MP Wong Chen: Shopping vouchers better than food baskets

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Subang MP Wong Chen has mooted distributing shopping vouchers for the needy to buy daily necessities themselves, rather than to provide them with food packs under the federal government’s Food Basket Assistance programme.

Wong said the vouchers can prohibit the purchase of cigarettes or alcohol.

He said this would be cheaper to implement and allows aid recipients to choose what they need, while avoiding the logistical challenges of having MPs and their teams procure, store, pack, and distribute 3,000 food packs in each constituency.

Wong shared that his office has been distributing RM200 cash vouchers by post for the needy to buy goods at Giant and 99 Speedmart, and the handling cost is only RM10 per recipient.

In contrast, he estimated that it would cost RM30 to pack and distribute food baskets in accordance with specifications set by the government.

This eats into the RM100 allocated for each basket and leaves only RM70 to spend on food.

“This is an objective that assumes that I have a ground floor office big enough to store 30,000kg of rice, 3,000kg of cooking oil, 3,000kg of sugar, 3,000kg of flour, 3,000 tins each of condensed milk and sardines, 3,000 packs each of salt, noodles, soya sauce, chilli sauce, tea, coffee and biscuits.


“For that kind of logistical operation, other than having a mini-warehouse, I will obviously also need two 10-tonne lorries, a small army of at least 30 officers and volunteers, each undertaking to handle 100 boxes and then deliver them to constituents in need,” he said.

“Alternatively, we can contact a wholesaler that will organise everything – set up massive tents in an empty carpark, and then people can walk in, queue up and receive these boxes of food.

“But this will require crowds coming to the distribution site, breaking all movement control order rules and indirectly spread Covid-19 further.

“First come, first served basis will also cause chaos and pandemonium. With walk-ins, there is also just no way to prove who is in desperate financial need and who isn’t,” he said in a series of tweets yesterday.

Wong added that he has proposed the idea of distributing shopping vouchers to the Prime Minister’s Department’s Implementation and Coordination Unit (ICU), which will consider the proposal and provide a response.

“We shall wait and see the response from the ICU office to our shopping voucher proposal. If the ICU says no to us, we will have to purchase goods, find a large enough premises to store, sort and then mobilise volunteers to distribute,” he said.

The specifications of the food basket require it to contain 13 items for a total cost of RM100 each, including the cost of transportation, packaging, wages, and the printing of stickers.

All items must be certified as halal by the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and carry its halal logo.