Annuar: Big plans to help urban poor

PETALING JAYA: Tan Sri Annuar Musa (pic) expects that the number of urban poor will increase post-movement control order (MCO), especially in the Federal Territories.

As such, the Federal Territories Minister has initiated several measures to ensure that poor residents will receive material support to see them through the hard times.

He said the ministry would help them in several ways, including finding them jobs, paying for groceries, school bus fees and medical expenses.

“Life in the cities for the urban poor was already hard with inflation, lack of permanent jobs and high rental fees.

“The situation was made worse during the MCO period as people lost their businesses and jobs.

“Many were unable to pay rent and could not feed their families, and all this while staying in small crowded housing units.

“When the MCO was relaxed, many could not resume work as their employers had closed shop.

“The lower middle income who used to have jobs – be it selling nasi lemak or factory workers – are now part of the urban poor.

“We foresee an increase of urban poor, ” he said.

Annuar said the Urban Poor Protection Plan in Wilayah Cakna (Caring Territory) was launched immediately after the MCO, even before the government announced Bantuan Prihatin.

“We have mobilised agencies under the ministry to provide assistance to the urban poor, ” he added.

Among the agencies are Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), Perbadanan Putrajaya (PPj), Perbadanan Labuan, Federal Territory Religious Department, Federal Territory Islamic Council and Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan.

He said these bodies had been involved from the start of the MCO to deal with the urban poor in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, together with various NGOs and private initiatives.

“A Cabinet Note (approval) will be tabled to the ministers on this very soon. Once we get the go-ahead, we will implement five large-scale programmes to help tackle urban poverty and the loss of jobs.

“Scheduled to begin in stages starting next week, the programmes show that the government has been listening to the concerns of the people, ” he said.

Among the steps which have been put in place are the lowering of rentals and instalment payments of low-cost housing units under DBKL, and helping the hardcore poor and the homeless to find shelter, food and employment.

Annuar said he would be meeting employers and owners of large firms or construction companies to discuss job opportunities that they could offer to locals in the Federal Territories.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia academic Prof Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said that while there was currently no official definition for urban poverty, estimates were that of the 75% of Malaysians living in urban areas, some 30% were likely to fall under this category.

He said while there were some data on urban poor, the information was inadequate and not based on the reality of urban poverty.

“Our poor may not be begging, but they’re struggling. This notion that urban poor are those who are begging or sleeping in the streets has to change, ” he said.

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