Hardcore Poverty: They still exist…

Poverty is one of the many popular topics that people in my country (Malaysia) talk about.

Poverty in Malaysia can be divided into three categories -hardcore poor, poor and ‘easy poor’

The hardcore poor category consists of people who earn less than RM440 a month in Peninsular Malaysia, RM540 a month in Sabah, or RM520 in Sarawak.

The poor, meanwhile, includes people who earn less than RM750 a month in Peninsular Malaysia, RM960 a month is Sabah or RM830 monthly in Sarawak.

Any family earning less than RM2,000 a month falls in the category of ‘easy poor’

Recently, a blind couple had their monthly welfare assistance been reduced to about 76 per cent.

The welfare assistance in Sarawak, if not Malaysia was never enough.  Although the government had been trying to reduce poverty in the state, this group of people often fall into hardcore poverty.

Most of them were trained to weave basket, but because rattan is getting scarce lately, many looked for another source of income.

Some prefer to beg at the market, selling tissue papers and so forth.

The most successful one or should I say, the most determined people would venture into massage business – these are the most independent one, with family and needed no help from the government.

So, this is a short news story of the blind couple asking for help. (published on April 14).

BLIND COUPLE LAMENTS CUT OF MONTHLY WELFARE ASSISTANCE

SIBU: The going could be tough for a blind couple whose monthly welfare assistance has been reduced since early this year.

Nari Jerayit, 56, and wife Utom Bilun, 35, had each been receiving RM300 monthly assistance from the welfare department since September 2008.

However, since early this year, they are getting RM70 each every month.

“The department said we have income on our own and so they cut our monthly assistance. How are we going to survive like this?  We have four children, three are still in school, and the youngest is only two years old.” Nari said.

The couple has been weaving baskets for about two decades.  Recently, they started to sell tissue papers when rattan became scarce.

Nari said they paid their own utilities bills, put food on the table, sent children to school without help from anybody.

They spent about RM500, sometimes more, on the bills, school stuff, groceries, and so forth.

“RM300 each is still not enough.  Sometimes, we have to put on a thicker face to ask form some money from relatives.  Sometimes they give, sometimes they don’t,” he lamented.

Without a stable income and with the cost of living escalating, the burden is weighing them down.

Sometimes, welfare officers and Sibu Municipal Council chased them out when they sell tissue papers at the market.

“It is very embarrassing we have to go through this.  We don’t have much choice; the assistance that has been given to us is not enough.  We are trying to make a living, we need to support our children.”

The couple said they had sought help from the blind centre but to no avail.

Given the desperate situation they were facing, they turned to the Democratic Action Party (DAP) for help.

DAP Sibu Women Chief Alice Lau said the couple had to work hard to make ends meet due to their blindness, even when they each received RM300 monthly assistance.

“Even with a guaranteed household income of RM600, this couple still struggled to scrap for a living.  Now that money has been reduced to RM140, no one can survive with this amount,” she suggested.

She said reducing their monthly assistance just because they were trying to have some extra income, which was not guaranteed, was unreasonable.

“Do not bully them, give them back their old assistance.  If the department does not have enough funds, ask from the ministry,” she pointed out.

To help ease the plight of the couple this month, DAP Women’s wing donated RM500 to them.

“It is a portion of money we took out from selling of flowers during International Women’s Day.  It’s not much, but it could at least help a little to see them through this month,” Lau pointed out.

SEEKING HELP

An opposition party requested the government to give more allocation for the welfare department.  Click here to check on the short news.

Poverty issue in fact, had been one of the main agendas of the government.

Apart from giving money assistance to the needy, the government had also provides entrepreneur courses, and other programmes that would enable the poor to be independent.

However, too often…well…in my own opinion, this group (blind, people with disability) tend to be neglected.  Many people tend to forget that disability could be the significant cause of poverty.

Government said that methods worked.  Does it really work? I don’t have a sure answer for that.

If it didn’t work, was it something wrong with the methodology or was it something wrong with the recipients?

Or is it because maybe the government overlook some of the target groups?

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