MP: What’s the point of RM2b annual budget if Terengganu children neglected?

BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY
Last month, a Unicef report found higher levels of poverty and malnutrition among children living in low-cost housing in Kuala Lumpur compared to the national average. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — An Amanah MP wants to know how the Terengganu government is utilising its RM2 billion annual budget, and whether it has been used to help poor, malnourished children in the state.

Kuala Terengganu MP Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad cited a recently tabled United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) report, in which 26 per cent of the state’s children were found to have stunted growth, in 2016.

Terengganu came in second after Kelantan, which recorded 34 per cent of stunted growth cases among children.

“This is the second largest number after Kelantan, which does not receive any proceeds from oil and gas, unlike Terengganu.

“This shows 26 per cent of children below five years of age do not get enough nutritious food. This is very shocking, as Terengganu has an annual budget exceeding RM2 billion annually, for only 1 million people, compared to Selangor which has a RM1.6 billion budget for five million people!

“Where did the Terengganu state’s wealth go, if its people are not able to get enough and nutritious food?” Raja Kamarul said in a press conference here.

He also accused the state of having poor financial management, as it was not able to address the issue.

Last month, a Unicef report found higher levels of poverty and malnutrition among children living in low-cost housing in Kuala Lumpur compared to the national average.

The study by the United Nations agency titled “Children without: A study of urban child poverty and deprivation in low-cost flats in Kuala Lumpur” found almost all children, or 99.7 per cent, residing in low-cost flats in the capital city lived in relative poverty, while 7 per cent lived in absolute poverty. The percentage of those suffering from problems linked to malnutrition was said to be alarming.

The study, which surveyed almost 1,000 households with children below 18 years of age in their care and reside in public flats, showed the number of children that suffered from stunted growth coincided with the increased number of urban poor households, averaging one out of three.

The government has yet to develop an urban poverty index but instead applies a blanket index to measure poverty in both urban and rural areas, despite the major differences of variables influencing the conditions of the two locations.