Soft launch of the Sub-National Families on the Edge Study in Penang State
Speech by YAB Chow Kon Yeow
The Chief Minister of Penang
Soft launch of the Sub-National Families
on the Edge Study in Penang State
18 February 2022
YB Chong Eng
State Executive Councillor for Social Development and Non-Islamic Religious Affairs
Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar
UNICEF Representative to Malaysia
Dato’ Dr. Ooi Kee Beng
Executive Director of Penang Institute
Ladies & Gentlemen.
Good morning, everyone.
As we all know, the world has been in turmoil and uncertainty over the last two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the lockdowns bringing intermittent halts to economic activity, the livelihood of businesses and individuals were badly affected. Economically vulnerable households suffered in many ways, and often in silence.
Even before the pandemic, their burdens were heavier than those in the formal sector, and their situation has worsened since 2020.
Furthermore, they almost always lacked social protection and are ineligible for employment-based protection.
It has been noted that households headed by women suffered even more. Indeed, many of these women are employed in the informal sector, with single mothers being especially vulnerable. Typically, they have had no or little support, financially or otherwise, in providing for their children.
As for the children, they faced disruptions in their education and learning processes. Unfortunately, due to the household's financial difficulties, their diet and nutrition are also often compromised, resulting in long-term health issues such as stunted growth and weak physique in general.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Penang State Government recognises families as the building blocks of society, and thus their welfare is of utmost importance and must be supported, especially in these unprecedented times. The vulnerabilities of women and children, in particular, must be addressed and remedied.
In efforts to assist the people, cash assistance has been provided by both the Federal and the Penang State Government. Amongst various initiatives, the State Government established Pakej Bantuan Khas to alleviate the economic burdens of the at-risk families and communities.
By providing assistance in three phases, a total of RM 174.52 million have been disbursed by the state to those in need.
Aside from cash assistance, the State Government has also consistently provided care packages such as food through initiatives such as the Mutiara Foodbank, and other necessities to vulnerable families and communities.
As mentioned, social welfare is the responsibility of both the Federal and State Governments, and is often provided through various channels, based on the capacity and the resources of both governments. Undoubtedly, it is critical that we assess the efficacy of such aid and social welfare policies in assisting these vulnerable families. Understanding this will help us determine what else needs to be done and how such policies can be improved in the future.
In line with the Penang2030 vision, the State Government is committed to improving and expanding its social welfare delivery system. We comprehend that a more informed delivery system must build on previous experiences and how well policies were implemented during the previous two challenging years.
Simultaneously, effective coordination between the Federal and State Governments in implementing their respective intervention measures is crucial in enhancing the social welfare delivery system.
I therefore welcome the collaboration between Penang Institute and UNICEF Malaysia on these issues. The two institutions are now embarking on a mixed methods research project to assess the impact of Covid-19 on children and women in low-income families in Penang, and to measure the effectiveness of our Covid-19 mitigation policies.
In particular, the project will focus on the overall socioeconomic impact of Covid-19 and the detrimental results of the lockdowns on women and children in Penang’s low-income households. Most interestingly, the study will assess the efficacy of the mitigation policies from the perspective of those most affected by the pandemic.
I wish to thank Penang Institute and UNICEF Malaysia for undertaking the important task and duty of carrying out this much needed research project, assessment and analysis.
I look forward to the findings, new insights and policy recommendations of the research study on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of social welfare in Penang. The State Government is confident that such research will aid in the critical task of developing a reliable system in Penang for streamlining aid to low-income families in times of crisis.
With this, I hereby launch the study of Sub-National Families on the Edge in Penang State.