With more than 600,000 jobless, MP calls for food stamps

Residents at a flat in Petaling Jaya getting food aid. Distribution of food stamps would reduce abuse in assisting Malaysians who lost their income during the MCO.

PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has urged the government to issue food stamps to those who have lost their jobs and other Malaysians struggling to feed themselves.

He said a considerable number of his constituents, even those from the middle class, were joining queues to collect food aid. They had either been retrenched or had seen their salaries cut, he added.

“Some of the retrenched are in their forties and it may be difficult for them to get new jobs,” he told FMT.

“There are also millions of Malaysians working in the informal sector or who are self-employed who will not benefit from wage subsidies and other job retention programmes. They may also not have savings in the Employees Provident Fund.”

Santiago said he was concerned that the jobless might go hungry.

The Department of Statistics has revealed that the number of unemployed people rose to more than 600,000 in March, principally because of the movement control order.

Santiago said the distribution of food stamps would be a good way to help the hungry since the likelihood of abuse would be reduced.

Economist Barjoyai Bardai of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak said food stamps would be better than cash aid because everyone would know where the money would be spent and this would encourage corporations and members of the public to contribute to the initiative.

He said the stamps should be distributed at supermarkets to those whose names are in existing databases, such as the one used by the former Putrajaya administration in the distribution of e-wallet cash aid.

He also said the distribution of cash aid was often delayed by bureaucratic complications.

“We should relax the bureaucracy and make it easy for people to access and redeem the food stamps,” he said. “We should go on the assumption that those who line up for the food stamps really need them. No one wants to beg.”

He said the food stamps should serve as a short term measure to help those who are currently struggling.

Over time, he added, the government could develop new and more sustainable programmes such as the federal territories ministry’s job placement programme for the homeless.

Subang MP Wong Chen of PKR told FMT he was already embarking on such a programme for his constituents.

“We have a list of around 1,000 poor people in our database,” he said. “We had only about RM70,000 and we have used this to buy 99 Speedmart vouchers. There are many 99 Speedmart outlets in the poorer areas.”

Wong said the supermarket chain contributed free vouchers worth RM1,400 and a Buddhist association had also donated to the programme.

He said his staff used a courier service to send the vouchers to poor families. Families would get vouchers worth between RM200 and RM450 depending on their size.

The use of couriers, he added, did away with logistical problems and prevented unnecessary movements.

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