KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia will start a programme on Wednesday (Jan 15) to hand out a total of RM450 million (S$148.81 million) to nearly half of its citizens, the government said, in a drive to increase digital transactions that will be a big boost for e-wallet companies.
The money will be distributed through South-east Asian e-wallet operators Grab, backed by SoftBank Group; telecom company Axiata's Boost; and Touch 'n Go, which is backed by banking group CIMB and China's Ant Financial.
Every Malaysian aged 18 years and above and earning less than RM100,000 a year will be eligible to receive a one-time shopping handout of RM30 through one of the e-wallets, the finance minister said in a statement.
Up to 15 million Malaysians will benefit from the programme, which was flagged in the country's 2020 budget in October. The RM30 must be spent between Jan 15 and March 14.
The "initiative is designed to widen digital payments adoption among Malaysian consumers and merchants, particularly among small retail businesses," Minister of Finance Lim Guan Eng said.
Total digital payments in Malaysia are expected to grow 10.8 per cent annually, reaching about US$17 billion (S$22.91 billion) by 2023, according to data portal Statista.
The handout may also help the government deflect concerns over the cost of living, which late last year led the ruling coalition to lose a by-election by a bigger than expected margin.
"This is part of the government's commitment to fulfil the shared prosperity agenda by reducing barriers to digitalisation and improving financial inclusivity in the country," Mr Lim said.