My condemnation of BR1M as a form of corruption seems to upset and anger some people.
I still maintain that it is a form of bribe. This is made clear by the comment of a recipient from the kampung.
He said: “I will support Najib because he gave me money. Mahathir did not give me money”.
BR1M is from government money. It is obviously intended to get people to vote for the government party in the 13th general election because the BN manifesto for that election promises bigger BR1M when the government party wins.
Explicitly it is about buying the vote of the electorate.
If it is not meant to pay for the vote in the election, it should not be mentioned in the BN manifesto.
Any government in any country has an obligation to look after the poor.
The dole is given to ease the difficulties of unemployed people. Financial aid is given to the poor but not as supplement to their income.
But BR1M is said to be given to seven million people with incomes of less than RM3,000 per month.
That means that a person with income of RM36,000 per year would also get RM500 a year. It is not a meaningful relief for such people.
But people with no income or income of less than RM500 per month or RM6,000 year might feel an additional RM500 per year quite welcome. It’s not much but it will buy a few items of food.
Now of course the amount is to be increased to RM1,200 a year, or RM100 per month. It is still not much but it is okay. But for someone earning RM3,000 per month it is still peanuts.
The money is to be disbursed through Umno. Obviously it is an attempt at gaining popularity for Umno.
That is political. It is bribery especially if disbursed near an election. It is bribery if the amount is increased and included in the party manifesto.
‘We were better off without BR1M’
It will not be bribery if the money is disbursed through government officers or through all members of Parliament irrespective of parties.
But this support is nullified by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and withdrawal of various subsidies.
The cost of living has shot up by more than the amount of BR1M. In fact for many, the GST takes away more from their income than is compensated by BR1M.
Now the ringgit is devalued by more than one ringgit in terms of purchasing power.
So a person earning RM500 per month today gets only about RM355 worth of purchasing power.
The loss of purchasing power due to the devalued ringgit and increase in cost of living actually means that BR1M is worth much less than the amount, even if the BR1M is increased to RM1,200.
Only the hard core poor will appreciate BR1M.
The government is not clear about the cut–off point. Is it RM3,000 per month or less? If less then it cannot be that seven million people are entitled to receiving BR1M.
We pride ourselves in having reduced poverty to one percent hard core and five percent below poverty line.
Taking those five percent below poverty line, the total would be only 1.5 million people. It would be far less if we count only working adults.
We need to help these people only, but with more than RM1,200 per year.
Recently people eligible for BR1M have been threatened that if they attend rallies by opposition parties they will not be entitled to BR1M.
If this does not show that BR1M is meant to bribe people, I don’t know what is meant by bribery.
BR1M tends to make people dependent on the government. It is known that some of the money did not reach the targeted people.
In Britain today unemployed people must do some work to earn the dole.
What we need in Malaysia is more jobs for the poor to earn better income. For this we must learn to do without foreign workers.
When people are unable to work because of disability, substantial financial support should be given to them.
Beyond that, the government should focus on revaluation of the currency and strengthening the economy.
The people were definitely better off before when BR1M was not given.
BR1M is not only a form of corruption but it corrupts the minds of the people.
I suggest the government carry out a proper survey to identify the really poor people and give them sufficient money to have a decent life.
Stop giving the money through government parties.
DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD is a former prime minister.