I Wanted Targeted Free Meals For Students Says Guan Eng
Maszlee Malik’s free breakfast programme would have cost the then PH government close to RM2 billion, says Lim Guan Eng. (Maszlee Malik Facebook pic)PETALING JAYA: Lim Guan Eng has denied that he opposed Maszlee Malik’s plan to give free meals to school children when Pakatan Harapan was in power, saying he and other Cabinet members wanted a programme targeted to the truly needy.
The DAP chairman said the Cabinet, supporting a targeted system, collectively dismissed the idea of giving free meals to children from all strata of society.
Recently, Maszlee, the former education minister, claimed Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Lim were opposed to a free breakfast programme, “strongly disagreeing” with the idea.
Lim told FMT “almost everyone” in the Cabinet had reservations about the free breakfast programme.
“We were all for upping the nutritious food we gave our children and the health benefits it brings,” he said. “The Cabinet, however, did not agree that free meals should be given to everyone outright and felt it should be on a needs basis.
“It was not my decision to say no. In fact, almost everyone in the Cabinet was not ready to accept this programme, which would have set us back close to RM2 billion.”
He said he and other opponents of the programme considered the possibility that children from well-off families would turn down the meals, leading to waste. The government was then already spending a “few hundred million ringgit” to feed children from hardcore poor families.
He said a study was carried out for a targeted meal programme focusing on children from the B40 and lower rungs of the M40 income groups. However, this fell through after the PH government was toppled in February 2020.
“For Maszlee to make a very general statement is simplistic,” he said. “The actual situation is not that one or two people rejected the idea.
“The Cabinet simply didn’t agree. He can ask Kak Wan about this. She would attest to it.”
“Kak Wan” is a term of endearment for Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the former deputy prime minister.
The breakfast programme would have benefited 2.7 million primary school pupils nationwide in 2020 and would have cost the government between RM800 million and RM1.67 billion, the Dewan Rakyat was told in October 2019. - FMT
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