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Shopping vouchers better than food aid baskets, MP tells govt

By FMT Reporters (2 July 2021) PETALING JAYA: Subang MP Wong Chen has proposed distributing shopping vouchers instead of food aid baskets, citing issues with logistics, wastage, cost and public safety. Wong said the RM300,000 allocation for MPs to carry out the government’s food aid programme had yet to be banked into his office account, although some Kuala Lumpur MPs had received their allocation yesterday. He said Putrajaya’s guidelines had requested MPs to pack food items, such as rice, oil, sugar and canned food, in a prescribed quantity. All MPs are supposed to purchase, transport, store and distribute these items, with the total cost not exceeding RM100 a pack.

According to calculations by his team, Wong said, those eligible are expected to receive RM70 worth of food items, with RM30 spent on handling and distribution costs.

“At a budget of RM300,000 and RM100 per pack, we are targeting to distribute 3,000 boxes of food to struggling constituents,” he said. He said this objective assumed he had a ground floor office big enough to store 30,000kg of rice, 3,000kg of cooking oil and 3,000kg of salt, among others. “For that kind of logistical operation, other than having a mini warehouse, I will also obviously need two 10-tonnes lorries, a small army of at least 30 officers and volunteers, each undertaking to handle 100 boxes and deliver them to constituents in need.”

While there was an alternative to contact a wholesaler and set up a distribution centre in an empty car park, he said, this would require crowds to come to the site but could indirectly cause Covid-19 to spread further. “Distributing on a ‘first come, first served’ basis will also cause chaos and pandemonium.

“With walk-ins, there is also no way to prove who is in desperate financial need and who isn’t,” he said.

He suggested that shopping vouchers be delivered via mail instead so that households in need could buy food items at marts in their neighbourhoods, according to their needs. The vouchers can also prohibit the purchase of cigarettes or alcohol. Wong said his team had sent a request to the Prime Minister’s Office’s implementation coordination unit to allow the use of food vouchers and was awaiting a response.

He also said his office had sent out RM200 food vouchers to 600 recipients in his constituency since the start of the pandemic, adding that it was done in full compliance with the SOPs and was safe for everyone.