Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad recently announced that the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) will be abolished eventually
In an interview with The Malaysian Insight published on 25 August, the Prime Minister said BR1M payouts will be gradually reduced, before being completely discontinued.
He added that although his decision might be unpopular among the 7.2 million BR1M recipients, Malaysians should rely less on government handouts and become more independent.
"I have always talked about crutches... throw away your crutches, walk on your own feet. Then you will become strong and do well," Mahathir was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight.
Moreover, Mahathir also said former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak was "spoiling" Malaysians with BR1M.
"Najib spoiled the people by making them think that the government will give them money even if they don't work," the Prime Minister said, before alleging that BR1M was used to buy over people with "stolen money".
Following his statement, the Prime Minister has received mixed reactions from politicians and netizens on the matter:
1. Former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak
In a Facebook post on 25 August, the former Prime Minister wrote that the funds allocated from BR1M payouts were from the rationalisation of subsidies and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), contrary to Mahathir's allegations.
"BR1M is not (used) for political motives, and the criteria to receive it solely depends on (the recipients') monthly household income – regardless of their political affiliation," Najib wrote.
Najib added that BR1M contributes to reducing income inequality in Malaysia, and there was nothing wrong in taking money from the rich and the tax evaders to give to the poor.
"It's at times like this that the poor should be given help, not punished," the former premier wrote, before claiming that the Pakatan Harapan government favours the rich.
2. Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali
Mahathir's sentiment on abolishing BR1M was shared by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.
New Straits Times reported Azmin as saying yesterday, 26 August, that a new economic strategy will replace BR1M in the near future.
"(The new initiative) puts focus (on) the welfare of the people, instead of corrupting and fooling the people," Azmin said, before voicing his support for Mahathir's decision.
"Prime Minister (Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad) is right in pointing out that any form of cash bribe for political support must be stopped," the Economic Affairs Minister added.
3. Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin
In a series of tweets yesterday, Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin lashed out at Azmin's excuse for abolishing BR1M.
"Azmin's excuse is very stupid," Khairy wrote in a tweet, before stressing that BR1M could be improved by verification of eligible recipients and imposing limitations on spending BR1M.
The Rembau MP added that cash payout is a policy adopted by many other countries, which helps with the cost of living of the B40 low income earners.
"If the payment of cash is corruption, then stop paying 'bonuses' and 'duit raya' (cash gifts) to civil servants. Be consistent," Khairy wrote.
4. Kapar MP Datuk Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid
Earlier today, 27 August, Kapar Member of Parliament (MP) Abdullah Sani criticised the suggestion by Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali to discontinue BR1M, calling it "unacceptable".
"It (BR1M) can only be discontinued when we manage to bring prices (of goods) and petroleum down, when salaries have gone up, then only there would be some form of balance," Abdullah Sani was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.
"Why withdraw something that benefits the people? Some of the excuses given, such as not wanting to make people lazy, are unacceptable," the Kapar MP added.
BR1M was an idea developed by the Central Bank of Malaysia (BNM) under ex-governor Tan Sri Datuk Seri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz in 2011
According to BNM's website, BR1M was meant to be a targeted subsidy to the low income, vulnerable groups.
When asked on sustainability of BR1M, BNM responded with suggestions on revamping the cash payout.
"The sustainability of BR1M would depend on mobilising the lower income groups to break the vicious inter-generational poverty cycle and moving up the income ladder. To do so, BR1M could be enhanced by ensuring there is an exit mechanism by linking it to promotional programmes to enhance human capital and productivity," the Bank wrote in a statement dated 3 March.