KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 (Bernama) — The government has been taking continuous steps to ease the burden of the rakyat (people), especially the low-income group in addressing the rising cost of living. According to the 2014/2015 Economic Report issued by the Finance Ministry, the group is recognised by the government as the most vulnerable, as their income growth has not kept pace with the rise of prices of goods and services. The report points out that based on the Household Expenditure Survey, conducted every five years by the Department of Statistics, the monthly household expenditure had soared 88.6 per cent from 1993 to 2010, with four main groups indicating substantial increases.
These were housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels at 102 per cent; transport (94.6 per cent); restaurants and hotels (64.8 per cent); and food and non-alcoholic beverages (60.9 per cent). The monthly household expenditure is expected to register a further increase, following the trend for the past 15 years.Hence, the government has introduced several measures to assist the public, in getting basic goods and services at affordable costs. In this regard, initiatives identified include the distribution of targeted cash assistance.
However, the report notes that despite the government’s efforts to ensure that basic goods and services remain affordable for the public, food and fuel prices are still subject to factors such as weather shocks, rising demand and supply disruptions, which are beyond the government’s control. According to the report, the government will also continue to provide various assistance and incentives, particularly to the less fortunate, disabled, single mothers and the elderly.
The report says that these measures are undertaken to ensure goods and services, including basic needs are available to the rakyat at affordable costs. “In this regard, the provision of quality and affordable houses to low and middle-income groups will continue to remain a priority. In addition, the government will continue to provide cash transfers such as the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M), school and other welfare assistance.” To bridge the gap between urban and rural communities, the report says that development strategies will be enhanced to provide modern infrastructure and facilities as well as to strengthen socio-economic development programmes.
In order to achieve equitable income distribution, the government will continue to pursue the inclusiveness agenda, by providing equitable access and opportunities for all Malaysians to participate in economic development. “Nevertheless, efforts need to be intensified to bridge the regional development gap and the urban-rural divide to reduce income imbalances in the country,” the report says. To improve the well-being of senior citizens, an additional 23 Pusat Aktiviti Warga Emas (PAWE) or Senior Citizens Activity Centres that provide outreach and developmental programmes for the elderly, were established nationwide.
According to the report, as of July this year, there were 45 centres nationwide, which provide various activities and programmes, including religious and recreational activities, therapy and rehabilitation, medical screening as well as relevant training and seminars. As of August 2014, a total of RM670,000 was disbursed to establish 20 new centres. To assist the disabled (OKU), the government continues to provide support for them, with RM441 million allocated for their development and welfare, the report says.
The government has also implemented various programmes to further strengthen the participation of Bumiputera in economic development, in line with the Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Agenda, including improving education, equity ownership and entrepreneurship. In standardising prices of controlled essential goods across the country, particularly in rural and remote areas, several measures have been implemented including transport subsidy, ‘1Malaysia 1Harga’ programme and Mobile Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M). As of August 2014, 14 new KR1M were opened, mostly in Sabah and Sarawak, while another 22 KR1M were under construction and an additional five KR1M in the planning stage.