Shuttered food stall operators going hungry under MCO

A resident of the Seri Anggerik People’s Housing Project along Old Klang Road in Kuala Lumpur peers out from his unit in the low-cost flat.

PETALING JAYA: As the nationwide movement control order (MCO) started to bite, food stall operators who normally feed their neighbours quickly found themselves struggling to feed their own families.

Like many other flats and apartment blocks across the country, the Seri Anggerik People’s Housing Project (PPR) along Old Klang Road in Kuala Lumpur hosts a variety of food stalls.

These popular independent businesses usually sell a range of traditional dishes for local residents to enjoy, from a quick bite to just a glass of teh tarik. Trade is usually brisk enough to make a living.

The Seri Anggerik People’s Housing Project along Old Klang Road in Kuala Lumpur lies silent under the movement control order.

But these are no longer usual times.

Right now these eateries – like thousands of food trucks, morning markets and roadside stalls throughout Malaysia – have been forced to close by the MCO.

A resident of the Seri Anggerik People’s Housing Project looks down from the small corridor outside his flat unit.

Stall owners from the Seri Anggerik PPR told FMT about their struggle to stay afloat.

Haidah Khairudin

“We have no other source of income; our family depends on this stall,” said Haidah Khairudin, 49, who lives in the flats with her husband and six children. She has been operating her stall for the past 15 years.

“I am using my savings to buy food. One day we eat rice and egg, the next day maybe rice and vegetables. Honestly, I haven’t had any help. Who are we to get help from?” she asked.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin unveiled a RM250 billion economic stimulus package last month, saying that four million households earning RM4,000 and below will receive RM1,600 as Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) cash handouts, with RM1,000 paid in April and RM600 paid in May.

Haidah is optimistic that her application to receive a BPN cash handout under the scheme will tide her over until the MCO is lifted.

Aisah Salleh

Her friend, Aisah Salleh, 54, who has been operating her stall at Seri Anggerik PPR for the past 18 years, said she is having a hard time paying her monthly RM30 rent.

“It’s not a lot but I can’t afford to pay it right now,” she said. “We are renting from Kuala Lumpur City Hall and I’ve heard they may defer the rent, but I haven’t received anything official from them.

“I don’t know what I’ll do if the MCO is extended. Just trust in God.”

Noraini Mat Hassan

Noraini Mat Hassan, who has operated her stall at the flats for 16 years, said she now has to forgo meals for herself in order to make sure her five children get enough to eat.

Her husband’s grass-cutter’s salary is not enough to make ends meet.

“I spend what we have so my kids can eat; they are my priority,” she said. “I’m thankful that I’ll be getting the RM1,600 under the BPN soon.”

It’s not only local food stall operators who are feeling the pinch. The financial effects of the MCO are being felt all around the neighbourhood.

Mohd Hanafi Che Wan

Mohd Hanafi Che Wan, owner of a sundry shop at the Seri Anggerik PPR, told FMT he hopes the government will help business owners like him by providing goods they can sell on consignment.

“Most people living here are from the B40 income bracket and many of them are daily earners who have been affected by the MCO,” said the 53-year-old who has been operating in the same location for 10 years.

Although illegal, there have been many lay-offs and pay cuts throughout all sectors, and Hanafi said he has already seen the effect this is having on his revenue.

“My sales have dropped as people have less to spend and are cutting down on their daily expenses since they are not working.”

Manirajah Mariyappan

Longtime resident of Seri Anggerik PPR, Manirajah Mariyappan, still has a job and income, but the 42-year-old said his brother-in-law, who works in a tyre shop which has been closed since the start of the MCO, has now been told by his boss that he will not be paid next month.

“Because our prime minister is helping, my brother-in-law can afford a bit to eat. If the prime minister was not helping him, who else would?”

That sentiment is shared by all his neighbours currently having to tighten their belts.