Allocations for infrastructure, microcredit and rapid welfare to improve the lives of people in rural areas
RURAL development remains a priority for the government, with RM10.93bil allocated to the Ministry of Rural Development under Budget 2023, interim prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Nov 13.
This amount is 4% higher than the previous year.
Apart from building infrastructure, the government wants to drive economic development by encouraging people in rural areas to become entrepreneurs.
Ismail Sabri says: “We want the villagers to enter various economic fields apart from traditional activities such as agriculture, tire treading, or small fishing.
“Rural entrepreneurs always have the opportunity and space to improve their existing achievements to a higher level because we have the expertise, potential and ever-growing facilities,” he said while officiating at the Mini Carnival of Rural Entrepreneurs in Dataran Kerayong in Bera, Pahang. .
It is important to ensure that the socio-cultural development of rural people is in tandem with urban people, because it will impact the economic well-being of the country, according to Prof Dr Mohd Fazli Sabri, dean of the Faculty of Human Ecology. at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
“We cannot escape the fact that there are still rural areas that lag behind in basic facilities such as roads, housing, electricity and water supply, as well as internet access.
“We can see this, especially in the interior of Sabah and Sarawak where residents still face communication problems, no street lights, dilapidated and damaged bridges, and non-existent or weak Internet coverage,” he said.
Prof Dr Mohd Fazli said the government should make efforts and take immediate action to ensure that the needs of the people are met because basic facilities are the fundamental right of every Malaysian.
To tackle the first task of improving rural infrastructure, the government has allocated RM2.55 million in Budget 2023. Although the budget needs to be restored after GE15, it indicates what the government intends to do.
The main chunk of the allocation is RM1.5 billion for rural roads, which is expected to benefit 110,000 people.
Another RM54mil is earmarked for “initial works” to replace 85 dilapidated and unsafe bridges.
Next is RM472mil for the Rural Electrification Program (BELB).
For the village street light project, RM123 million was allocated for the installation of 6,800 light units and maintenance.
Other allocations under Budget 2023 are RM381mil for the Rural Water Supply Program (BALB) and alternative water supply projects.
Encourage rural businesses
Associate Prof Dr Azlizan Talib of the College of Law, Government and International Studies (COLGIS), Universiti Utara Malaysia, said the government should offer support programs to help people diversify their sources of income in rural areas.
“Diversity in generating economic opportunities is necessary to overcome poverty and disparity.
“We also know a lot of potential in rural areas that can be optimized for the benefit of the local population. These include resources for tourism, small and medium industries, and micro-entrepreneurship,” he said.
He added that the government should provide the necessary infrastructure facilities to Orang Asli settlements to make it easier for the people there to find work.
This is in line with the Rural Development Policy, based on three main principles – being sustainable, inclusive and holistic.
The President of Felda Youth Council, Muhammad Fadzli Hassan, expressed the hope that more people will participate in the initiative implemented by the government and enter the digital economy where they can cross borders by using ecommerce platforms.
Malaysian Institute of Economic Research senior research fellow Dr Shankaran Nambiar said rural communities must be nurtured with good advice and training in entrepreneurship.
According to Budget 2023, RM1.7 billion will be allocated to Programe Semarak Niaga as microcredit for small businesses. These include:
> RM950mil for micro loans by the government-owned Bank Simpanan Nasional.
> Keluarga Malaysia Hawkers Scheme will get RM350mil, of which RM150mil is specifically for bumiputras.
> RM300mil for loans to small entrepreneurs targeting women and youth in the informal sector.
This will be done by Tekun Nasional, a government agency that aims to empower bumiputras to start and expand their businesses.
> RM200mil to Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Berhad (PUNB) or National Entrepreneurs Corporation, to boost bumiputra participation in the retail and commercial sectors.
> RM135mil for Teraju government agency to fund bumiputra entrepreneurs.
> RM25mil for Indian Community Entrepreneur Development Scheme (SPUMI).
> RM100mil for the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (MITRA).
> RM20mil for the Graduate Entrepreneur Program (PUSH), for 1,000 graduates entering business.
To encourage more women entrepreneurs to expand their businesses and improve their marketing, RM235mil has been allocated for various programs run by government agencies and banks. These are the Semarak-Nita BSN Scheme, Tekunita (Tekun), DanaNita Mara and Biz Lady Bank Rakyat.
According to entrepreneur Juriah Abdullah Hashim who produces Pahang delicacy sambal hitam, his sales increased from 600 to 1,000 bottles every month after he promoted his product on TikTok and Facebook.
Juriah, who runs De Payrys Enterprise based in Jerantut, Pahang, hopes to get a small loan from DanaNita Mara – Mara’s special business financing scheme for women. The money will be used to buy a machine to increase production.
The rural population will also benefit from various welfare payments by the government under Budget 2023.
About 450,000 households will receive monthly assistance totaling RM2.5 billion from the Department of Social Welfare. This is an increase from the RM1.5bil allocated in 2022.
Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia cash assistance will be increased to RM2,500 for families with five children and above. Families with four children and below will get between RM1,000 and RM2,000. Seniors and singles will receive between RM350 and RM600.
Budget 2023 will provide social protection amounting to RM734mil for insurance or takaful plans for B40 or Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia beneficiaries.
Loans of up to RM50,000 will be available for the purchase of Amanah Saham Bumiputra Keluarga Malaysia for group B40 (ASB40).
Until now, the government has reduced the electricity bill by RM40 to the hard-to-reach poor families, namely those earning below RM980 per month.
According to Budget 2023, the qualifying level for this subsidy will be increased to RM1,169 to benefit more families.
Finally, to help people in rural areas, fishermen’s cost of living allowance of RM250 per month will continue to be provided.
Apart from Budget 2023, it is also worth noting that since 2019, the government’s MySalam program has approved claims related to serious illness and hospitalization amounting to RM734mil for 1.5 million people B40.
The government believes that with infrastructure allowances, microcredit for entrepreneurs and welfare payments, the lives of people in rural areas will improve.