GOVERNMENT AID TO BOOST RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Allocations for infrastructure, microcredit and welfare schemes to improve the lives of rural people

RURAL development remains the government’s priority as RM10.93 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Rural Development under Budget 2023, caretaker Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Nov 13.

This amount is 4% more than the previous year.

In addition to building infrastructure, the government wants to promote economic development by encouraging rural residents to become entrepreneurs.

“We want the villagers to engage in various economic sectors apart from traditional activities such as agriculture, rubber tapping or small-scale fishing,” said Ismail Sabri.

“Rural entrepreneurs always have the opportunity and space to improve their existing achievements to a higher level because we have knowledge, potential and opportunities that are constantly growing,” he said while officiating a mini-carnival for rural entrepreneurs at Dataran in Kerajong Bera, Pahang. .

Improvement of infrastructure

It is important to ensure that the socio-cultural development of people in rural areas takes place at the same time as urban residents, as this will affect the economic well-being of the country, according to the Dean of the Faculty of Human Ecology, prof. Dr Mohd Fazli Sabri. Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

“We cannot escape the fact that there are still rural areas that lag behind in basic amenities such as roads, housing, electricity and water supply, and internet access.

“We can see this especially in interior Sabah and Sarawak, where residents are still facing communication problems, no street lights, dilapidated and damaged bridges and no or poor internet coverage,” he said.

Professor Dr. Mohd Fazli said the government must make efforts and act immediately to ensure that people’s needs are met as basic facilities are the basic rights of every Malaysian.

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To tackle the first rural infrastructure improvement work, the government has allocated RM2.55 billion in the 2023 budget. Although the budget is due to be re-submitted after GE15, it indicates what the government intends to do.

The main part of the allocation is RM1.5 billion for rural roads, of which 110,000 people are expected to benefit.

Another 54 million is earmarked for ‘initial works’ to replace 85 dilapidated and unsafe bridges.

Next up is RM472 million for the Rural Electricity Supply (BELB) programme.

For the village street lighting project, RM123 million has been allocated for the installation as well as maintenance of 6,800 lighting units.

Other allocations in the 2023 budget are RM381 million for the Rural Water Supply Program (BALB) and the Alternative Water Supply Project.

Promotion of rural entrepreneurship

Associate Professor Dr Azlizan Talib from 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 creating economic opportunities is necessary to overcome poverty and inequality.

“We are also aware of many opportunities in rural areas that can be optimized for the benefit of local residents. These include resources for tourism, small and medium industries and micro-enterprises,” he said.

He added that the government should provide the Orangasli settlements with necessary infrastructure facilities so that it would be easier for people to find jobs there.

This is in line with the Rural Development Policy, which is based on three main principles – to be sustainable, inclusive and holistic.

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Felda Youth Council President Muhammad Fadzli Hasan expressed hope that more people will participate in government initiatives and engage in the digital economy where they can cross borders using e-commerce platforms.

Dr Shankaran Nambiar, a senior research fellow at the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, said rural communities needed to be nurtured with proper leadership and entrepreneurship training.

According to the 2023 budget, RM1.7 billion will be allocated to Program Semarak Niaga as micro credit for small businesses. These include:

> RM950 million for micro loans issued by the government-owned bank Simpanan Nasional.

> Keluarga Malaysia Hawkers Scheme will receive RM350 million, of which RM150 million is earmarked for bumiputras.

> RM300 million in small business loans 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.

> RM200 million to Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Berhad (PUNB) or National Entrepreneurs Corporation to promote bumiputra participation in the retail and trade sector.

> RM135mil to state agency Teraju to finance bumiputra entrepreneurs.

> RM25 million for Community Entrepreneur Development Scheme of India (SPUMI).

> RM100mil for Malaysia India Transformation Unit (MITRA).

> RM20 million for the Graduate Entrepreneur Program (PUSH) for 1,000 graduates starting businesses.

To encourage more female entrepreneurs to expand their businesses and improve marketing, RM235 million has been allocated to various programs by government agencies and banks. They are Skim Semarak-Nita BSN, Tekunita (Tekun), DanaNita Mara and Biz Lady Bank Rakyat.

According to entrepreneur Juriah Abdullah Hashim, who makes the Pahang delicacy sambal hitam, her sales increased from 600 to 1,000 bottles a month after she promoted her product on TikTok and Facebook.

Juriah, who runs De Payrys Enterprise in Jerantut, Pahang, is hoping 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.

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Welfare payments

Rural residents will also benefit from various state welfare payments within the 2023 budget.

About 450,000 households will receive RM2.5 billion in monthly assistance from the Department of Social Welfare. This is an increase from the RM1.5 billion allocated in 2022.

Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia cash support will be increased to RM2,500 for families with five and more children. Families with four children and below will receive between RM1,000 and RM2,000. Seniors and singles will get between RM350 and RM600.

Budget 2023 will provide social protection of RM734 million for insurance or full insurance schemes for B40 or Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia beneficiaries.

Loans up to RM50,000 will be available for Amanah Saham Bumiputra Keluarga Malaysia purchases for Group B40 (ASB40).

So far, the government has reduced the electricity bills by RM40 for severely poor households, namely those with an income of less than RM980 per month.

Under Budget 2023, the eligibility level for this subsidy will be increased to RM1,169 to benefit more households.

Finally, to help the rural population, the fishermen’s cost of living allowance of RM250 per month will continue to be paid.

In addition to the 2023 budget, it is also worth noting that since 2019, the government’s MySalam program has approved critical illness and hospitalization claims of RM734 million for 1.5 million B40 individuals.

The government believes that infrastructure allocations, micro-credits for entrepreneurs and welfare payments will improve the lives of rural people.



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