Cash incentives for births a bad idea, says IDEAS

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PETALING JAYA: The Terengganu government’s cash incentive programme to encourage more childbirths in the state could lead to a cycle of poverty, says the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS).

IDEAS external relations manager Azrul Mohd Khalib said he disagreed with the programme.

Azrul said encouraging families to have more children was not a problem, but encouraging them to do so when they could not afford it was irresponsible and dangerous.

He said the programme’s prescribed one-off RM500 cash incentive for the eighth and consecutive child did not deal with the consequences of having children beyond a person’s means.

“For most of us, especially those with a middle income, the decision to have a child is not just about wanting to bring another life into the world, it’s a major financial decision.

“Today, too many children are being left behind (by their richer peers) as a result of the family being unable to cope with the escalating costs of bringing them up.”

Azrul said Malaysians must learn from the bitter lessons of other countries where unplanned pregnancies and policies which encouraged having children beyond one’s means have had detrimental effects.

“Such policies are a recipe for generations of poverty where the family is forced to decide which child gets to go to school and which will have to forego an education. These are policies which perpetuate a cycle of poverty.”

In fact, Azrul said, many lower-income Malaysian families were already in this quandary due to unplanned pregnancies.

Earlier, it was reported that the Terengganu government would continue with its 25,000 births a year campaign.

Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman had said the number of births recorded in the state was between 19,000 to 20,000 a year.

He said the government would present RM100 for every first birth, RM200 for every second to seventh birth and RM500 for every birth exceeding seven.