TWO years ago, Sabariah Mahmud, 62, a home-based micro-entrepreneur, was selling curry puffs for 40 sen each.
Last month, the mother-of-two who lives in a low-cost apartment in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, decided to raise the price of curry puffs, which came in three varieties – potato, sardine and chicken, 50 sen each.
Not all of his customers were happy with the 10-sen hike of his curry puffs.
“I didn’t want to raise the price as I understand people are struggling with the rising cost of living.
“But I had no choice because the prices of almost everything went up. I also have to earn an income,” she said.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent restrictions imposed to curb its transmission have massively disrupted the supply chain, driving up the prices of basic necessities.
As pundits deliberate on macro-economics, ordinary people like Sabariah and other low-income households are already feeling the brunt of the high cost of basic necessities.
In the Federal Territories, at least 6,100 households are considered poor and 4,500 are extreme poor, according to the national poverty database system (eKasih). A poor household is one that earns less than RM2,208 per month while the extreme poor earn less. only RM1,169 per month.
Kuala Lumpur tops both categories with 4,051 poor households and 3,865 extremely poor households, while Labuan has 1,605 poor households and 654 extremely poor households.
Putrajaya, despite its status as Malaysia’s administrative capital, also has its fair share of poor households at 67 and eight are in the category of the most stubbornly poor.
The Secretary General of the Federal Ministry of Lands, Datuk Seri Rosida Jaafar, said the ministry was paying special attention to the problem of urban poverty.
She said the ministry had spent RM151.3 million since the start of the pandemic on initiatives to help the needy involving 530,000 people in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.
Initiatives included MyGrocer@Wilayah, MyFood@Wilayah, MyJob@Wilayah, MySchoolBus@Wilayah, and MyMedic@Wilayah.
“Thanks to the MyFood@Wilayah initiative, some 100,000 food baskets have been distributed, in particular to residents of public residences (PA) and popular residences (PPR).
“Some 23,000 households have also received monthly assistance in the form of a 5kg bag of rice throughout 2021,” she said.
Rosida noted that under MyGrocer@Wilayah, four trucks selling groceries were dispatched to 49 locations, mostly PA and PPR areas.
“Items in these trucks are sold at prices that are between 5% and 20% cheaper than the usual market price,” she added.
Amid the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, many businesses have opted to downsize as part of a cost-cutting measure.
Many people became jobless within weeks, raising concerns about worsening inequality and the shift of households from the M40 category to the B40 category.
Rosida said low qualifications, reliance on a single source of income and limited access to affordable housing were among the factors that trapped a person in poverty.
MyJob@Wilayah, a job matching program, offered 86,000 jobs in the construction, maintenance, cleaning, packaging, manufacturing and service sectors.
“The Social Security Organization helped identify potential employers and arrange job interviews,” she noted.
One such program held at PPR Desa Rejang in Setiawangsa on February 26 this year attracted 145 job seekers.
Eight of that group got jobs while 84 others qualified for a second interview, Rosida said.
“Meanwhile, 465 trade kiosks in Kuala Lumpur and 99 in Putrajaya have been given to young entrepreneurs to do business.
“We aim to allocate up to 1,000 such kiosks in strategic locations during this year,” she explained.
Rosida also said a pilot project was to be launched this month at PPR Kerinchi in Pantai Dalam, aimed at tackling poverty.
Through a partnership with the private sector, the Economic Planning Unit, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and community leaders, the project would see 70 residents recruited and trained to become micro-entrepreneurs.
“Entrants are chosen based on data provided through the eKasih registry,” she said, adding that they would be coached on marketing strategies, in addition to receiving training and equipment.
Business types include food and beverages, grocery stores, auto shops, child care and alternative treatments, and beauty and grooming services.
Last year, the ministry through its Bumiputra Economic Empowerment Program spent RM1.97 million to train future entrepreneurs.
Some 180 people, most of whom were residents of PPR and PA, benefited from the initiative, which also included an initial capital injection.
Each participant received between RM10,000 and RM20,000 and their goal was to make a profit between RM2,000 and 6,000 within the first few months of operation.
As part of the MyMedic@Wilayah initiative, some 7,400 PPR and PA residents benefited from its free basic medical consultation last December.
With 264 sessions held at 16 sites last year, Rosida said it aimed to help ease the financial burden in terms of medical costs.
“Meanwhile, as part of MySchool@Wilayah, 11,500 students from low- and mid-cost accommodation received free transport to school by bus,” she said.
Among the places covered were PA and PPR hostels, DBKL workers’ accommodation and nurseries under the Department of Social Welfare.