By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, Jan 16: The RM1,000 endowment fund for Sarawakian newborns serves as a seed to help the beneficiaries embark on their lives’ journey upon reaching the age of 18.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the one-off incentive — Endowment Fund Sarawak (EFS) — introduced this year could help provide an opportunity for youths to shape a better future for themselves after leaving school.
Those pursuing tertiary education could use the money for registration purposes and making other preparations, while those not continuing their higher education could use the funds for business start-ups or as savings, as they look for jobs.
“EFS is a new approach we have embarked on to improve the social development of the people.
“This fund, meant to provide a positive impact on society, is a gesture from the state government in giving back to the people,” he said at the 2019 EFS presentation to newborns here today.
Fifty-five babies, born between Jan 1-7, received the EFS in a symbolic ceremony. Their parents were also given gift vouchers, a set of baby products and reading materials on childcare.
Abang Johari related a story of a single mother, who had to raise four children after her husband passed away, who could not send her second child to pursue tertiary education due to financial constraints.
Selling ‘kuih-muih’ to make ends meet, she had to support the elder sibling, who was studying at a university, with two others still in school. The second child scored 8As in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination but family hardship had hindered that individual from pursuing tertiary education.
The chief minister, who extended a helping hand to them, said that student eventually graduated and is now a senior government officer.
“These are problems that normally occur in our society. We have a smart student coming from a poor family and cannot afford tertiary education. Some families, the parents have proper jobs but also too many children, thus many commitments,” he continued.
He said EFS would at least help these students secure a place on campus. From there, education aid such as Yayasan Sarawak could help fund their studies.
Abang Johari said his administration would consider increasing the amount of the EFS in the future, but this depends on the state’s economic performance and financial situation then.
“All qualified Sarawakian newborns are entitled to the EFS, regardless of social status.
“With newborn statistics in Sarawak averaging 40,000 per year, (at the rate of RM1,000) we are looking to spend some RM40 million annually, but this is about improving the social standard and giving back to the people,” he emphasised.
Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said from Jan 1 to Jan 15 (as at 3pm) this year, there are 1,213 Sarawakian newborns that have been registered with the state National Registration Department (NRD).
Kuching recorded the highest birth rate at 498, followed by Sibu (256), Miri (149) and Bintulu (105).
She said that a baby born in Sarawak would automatically qualify for the initiative, provided both parents are Malaysians with a “K” status Mykad, regardless of race, religion and socioeconomic status. But they must be registered with the NRD within a year from their date of birth.
For cases with anomalies, a special committee has been set up in her ministry to study and consider such applications. — DayakDaily