If each of the 15 million adult Malaysians donates an average of just RM10, we can raise at least RM150m, says Ramon Navaratnam.
The Foodbank Malaysia Programme aims to help the poor and solve large food wastage problems. Launched by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad last December, it is certainly laudable.
A RM3m allocation by the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has enhanced this programme. It aims to help university students who reportedly are now “having to starve and eat less”.
No one should starve in Malaysia
How can we have our students or anyone in Malaysia eating less because of rising costs of food or low incomes?
We are a blessed with rich natural resources and enough wealth to meet our basic needs of food and shelter. Yet we have our future leaders in universities struggling to find enough food to keep themselves going. This is indeed a national irony.
What is the role of the Economic Action Council (EAC) in overcoming hunger?
It has been several months since the formation of the national EAC. Yet, there is still no package of measures to reduce the prices of our basic needs and to prevent hunger. Surely we can adopt some more specific measures to reduce poverty and hunger?
Hence, I would propose the following package of measures for the EAC to consider in the fight against hunger in our beloved country:
- Let’s start a public fund to wipe out hunger among the bottom 40% of our income groups. We had established a national fund to reduce the national debt problem and successfully raised a large sum of money. Why can’t we do it again, but for a more needy and humane cause like reducing hunger?
This fund could be a public-private sector initiative. It could be supported by crowdfunding. If each of the 15 million adult Malaysians donates an average of just RM10, we can raise at least RM150m. But for this worthy mission, we can raise much more, as many of us can donate far more than just RM10. I am prepared, like many others, to contribute my mite to this public fund.
Raise the government allocation from the mere RM3m by 10 times to RM30m. We need to look beyond hungry students in public universities. We need to go beyond the distribution of food supplies from supermarkets and hotels to the poor. There are many more poor and hungry all over the country. We can introduce a national campaign to reduce hunger outside the richer Klang Valley which would include rural kampungs and small towns.
The EAC can establish a monthly living wage of about RM2,000. If the budget deficit is further strained, cut down spending on low-priority development projects. Phase the implementation of these projects over a longer period, until we get out of the present budget constraints. After all there is no need to rush our development projects as out infrastructure is still pretty good.
The government could step up the fight against wastage, corruption, administrative inefficiencies and undue protectionism. All this will help increase productivity. It will also strengthen the supply chain for our basic needs, especially essential food items.
Finally, why can’t the EAC explore the possibility of reducing the widening income gap. This is causing so much resentment, which can spread social unrest, due to the high cost of living and rising prices. Related to this, enforcement agencies could also be faster in tackling racial and religious extremist views. These often even appear on video clips and are not withdrawn in time. Such sensitive video clips can arouse emotions and discourage investors. These extremists can exploit hunger and poverty and should be hauled up before they do more damage to peace, security and national unity.
Start a national fund
The EAC will hopefully give greater priority to coming out with urgent measures to combat hunger and to reduce poverty at a faster pace. Otherwise, we will lose out on the many gains that the new government has creditably achieved.
The government itself cannot solve the problems of hunger and poverty. Hence let us start a national fund against hunger, supported by the government, the private sector and all Malaysians. We can do this in the spirit of caring and national unity.
Can we take this challenge to help overcome the pangs of hunger and poverty?