Friday, March 13, 2009

Wanita MCA Lauds Mini Budget, but wants Women’s Needs addressed

Press Statement by Wanita MCA in response to the RM 60 billion stimulus package

Wanita MCA welcomes the recently announced second stimulus package of RM60 billion ringgit. It is a timely budget as it reflects the government’s recognition on the severity of the impact of the economic crisis on Malaysians, in particular addressing rising unemployment and retrenchment.

While it is commendable that there is a targeted-based budget of RM830 million allocated to the less fortunate which includes the elderly, disabled and single mothers, however, it merely constitutes 1.38% of the RM60 billion stimulus package.

The specific needs of women (with the exception of single mothers) during the economic crisis appear to be overlooked. We feel that it is important that each thrusts of the stimulus package takes into account different roles, needs and interests of women and men reflecting Malaysia’s national and international commitment to promoting gender equality and equity.

From past records of economic crisis, women are highly vulnerable to retrenchment given their predominant participation in the ‘feminised’ industries such as administrative and electronics sectors. Also, there was a recorded sharp increase in reported domestic violence (DV) cases during the economic downturn. Even though women are vulnerable in terms of DV and retrenchment in the midst of economic crisis; however women are always resilient contributors in times of financial crisis. Often, women engage themselves in small businesses such as cooking, sewing, handicrafts etc which reflect women’s determination and persistence in steering the family out of the pit. Thus, it is evident that women are the pillar of strength in the family in protecting the family and in overcoming hardships.

We would like to see further policies being implemented under the stimulus package in particular the following:

1. Training and New Employment Opportunities for Women
In view that the stimulus package which provides training programmes on ‘hard skills’ such as electrical and electronics, welding, robotics and construction which cater predominantly to men, we propose the provision of training/ vocational training (which includes re-skilling and re-training) which are ‘soft skills’-oriented for women. In addition, we recommend an additional process of ensuring/ seeing through women in getting job placements after training (re-skilling or re-training).

2. Special grant/ fund for women interested in small scale business
In view of the high commercial interest rate for micro-credit financing between 18-24%, we propose that the current Skim Jaminan Usahawan Kecil which provides funds for SME as working or start-up capital to extend its funds specific (a special grant) to women who are interested in small scale business/ hawker industry.

3. Improve safety net for domestic violence (DV) victim-survivors
In view of the alarming trend of economic crisis and rising domestic violence, we propose that the Government improve safety net for domestic violence victim survivors through the following:
(i) Increase grant of registered shelter homes (both government and private) for DV victim-survivors
(ii)Increase budget allocation for awareness-raising campaigns/ programmes that “DV is a crime” and to encourage reporting with the aim of reducing incidences of DV.

4. Child Care subsidy for all who fulfil eligibility
To extend child care subsidy to all who fulfil the current eligibility of household income below RM2,000.00 (urban) and RM1,200.00 (rural) and not only limited to civil servants.

We need to also attend to needs of women who work in the private sector who may similarly benefit from a child care subsidy to lighten their burden in addition to increasing disposable income of the household.

5. Cash Incentive of RM2, 000.00 per year for senior citizens
While the government savings bond does not preclude senior citizens, however 1) senior citizens may not be able to compete with those who are young, 2) returns from the savings bond ranges from RM12.50 (RM1, 000.00 savings) to maximum of RM625.00 (RM50, 000.00 savings) every three months and 3) it may only serve to benefit a small number of people who are able to seize the opportunity but not those who are vulnerable. In addition, in view of the markedly low interest rates and high inflation, senior citizens who primarily rely upon return from their savings would be greatly affected. We thus recommend a cash incentive of RM2,000.00 per year to senior citizens of age 60 years and above.

It is our fervent hope that the government would take into account specific needs and interests of women and senior citizen in the implementation of this stimulus package and in the planning and implementation of future national budgets.

No comments: