BR1M is a social safety net recommended by the National Fiscal Committee, which comprises of officials from the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), Bank Negara and the Ministry of Finance. They are mostly economics experts, not politicians. Such a social security net is being implemented in many other countries. Some call it “unemployment benefit”, which targets the unemployed. However, BR1M targets the low income. Both, in essence, are a form of social security allowance as they target vulnerable groups.
We aim to rationalise our current blanket subsidy to one that targets the needy. Everyone (including the rich and foreigners) benefit from blanket subsidies. By abolishing blanket subsidies, we generate savings that will then be channelled to those in the low-income group. And we will be able to give these deserving groups more than what they would have received as a result of the blanket subsidy scheme. Hence, BR1M must be seen in the context of a targeted subsidy, and it is the belief of the Fiscal committee that it will reduce leakages and increase the efficiency of our subsidy mechanism.
BR1M also compensates the needy for the any additional expenditure that they might incur as a result of GST. Some quarters claim that the GST is a regressive tax as everyone including the poor are subjected to it. However, with BR1M, GST is not regressive as the low-income groups are being compensated. In addition, a large portion of GST revenue will be spent on this vulnerable community.
Some politicians say that in spite of BR1M, the people are “not grateful.” This is exactly why they believe it is bribery and are not on the same page as the fiscal committee. We see it as an economic measure, but these politicians see it purely in the context of politics. Mind you, BR1M is given to everyone regardless of his or her political inclination. BR1M is given regardless of when elections are held. My conscience is clear. BR1M is an economic measure, not bribery and I have stated the reasons why.
People always say, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, he lives for a life time”. But in the real world, we have to do both. Provide assistance to the needy and at the same time invest in education/skills upgrading/improving productivity. The Education Ministry receives the biggest amount allocation from our budget. On top of that, we have also created entities like TERAJU, Tekun, Genovasi, Superb, MAGiC and many other government training programmes under various ministries.