Exco man: Give fishermen subsidy cards instead of cash

Penang state executive councillor Afif Bahardin says cash aid should be stopped. (File pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Cash aid handouts to fishermen should be stopped and a subsidy card for food and other necessities provided, as well as a smart card for those fishermen who need subsidised diesel fuel, says state executive councillor Dr Afif Bahardin.

His proposal on aid for fishermen comes in the wake of controversy over whether fishermen would continue to receive monthly allowances provided by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said recently that the monthly allowances of RM200 and RM300 would be discontinued. However, agriculture minister Salahuddin Ayub is reported to have said that the government would continue to provide cash aid.

Afif, who handles the agriculture portfolio in Penang’s state executive council, said the use of a subsidy card would ensure that fishermen and their families could obtain what they needed at selected shops, subject to certain conditions.

He proposed that fishermen who needed diesel fuel at subsidised rates be provided with a smart card with stored credit. Use of a smart card would ensure that funds for fuel subsidies were handled more efficiently and transparently, and prevent leakage.

“Only those really deserving fishermen would receive diesel subsidies based on an updated register of fishermen,” he said. A proper audit should be carried out to ensure a clean and updated register was used.

Afif also called for a merger of the Fisheries Department and the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM). “There is no need for two agencies to handle matters pertaining to fishermen,” he said. The merger would reduce management expenditure, and prevent an overlap of powers.

He hoped that the agriculture ministry would carry out a thorough study on his proposals.

Malaysia losing up to RM6 billion a year to foreign fishermen

Days numbered for Bagan Jermal fishermen

Chinese fishermen seek divine blessings in troubled waters