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Thursday, November 7, 2013

DAP: Subsidy slashes and GST will impact homemakers most

Politics & Government 2013
Written by Pathma Subramaniam, (contributor to 
Monday, 28 October 2013 19:41

Last Updated: 7:33pm, Oct 28, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 28): DAP MPs today hit out at the government for focusing on handing out charity to women instead of empowering women, saying the gender gap in the country has widened under Datuk Seri Najib Razak's leadership.

Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim and Lanang MP Alice Lau said although women empowerment schemes have been mentioned in the national budget and Malaysia Plans since the 1980s, gender discrimination is still prevalent.

Citing the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2013 report, Sim said Malaysia which stood at the 96th spot in the world gender gap index in 2008 has since plummeted six spots to the 102nd position among 136 countries.

"While the government has allocated a higher budget for the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry at RM2.2 billion in 2014 compared to RM1.9 billion in 2013, the bulk of the money goes to handouts," Sim told a press conference at the Parliament lobby.

"It looks like the ministry has chosen to focus on charity and welfare rather than women empowerment," he said, citing the 10th Malaysia Plan report which revealed that 86.3% out of 155,600 unemployed women are not in the workforce due to factors such as income disparity, lack of opportunity and inconclusive working environment. 

Sim said the Gender Responsive Budgeting initiated by the ministry in collaboration with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) in 2003 has not gained much traction in narrowing the disparity.

"There is no systematic strategy to increase women labour force participation rate which has stagnated around 46% -47% in the last 23 years since 1990 to the targeted 55% by 2015 as stipulated by the 10th Malaysia Plan.

"The half-time, part-time, flexi-time, work form home arrangements proposal in the Budget 2014 were mentioned back in Sixth Malaysia Plan," Lau said. Sim and Lau added that homemakers are alienated in the government's Budget 2014 unlike in Pakatan Rakyat's alternative Budget where a social safety net for homemakers was proposed.

"RM600 per annum will be contributed to homeakers to complemented by contribution from the spouse at a minimum on RM129 up to RM1,200 per annum," they said.

The twp DAP lawmakers also said that the withdrawal of subsidies and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) would severely affect low-income households.

"We hope that the government will instead address the culture of discrimination in our society where women are treated as second class citizens in politics and the economy," Lau added.

Meanwhile, the PKR MP for Ampang, Zuraida Kamaruddin, said the austerity measures imposed by the government impacts homemakers and families with children the most.

Zuraida said the cost cutting measures introduced in the Budget 2014 did not take into account the living standards of the public. 

"The standard of living should be at par with the cost of living, and then maybe implement the GST," she said.

"The household income should at least be at RM6,000 to be able to afford what's coming," she said.

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