Consult Pakatan partners before scrapping BR1M, PKR man says

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Nik Nazmi blamed public reliance on cash aid on the alleged failure of the Najib government to elevate the standard of living. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — Any policy decision on the cash handouts to replace 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) must have the consensus of Pakatan Harapan partners, a PKR lawmaker said today after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad mulled ending the initiative.

Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said the move could have effects on the livelihood of the country’s bottom 40 per cent income earners (B40), the primary recipients.

The PKR leader also reminded Dr Mahathir that the ruling coalition had pledged to retain the programme in its election manifesto.

“Any reform should only be done with the consensus of all Pakatan Harapan parties and the Cabinet — especially since the manifesto we were elected upon promised that the BR1M/BSH should be retained for the B40,” he said in a statement.

“Moreover, any change must ensure that the current recipients will not be worse off. Also, any comments notwithstanding, there must also be a plan to help recipients who are simply not able to work, whether due to age or disability.”

Dr Mahathir said yesterday his government plans to gradually phase out the Cost of Living Aid (BSH) programmed, a renamed version of the Barisan Nasional-initiated BR1M.

The prime minister, who led PH to a shock win in the 14th general election, said the programme had made Malaysians dependent on government help.

Today, Minister of Economic Affairs Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said BR1M would be stopped because it had “elements of corruption.”

Nik Nazmi, however, blamed public reliance on cash aid on the alleged failure of the Najib government to elevate the standard of living. He called for the initiative to be reformed instead.

BR1M was the brainchild of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Dr Mahathir’s predecessor.

“To be sure, the BR1M and BSH that replaced it is in need of reform. It has to do more to substantially reduce the inequalities in our society and enable the recipients to stand on their own feet,” the PKR leader said.

“That so many have become reliant on it is a failure of the Najib Razak government.”

The PKR leader also stressed that direct intervention policies can be positive.

Payments can be tied to positive behaviour such as making it conditional for the children of receiving families to be immunised, as well as in education or training, he said.

Dr Mahathir’s announcement prompted a strong response from political rivals and animated debate among PH leaders, who saw the decision as yet another of PH’s failure to uphold its election promises.

Now, Nik Nazmi warned that cancelling out a welfare programme without a substitute in place will only worsen the backlash.

“These plans must be transparently formulated and clearly communicated to the public to avoid creating anxiety or misconceptions,” he said.

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