The poor deserve dignity, Pakatan

NOVEMBER 14 — Some mornings I wake up and wonder how I voted Tory without meaning to. That’s the general feeling I get whenever I hear our latest crop of politicians talk about measures for the poor, while demonstrating they’ve never actually been poor.

The latest proposal to give free breakfasts to only B40 students is a case in point. While helping lower-income groups get a leg up is important it is also important to remember things such as empathy, dignity as well as sheer practicality.

Singling out only poor children for subsidies is messy, adds a layer of bureaucracy and thinks nothing of the mortification of the B40 children at being put in the spotlight.

What those who have never been poor don’t understand is that the poor don’t like being called out, put under a big glowing sign and differentiated from the rest.

Give all our children breakfast in the morning and make a fund for parents with more money to opt-in to contribute, allowing them to help offset the expense. Encourage them, but don’t penalise them.

The other notion of creating petrol subsidy and welfare cards instead of just, oh, giving money to the poor is both burdensome and elitist. 

“Oh we want to make sure the B40 only use the allocation as we want them to.”

If a poor person wants to use some welfare money to buy a poor child a birthday cupcake, why begrudge them that? Or maybe an emergency popped up or a shoe needs mending. 

Cash is simpler, requires a lot less red tape and accounting and really, is all the poor need.

Our prime minister loves making remarks about wealth generation and the poor, but I’m sorry, sir, it has been a very long time since you were poor.

The world has changed. Expenses have gone up, and yet our salaries haven’t. Fresh graduates are making what I did as a fresh grad... and I graduated 18 years ago. But 18 years ago, I could get a roti telur and teh tarik for less than RM4 in KL. That’s not the case today.

We punish the poor — we throw them in jail for decades for stealing milk powder and sundries while we fete the rich. This culture of venerating the rich and powerful is something that needs to change but alas, the feudalist mentality in Malaysia is unlikely to die until the ones who champion it do.

Stop calling cash aid “hand outs.” Systemic inequality is a problem that needs to be handled and the simplest way to help the people who get the short stick is just cash. 

Just give them money, Pakatan and stop expecting them to exchange their dignity for limited aid.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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