Seeking some relief

Customers choosing vegetables at Perling wet market in Johor Baru. Some are complaining that the prices have remained high, despite the lack of Singaporeans shopping in Johor Baru. - Filepic

JOHOR BARU: People from all walks of life are looking forward to an empowering and power-packed Johor Budget 2021, set to be announced at the state assembly today.

Financial constraints as a result of Covid-19 are high on the people’s minds, including tuition teacher, Ngoi Swee Yi, 27, who was forced to take a 50% pay cut as her tuition centre could not operate fully during the movement control order (MCO) and conditional MCO.

“With a big chunk of my monthly income missing, it is stressful as I still have to service my car loan and contribute to my family’s household expenses.

“I hope that the state government can understand our situation and offer some kind of subsidy or e-wallet credit to relieve our burden, ” she said.

Videographer Wong Cheek Sheng, 33, from Kluang, who used to travel to Singapore for work, said he had no choice but to take up graphic designing jobs on a freelance basis after the border closure in March caused him to lose his source of income.

“The demand for wedding videos is very low during the pandemic so I had to make the switch to survive. I am presently doing designs for a gaming website but the competition is quite tough because many people are without jobs now.

“I hope that the state government can fight for the border to be reopened soon so that the job market will be less crowded here, ” he said.

Operations assistant Mohamad Khairuddin Nordin, 29, hopes that the state government could help to relieve the burden faced by the people who have been struggling due to the pandemic.

“I hope the government can provide targeted financial assistance and also provide more discounts for local council compounds notices and assessment tax, ” he added.

Housewife A. Devi, 35, is hoping for more price regulation of goods as her family is finding it hard to cope with the escalating cost of necessities.

“Our family weekly spend on raw ingredients and groceries easily cost up to RM100 and the prices have remained high, despite the closure of the border between Malaysia and Singapore since the MCO was imposed on March 18, ” she said.

Empowering women

Academician Prof. Dr. Fatin Aliah Phang, 40, said Johor Budget 2021 should be more inclusive and empowering towards women, whose welfare was often overlooked or grouped with that of children and families.

“During the pandemic, many women found themselves needing to contribute more to household expenses, especially those whose husbands were laid off or unable to go to Singapore for work.

“Aside from providing micro-credit loans to help women start home-based businesses, the state should look into training and subsidising women to open affordable childcare centres in strategic areas so that working mothers can have a peace of mind while focusing on their career, ” she said.

Lecturer Nina Diana Nawi, 31, said women were capable of being more than extraordinary if given the opportunity and empowerment, so the state government should introduce long-term programmes to provide women with a strong and quality support system.

“One-off programmes are not advised as the impacts are not felt and there is no continuity in terms of development and support for the target audience.

“State programmes such as the existing Mama Friendly Programme, for example, which empowers women to breastfeed or pump breast milk at the workplace, should be continued, expanded and further developed to breed more programmes and volunteers in future, ” added Nina.

Sales assistant Azizah Amir, 35, supported the idea of having more affordable childcare centres as she spends RM350 monthly to send her four-year-old son to one.

“Times are tougher now due to the pandemic, luckily we can save on rental as we are currently staying with my parents.

“Owning a house in Johor Baru is beyond the reach for most average wage earners and I hope that the state government can address this issue as well, ” said the mother of two.

Sign language interpretersChan Kok Sheng, 36, who is speech and hearing impaired, wants the government to help the deaf community by training more sign language interpreters and stationing them at each of Johor’s 10 districts.

“Right now, there are only two sign language interpreters in the whole of Johor under Yayasan Pembangunan Keluarga Darul Ta’zim.

“There should be more, as it is a challenge for the deaf community to communicate with government officials for matters such as land issues, marriage registration, licensing, making police reports and so on, ” he said.

Building manager Jarrald Leroy, 29, said the state government should help the people by identifying new business areas or locations to allow small and medium enterprises (SME) and start-up businesses to build their brand.

“State agencies can adopt a street market or bazaar concept because right now, the people are cash-strapped and cannot afford to rent space at shopping centres and shop lots.

“The government should also allocate funds for digital marketing and training to equip youths for the competitive market, ” he said.

Nurse Lucyia Varghese, 57, said more efforts to combat dengue should also be carried out by the state government as the rising number of dengue cases in the state was a cause for worry.

“Although there are fogging activities in the housing area in Kulai, I noticed there are still many mosquitoes.

“Maybe the state government can introduce targeted dengue programmes such as handing out products to each household so that we can help to kill the mosquito larvae in our surroundings, ” she added.

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