A disturbing conversation

A 35 year old lady from Sg Siput called me this morning. I do not know her but she said that she had got my handphone number from a friend. The conversation translated from Tamil and abridged is given below:

Renuka (not her actual name): Is this Dr Kumar? A friend said you might be able to help me. Our house rent is now 3 months overdue and the landlord is pressuring us to settle. We are also short of food in the house.

Me: How much is the rent?

Renuka: RM 300 per month. We could manage before the MCO but my husband lost his job. He has been trying everywhere but he cannot get a job. Now he is doing odd jobs like painting houses for Deepavali. But its not enough.

Me: Do you work?

Renuka: I have 4 children. The eldest is 13 and the youngest is 5 years old. I stay at home and look after the family.

Me: You should have got the BPN (Bantuan Prihatin Nasional) last week. RM 700 I think. Can’t you use that for the rent?

Renuka: The ATM card is with the money lender. My husband borrowed RM 2000 a few months ago and gave the ATM card as surety. The money lender will withdraw RM500 each month and give us the remainder. As we did not make loan payments for a few months all the BPN money was taken by him.

Me: How much is the outstanding loan amount now?

Renuka: About RM 2900 I think. Have to ask my husband.

Me: How come 2900 when you only borrowed 2000?

Renuka: Interest is 10% per month. If we cannot pay, that RM 200 is added to the principal.

Me: Can you get a family member to settle the entire amount? Then you just have to settle the principal with the family member.

Renuka: If we had a family member who could do this we would not have gone to the money lender Sir.

Me: Can I get someone from my Service Centre to visit your house?

Renuka: Can

Me: Text me your bank account number and I will put 1 month’s rental into it.

This is the reality for the B20 families in our society. They are in a desperate position. The BPN idea is good. But families like this one need more of it and on a regular, monthly basis. Otherwise they will be forced to go to the money lenders and get entrapped there. This is why Parti Sosialis Malaysia is proposing a more targeted cash transfer program – RM 1000 monthly for families with a monthly household income of less than RM 1000. We estimate that 10% of the 7.3 million households in the country will require this assistance. 730,000 families x RM 1000 per family would be RM 0.73 billion per month. This works out to RM 8.7 billion for the entire year.

This is a sum that the country can afford, and will be a life-saver for families like Renuka’s. You can help Renuka – Lobby your MP to push for this cash transfer scheme for the B20 families who cannot keep their head above the water. Ask your MP to bring up this issue at the coming session of Parliament. If enough MPs bring this up, it might be taken up by the government. We can make a difference if we act collectively! We need to reach out to each other in solidarity. That’s the only way to get through this pandemic induced recession.

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj
Chairperson
Parti Sosialis Malaysia

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