Anwar's Rahmah initiatives: A lifeline for the poor and hardcore poor
KUALA LUMPUR - In his maiden speech as Prime Minister last year, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim vowed to solve problems facing the people, including the rising cost of living, apart from emphasising good governance in his administration by fighting corruption.
A year has passed since and Anwar, along with the Cabinet line-up of the Unity Government, is seen to be making significant progress in facing the various challenges in the country, as well as at the global level, to bring Malaysia back on track to become a developed country.
In fact, when talking about the people, the 76-year-old prime minister is firm with his stance which prioritises the people’s interest in line with the government’s goal to eradicate hardcore poverty.
Among the first steps taken by Anwar after he was sworn in as Prime Minister on Nov 24 last year was announcing that he would not take his salary as prime minister, and confirming that members of his Cabinet have agreed to a salary cut of 20 per cent every month until the economy recovers.
The move, said Anwar, is the first step to restore the people's confidence in his government, as well as to understand the pain and suffering of the people who are still struggling with financial and social challenges following the rising cost of living.
Inheriting a national debt of up to RM1.5 trillion when he took over the country’s leadership, Anwar faced various twists and turns to produce excellent achievements within a year of his service as Prime Minister, especially in the post-recovery period of Covid-19.
"Anwar is the Prime Minister of Malaysia who had to face huge challenges during the first year of his appointment as Prime Minister and formed the government due to various developments in the country and globally," said political analyst Dr G. Manimaran.
Anwar, who is also PKR president, is against corruption and when he took over the government, the first thing he did was to carry out a reform of the administrative system and eliminate corruption, making many people 'terrified'.
"I have no doubt in saying that the government, especially the Prime Minister, has a high political will and drive to prevent corruption at the maximum level," said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki when commenting on the first anniversary of Anwar's administration.
Hence, it is not surprising that Anwar introduced the Malaysia Madani concept which focuses mainly on good governance, sustainable development and racial harmony in the country as an attempt to effectively map the strategy of the country's governance and administration, emphasising economic and cultural empowerment based on values, ethics or morals that embrace six core values - keMampanan (Sustainability), KesejAhteraan (Prosperity), Daya Cipta (Innovation), hormAt (Respect), keyakiNan (Trust) and Ihsan (Compassion).
"In terms of governance, the Prime Minister's emphasis on administrative matters needs to be praised because the success and excellence of the country is influenced by good governance, especially in the implementation of a policy," said a political science lecturer at the Faculty of Administrative Science and Policy Studies, Kedah Branch UiTM, Firdaus Ramli.
During his first year, Anwar also tabled the Mid Term Review (KSP) of the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) covering new policies and methods to face the current challenges that are realigned with the aspirations and vision of the Madani Economy.
The KSP of the 12MP covers 17 major shifts as the main catalyst through 71 strategies and initiatives to eradicate hardcore poverty, solve basic infrastructure problems and basic needs of the people including improving poor schools and clinics, guaranteeing clean water supply and leading an Islamic economy.
"Looking at the policies and programmes introduced by the Prime Minister since leading the Unity Government, there are several positive effects that can be identified. The preliminary estimate of GDP for the third quarter of 2023 by the Ministry of Economy shows that the national economy is expected to grow moderately at a rate of 3.3 per cent and reach a rate of four per cent in 2023.
"This shows that there has been positive growth in the Malaysian economy since November 2022 despite the weak global economic environment and overshadowed by various international conflicts," said Firdaus.
Describing Malaysia as a prosperous country, but with many 'leakages', especially in subsidies, Anwar took a bold step towards introducing targeted subsidies to ensure that only the deserving ones get to enjoy them, not foreigners and the super-rich.
This can be seen from his seriousness in starting efforts to implement and review targeted subsidies, such as in the aspects of the Pilgrims Fund Board, electricity, fuel and chicken - at a time when government subsidies for people across the country, including food, are expected to reach RM81 billion this year.
"The success of the Madani economy is seen in terms of efforts and measures to reduce the economic gap and the welfare of the people. The restructuring of the subsidy needs to be balanced to avoid putting too much burden on the poor," said a sociopolitical analyst from Universiti Malaya, Associate Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi.
In being firm, there is gentleness in Anwar. He is seen as taking some non-populist measures, such as not allowing EPF withdrawals and ending the subsidies and control of chicken price for example, but on the other hand, various cash and direct assistance continues to be given to the people as a result of subsidy savings.
Anwar and his Cabinet are seen not to let the people down during times of hardship when faced with the challenges of the cost of living during the post-Covid-19, through the provision of various types of assistance and initiatives to help the low-income and hardcore poor including through the Payung Rahmah initiative.
This is implemented through the Rahmah Sales, Rahmah Baskets, Rahmah Menu, Rahmah Broadband Packages, Rahmah Menu Special Discount Card and Rahmah Basic Donations (SARA).
In fact, the government is spending almost RM8 billion for the 2023 Rahmah Cash Donations to 8.7 million recipients, benefiting almost 60 per cent of Malaysia's adult population.
The implementation of the People's Income Initiative (IPR) which aims to increase the income of the hardcore poor and the B40 group has benefited 4,100 households so far.
"Malay children are my children. Chinese children are my children. Indian children are my children. Iban children or Kadazan children: they are all my children," are the common scripts in Anwar’s speech, illustrating how determined he is to help people regardless of their race. - BERNAMA