PETALING JAYA: When finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz announced in his budget 2021 speech last year that 150,000 laptops will be distributed to B40 students, there was much excitement. Some six months later, there are many questions.
Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto became the latest elected representative to issue a statement on the matter, saying Putrajaya has yet to reveal the details on the distribution of the devices it had promised to carry out by early February.
In January, when pressed for a timeline on the distribution with schools closed and many B40 families unable to afford digital devices for online learning, Zafrul said that the 150,000 laptops would be distributed in early February.
On Feb 8, he said in a statement that the laptops would actually be loaned out, with students needing to eventually return the devices.
Kasthuri questioned this sudden turn of events as it was not stated in the finance minister’s speech when tabling the budget in the Dewan Rakyat.
“How can someone holding the position of finance minister give out a statement in the Dewan Rakyat that it (the programme) can be done without any grounds or guarantees and after three months, make a U-turn?”
She also questioned if the 150,000 devices were still being held by Yayasan Hasanah, a foundation which serves as secretariat for the initiative, due to excessive “red-tape” that was hampering the distribution process.
Besides the 150,000 laptop distribution, Kasthuri also questioned the status of the RM100 million allocation for loans to purchase laptops promised for National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) recipients.
“How many students are eligible or how many have received the loans, and what are the details of the loan contracts for students who are already burdened by PTPTN debt?” Kasthuri asked.
She was referring to Zafrul’s announcement in his budget speech that the government will be cooperating with Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) to allocate RM100 million for laptop loans under the BSN MyRinggit-i Comsis scheme.