Malaysia sets aside $550m in aid for needy households

Cash payments expected to benefit nearly 8.6 million people amid soaring living and food costs

The Malaysian government will pay out RM1.74 billion (S$550 million) in aid to low-income households starting this month, in a bid to reduce the impact of soaring living and food costs.

Cash aid of up to RM500 will be given to eligible recipients, said Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in a televised address yesterday.

The payment will be made in stages starting from next Monday and is expected to benefit nearly 8.6 million people.

The measure is aimed at assuaging worries about inflation, particularly among the so-called B40, or bottom 40 per cent, of the population.

"Taking into account the challenges of the cost of living and the recent rise in food prices, the government has decided to provide additional cash assistance," Datuk Seri Ismail said. "This payment will benefit nearly 8.6 million recipients including four million households, 1.2 million senior citizens and 3.4 million singles."

Malaysia's inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, increased 2.3 per cent in April from a year earlier, led by higher food prices, according to the Department of Statistics on May 25.

Mr Ismail also said temporary subsidies for bottled cooking oil, which were introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, will be discontinued from July 1, but subsidies for cooking oil in 1kg packets priced at RM2.50 per kg would remain. The actual price of a 1kg packet of cooking oil is RM9.

"The government has decided not to extend the subsidy for bottled cooking oil as of July 1, as it does not meet the initial objective of the programme, which was to help those affected by the pandemic," said the Prime Minister, referring to cooking oil in 1kg, 2kg, 3kg and 5kg bottles.

"The government found that the subsidised bottled cooking oil was misused by some in industries, the commercial sector and smugglers."

Mr Ismail added that the temporary cooking oil subsidy cost RM55 million per month and was initially slated for only three months from August last year.

The government spent RM4 billion on cooking oil subsidies this year, RM2.2 billion last year, and RM500 million in 2020.

The announcement comes ahead of the lifting of price controls on poultry and eggs on July 1.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi said on Tuesday that chicken prices would be floated based on market forces, while targeted financial aid would be given to those in need.

On June 1, Malaysia halted exports of whole chicken amid a domestic supply crunch which led to a surge in prices.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2022, with the headline Malaysia sets aside $550m in aid for needy households. Subscribe