and demand them from the government. What happened to hard work? Are we going to end up a welfare state?”

The BR1M payments and other handouts would appear to be an attractive inducement for the electorate to vote for the party which offered the money to them. Some people have questioned if this is a responsible decision or if the people should tell their MPs to allocate the funds to improve school standards, medical services or other public facilities in the state.

A bank clerk said, “In my line of work, I have noticed that recently, people are easily getting into debt. Many cannot pay off their credit card bills. One old lady I know, keeps complaining about the rising cost of goods and services. She is worried that she may have to get rid of her part-time maid, as her own pension does not stretch as far as before. She wonders if the government will have more incentives to help old-timers like her.”

To a very poor person or someone whose income is below the poverty threshold, RM500 is a princely sum. Most people I spoke to wondered if the concerns of ordinary voters have been taken into consideration and not just the ongoing and current worries of the government. Some people worry if this largesse will spiral out of control and create a worse culture of dependency for the rakyat. People are crying for fairness and justice, not just for one section of the community, but for all.