Malaysia

Malaysia's Ismail Sabri Yaakob unveils more handouts for low-income families as Najib, Anwar take aim at rising prices


Malaysia on Wednesday (June 22) allocated an additional 630 million ringgit (S$200 million) to help low-income families weather the rising costs of living, ahead of a planned removal of subsidies on poultry and eggs slated to come into force in July.

The funds will be disbursed along with 1.11 billion ringgit in cash payments to be handed out in the second of four tranches of direct aid budgeted for this year.

The government had earlier announced it would give out a total of 8.2 billion ringgit in cash help when tabling its 2022 budget in October.

In a televised media briefing, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the payments under the second tranche are expected to reach 8.6 million Malaysians — a quarter of the nation’s population.

“This aid is the highest so far that has been given by any Malaysian government,” said Ismail Sabri, who has faced pressure to call for early polls since taking over the top job last August.

The new allocation translates to an additional 100 ringgit in payments to households on top of a 400 ringgit handout already in the pipeline. Meanwhile, single people will receive an extra 50 ringgit.

The funds will be credited into recipients’ bank accounts starting from Monday.

The surprise announcement broadcasted nationwide also saw the prime minister clarifying the government’s position over the subsidies of cooking oil, saying that it is still subsidising 60,000 metric tonnes of cooking oil a month, a surplus of 5000 metric tonnes beyond the average monthly consumption.

“The government is confident that [the subsidy] is sufficient,” he said.

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The announcement came just hours after the opposition camp led by Anwar Ibrahim threatened to call for a mass demonstration if nothing is done to address rising inflation within 24 hours.

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“If it fails, the ministers responsible for the issue of cost of living need to resign,” said Anwar, along with three other opposition leaders who co-signed the statement released on Wednesday.

Aside from the opposition, corruption-tainted former Prime Minister Najib Razak also chimed in on the issue, offering a solution in the form of reducing the blanket petrol subsidies which he argues benefit richer Malaysians instead of those who are more economically vulnerable.

“It is like rich people taking food from food banks,” said Najib in an op-ed that was published by local news portal Malaysiakini.

The removal of subsidies for poultry came after Malaysia experienced a shortage in chicken supplies owing to the dual impact of rising feed costs due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the suffocating ceiling price that makes chicken production economically unfeasible.

Domestic chicken costs are expected to surge upwards to 12 ringgit a kilo, a sharp hike from the government-mandated price ceiling of 8.90 ringgit, once subsidies are removed next month.

To ensure sufficient supply, Ismail Sabri earlier said that Malaysia will stop exporting its chicken to other countries, a move that affected the neighbouring island city state of Singapore which relies on Malaysia for 34 per cent of its chicken supply.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.



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