KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 —The needy in Malaysia have always been the focus to receive care and aid from the government.

This is especially true since the Covid-19 pandemic and other problems affecting other countries, including the rising cost of living, increase in prices of goods including essentials and the decrease in income.

The situation has led to an increase of 145,000 people in the hardcore poor category (data from e-Kasih, June 30).

The National Recovery Council (NRC) recently advised the government to take immediate steps in order to ensure that affected Malaysians would have the impact of the rising cost of living lessened.


Its chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin suggested that an integrated system be created to make the channelling aid to the people more centralised.

This was in line with the increase of aid from the Welfare Department from RM300 to RM1,000 — a move that was implemented under his administration as prime minister.

Integrating information of those who qualified for aid under a centralised system would enable the channelling of aid including subsidies to be streamlined and distributed in a transparent manner.


The suggestion for such a system serves to be a social security net that can be carried out for the short, medium and long term.

It will also ensure that no one is left behind.

Single mother of five, Tun Zawariah Hamzah along with her daughter with Down Wyndrome, Noor Hazimah Idris. — Picture by Arif Zikri
Single mother of five, Tun Zawariah Hamzah along with her daughter with Down Wyndrome, Noor Hazimah Idris. — Picture by Arif Zikri

Tun Zawariah Hamzah is a single mother of five who’s currently taking care of her daughter with Down Syndrome, Noor Hazimah Idris.

The 66-year-old who’s staying in Shah Alam, is being cared for by three of her children who give her around RM1.000 allowance every month.

She also has her late husband Socso’s pension as well as some flowing income from renting out houses.

Tun admitted that she’s affected by the rising cost of living especially when it comes to essential items.

“Egg prices have gone up, the same as fish and chicken. There’s even been a price hike on Hazimah’s favourite biscuit,” she said.

She added that in order to cope with the rising cost of living, she had to be mindful with her spending and would reduce the amount of whatever daily essentials that she could do without.

Tun is also a recipient of the Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) where she has received a total of RM1,200.

“Yes, it does help us a bit. It’s four transactions throughout the year if I’m not mistaken.

“The RM1,200 is for one year but if we divide it by monthly, it’s enough for us. Recently, I’ve also received another RM150 from them transferred to my account,” she said.

Hazimah is already registered under the JKM’s Financial Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Who Cannot Work programme and receives RM300 every month from the programme.

Her mother is keeping the money for her future.

Tun added that another reason she didn’t want to apply for help from the Welfare Department was because she felt there were others who needed it more than her.

She welcomed the proposal by the NRC as long as it helps to improve the community.

Private sector worker SM Chai said a centralised system would cut down on unnecessary red tape.

“With a centralised system, the aid will go to the targeted recipients rather than having to go to various departments to sign up,” said the 49-year-old.

Chai, who stopped working due to health problems and now depends on her savings for her living expenses, said she had to budget her daily expenditure.

“Before Covid-19 hit, I would still go out for meals but after the pandemic, I have all my meals at home.”

Citing her breakfast as an example, Chai said to stretch her money, she would have a cup of oats with bread every morning.

“The oats are the three-in-one types where I would split it into half whereby I use only one packet every two days.”

She also buys vegetables from the wet markets to cut cost.

“I go for vegetables that are in season as they tend to be cheaper,” she added, noting that she tried to have a balanced meal daily.

“Normally my meal would consist of one soup and one veggie,” she said, adding that the soup would be cooked in the morning and she eats it for two meals while she cooks vegetables twice daily.

R. Ponita Ramasamy, 56, had tried to apply for assistance from JKM but was denied. — Picture courtesy of R. Ponita Ramasamy
R. Ponita Ramasamy, 56, had tried to apply for assistance from JKM but was denied. — Picture courtesy of R. Ponita Ramasamy

R. Ponita Ramasamy, 56 from Sungai Buloh has three years remaining in her job as a helper at the Malaysian Rubber Board (LGM) before retiring.

She and her husband along with their now-working son, have been chipping in together to pay for their bills and other essentials.

“Of course we’re affected by the price hikes. We can barely make ends meet but the price keeps on rising.

“Those with high-paying salaries might not feel anything compared to us,” Ponita said.

She added that aside from rising prices of daily goods, it was getting harder to find some essential items such as cooking oil, sugar and eggs as they were always out of stock.

As a countermeasure to the hike in prices, Ponita has to cut down on expenses and opt for cheaper household items.

She usually prepared a monthly budget for her expenses and would try to keep her spending within the limit.

“Even though I have prepared a budget every month, not everything is within our control.

“Sometimes there’s an emergency, and we end up spending more, so we have no choice but to spend our earnings carefully,” Ponita said.

She has also received monetary assistance via BPR where she was received RM1,800 in total which was also given gradually throughout the year.

Ponita was grateful for the assistance and said that it has helped her for some time.

She has tried applying for aid under the Welfare Department but her application was denied as she wasn’t eligible for it even though she’s from the B40 group.

She added that she has received assistance in the form of daily essentials which was handed out by the local member of parliament’s team.

Another private sector worker SS Loke from Ipoh said her life had been turned upside down following Covid-19.

“Previously I used to work part-time in a pub after my day job to supplement my income but due to Covid-19, the pub closed down.”

“Now to increase my income, I do online sales,” she said, adding that besides herself, she also needs to look after her 78-year-old mother.

“Lucky for me, my housing loan has been paid off. Now I am left with only my car loan,” said the 43-year-old.

While she had received financial aid from the government twice last year, Loke said she failed to get any aid this year.

“I find it weird as based on my monthly salary, I fall under the B40 category but when I checked with the authorities, they said I do not qualify as my salary is more than RM2,500.”

“Hence I agree with Muhyiddin’s suggestion to have a centralised system to disburse aid. At least the aid will go to the intended groups.”

Nor Laili Mohamed and her four children. — Picture courtesy of Nor Laili Mohamed
Nor Laili Mohamed and her four children. — Picture courtesy of Nor Laili Mohamed

Nor Laili Mohamed is a single mother of four living in Kuala Lumpur and is financially taking care of three of her children, who are pursuing their studies in universities.

Her eldest daughter also stays with them however she pays her own bills as she has just started working.

The price for education has always been high, however with the rising cost of living it has become more challenging for Laili, a Suria FM sales manager, to keep up.

The 56-year-old has to cover rent for two of her children with one of them currently studying in Sabah and the other one in Bangi.

She also has to provide monthly expenses for all three of them and has just spent RM500 in flight tickets for her daughter to come home for the upcoming general election.

However, Laili admitted that she wasn’t directly impacted by the rising price of goods as for the past year as she and her family have been eating out as she did not have time.

“There hasn’t been a price hike at the stalls we always go to either, however I did notice that some stalls, although they might not raise their prices but had cut down the portion instead.

“There’s this one stall I often visit for their oxtail soup, previously, they would give an abundance of meat but lately, i noticed the portion was cut down to just a few pieces,” she said.

In facing the price hike ordeals, Laili has gone on fewer holidays with her family and spent more time at home even during public holidays in order to save more.

Laili who’s also a recipient of last year’s BPR, had received a total of RM1,500.

On streamlining of aid, Laili said that she would support the idea as long as it was being done thoroughly and transparently.

She added that she feels that the taxpayers deserve some credit and transparency as it is their hard earned money that is being used.