The media reported stating that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad wishes to gradually reduce and abolish the Bantuan Sara Hidup [previously called the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M)].
Many BSH recipients express their anxiety. Indeed, the cash transfer have become a lifeline for many of them.
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.
That so many have become reliant on it is a failure of the Najib Razak government.
However, 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.
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.
These plans must be transparently formulated and clearly communicated to the public to avoid creating anxiety or misconceptions. There is also nothing wrong with ensuring the payments are 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.
Conditional cash transfers have been proven to be a success in other countries like Mexico’s Prospera and Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, with research finding that there are improved health conditions, educational attainment, social mobility, labor market as well as household economic outcomes.
No one denies that it is always better to give people a hand up rather than a handout. But genuinely needing assistance—especially from one’s course country—should never be stigmatised.
Pakatan Harapan can not afford to be on the wrong side of history in this matter. And its arch always rests on the side of compassion.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
PAKATAN HARAPAN YOUTH LEADER
PARTI KEADILAN RAKYAT YOUTH LEADER
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR SETIAWANGSA