Jeyakumar: Shares won’t help poor Indians, give them homes instead

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PETALING JAYA: Poor Indians don’t have the money to invest in shares.

As such, Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj has questioned how the PNB-Amanah Saham 1Malaysia (AS1M) scheme will benefit poor Indians.

The PSM legislator said such programmes only worked for middle and upper-income citizens with the money to spare and invest.

Jeyakumar said people in the lower-income category could use other forms of aid instead.

“If the government really wants to help Indians, they should help them with their housing,” he told FMT.

MIC treasurer-general S Vell Paari had earlier criticised Jeyakumar for “missing out” on Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Budget 2018 announcement on Oct 27 on the value of AS1M.

Najib had said Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) would make a special distribution amounting to 1.5 billion additional units of AS1M for Indians, with up to 30,000 units for each investor.

He also said RM500 million was allocated for a period of five years for a loan scheme to help 100,000 Indian families from the B40 category (bottom 40% of household income) invest in the scheme.

Jeyakumar claimed that Vell Paari did not look at the whole picture, adding that there was proof that AS1M would not work to alleviate poverty among the hardcore poor and was more an election whitewash.

“Everyone knows the government has tried this sort of scheme with the Malays and there is still Malay poverty. So why introduce a measure that has been proven not to work?”

He said a book titled “Colour of Inequality”, by Muhammed Abdul Khalid, a former research director at Khazanah Research Institute, had provided statistics of similar schemes that contributed to disparity between different socio-economic classes.

Jeyakumar said the book discussed a study on Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB), which had 6.5 million Malay investors. The researcher found the bottom 72% of the shareholders only had an average of RM554 each in the scheme.

The top 28% had an average of RM53,582 while the top 0.2% had an average of RM725,522.

“This is a very clear empirical evidence of what happens when you try to use shares to uplift people from poverty,” he said.

“If ASB has this effect, then how are you going to justify AS1M?”

Jeyakumar had unseated Vell Paari’s father S Samy Vellu, who was then MIC president, from the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat in the general election of March 2008.

Jeyakumar said it was more important to address needy people’s problem of housing. He said there were people in Sungai Siput who were staying on government land for the last 60 to 70 years but were designated as squatters.

“Imagine, if you give them a grant for the land they are already living on. These people can stay at their current houses and then use any money they have to slowly upgrade their homes.

“This applies not just to Indians but all Malaysians living as squatters. It will be a tremendous boost for the bottom 20% of our population.”

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