Good bud­get

Bud­get 2011 brought some re­lief for the dis­abled.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE -

MALAYSIANS were glued to their tele­vi­sion and ra­dio sets last Fri­day, lis­ten­ing to the Bud­get 2011 speech by Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Tun Razak in Par­lia­ment.

Chong Tuck Meng, 50, from Ben­tong, Pa­hang, was one of them.

“I am pleased to note that the Women, Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Min­istry has been al­lo­cated RM1.2bil in aid, of which RM218mil will be used to as­sist some 80,000 dis­abled in­di­vid­u­als,” says Chong.

“How­ever, it was not stip­u­lated how the money would be used to help them,” he adds, point­ing out that pre­vi­ous pro­grammes or­gan­ised by the Wel­fare Depart­ment had not done much to im­prove the qual­ity of life of the hand­i­capped.

Chong, who was paral­ysed from the neck down fol­low­ing an ac­ci­dent 30 years ago, is now ad­viser of Per­wira K9, an NGO which he founded. It has about 700 mem­bers with spinal in­juries.

Chong also re­calls a pre-Bud­get meet­ing called by the min­istry about six months ago.

“There were too many spe­cial fo­cus groups in­volved and ev­ery­one seemed to be all over the place. There wasn’t enough time for real dis­cus­sion. Some of the dis­abled groups that turned up didn’t seem to know what they wanted.”

Now that the min­istry has been given a spe­cial al­lo­ca­tion, Chong feels that min­is­ter Datuk Seri Shahrizat Ab­dul Jalil should call for an­other meet­ing to fine­tune what is re­ally im­por­tant.

“The min­istry should also se­lect NGOs with the peo­ple’s in­ter­est at heart and work closely with them to achieve the PM’s goals,” says Chong.

Petaling Jaya res­i­dent Stanis­laus An­thony, 61, was dis­ap­pointed that the dis­abled did not get any in­cre­ment for their present al­lowance of RM300.

“I was hop­ing that the PM would give all dis­abled Malaysians – whether blind, Deaf or in a wheel­chair – a monthly al­lowance of RM500 across the board,” he says.

“It’s get­ting harder and harder to be a dis­abled per­son in Malaysia these days when em­ploy­ers don’t want to hire you be­cause you are hand­i­capped or you just can’t get out of the house be­cause of the lack of pub­lic trans­port and ac­ces­si­bil­ity,” Stanis­laus laments.

“It is high time the au­thor­i­ties, whose job it is to help the hand­i­capped, came down to our level to see what our prob­lems are.

“As an in­di­vid­ual who does his part to help other dis­abled peo­ple, I still have trou­ble get­ting wheel­chairs for the poor.

“Just last week, a phys­i­cally hand­i­capped friend of mine was turned down fi­nan­cial aid be­cause he had pay TV and a re­frig­er­a­tor.

“We still have hos­pi­tals like Univer­siti Malaya Med­i­cal Cen­tre which treats you for free as an out­pa­tient be­cause of your dis­abil­ity card. But it ig­nores your card and charges you the sky if you get ad­mit­ted. Many of the sup­pos­edly free med­i­ca­tion for the dis­abled are of­ten out of stock or not cov­ered by the hos­pi­tal.”

Stanis­laus has been dis­abled since 1988. Now he uses a walk­ing stick and a wheel­chair be­cause he has dif­fi­culty walk­ing.

For Yam Tong Woo, 57, from Sun­gai Bu­loh, Se­lan­gor, who sud­denly lost his sight two years ago fol­low­ing a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion, the re­cent Bud­get brought bit­ter-sweet news.

“The good news is the abol­ish­ment of sales tax on mo­bile phones and the waiver of im­port and sales tax on broad­band equip­ment,” he writes via e-mail.

“The blind will be bet­ter able to use technology to help them find jobs and make new friends.

“How­ever, many of the as­sis­tive and adap­tive technology to help the blind get on­line are costly and out of reach un­less the Govern­ment cre­ates a sub­sidy for them.

“Broad­band and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vice-providers should be en­cour­aged to re­duce their costs to make their ser­vices af­ford­able for blind Malaysians,” added Yam, a for­mer au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer.

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