When Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announced two special incentives for Sarawakians, it was like a dream come true for many.
With the rising cost of living, the RM1,000 Endowment Fund Sarawak (EFS) for every newborn baby and RM450 postnatal care aid for mothers are welcome incentives directly felt by Sarawakians.
The EFS is provided to every Sarawakian baby, regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, or parental income. As long as their birth registration or identification card has a ‘K’, they are entitled to the endowment fund.
The new policy, which took effect on Jan 1, 2019 gives every new-born child a one-off RM1,000 incentive, which can only be withdrawn upon the child reaching the age of 18.
Meant for tertiary education, business startups or savings as they pursue their careers, it is also aimed at encouraging Sarawakians to have more children.
Many parents are delighted with the fund mainly because their child will already have some savings from the moment they are born.
Meanwhile, the post-natal care aid to help the family buy necessities for the baby as well as health products, including traditional health supplements, for the mother came into effect Jan 1 this year.
The assistance will be in the form of RM150 vouchers which will be disbursed to mothers every month over the course of three months.
Expectant mother Lucifa Sikeh was extremely happy with the good news.
She is expecting her fourth child anytime this month and she was very excited to receive the above benefits for the first time .
The 37-year-old nurse said initially she was shocked when the two announcements were made, because it didn’t occur to her that this time, it was for every Sarawakian, regardless of social status.
“Although only my fourth baby will benefit from EFS, my husband Dominic Girai, 38, and I are very grateful because that will ease one of our burden in terms of higher education. On top of that, I will get RM450 for post natal care. What other state in Malaysia gives this to its own people?
“The fact is that this will directly benefit me and my baby, so I am very thankful,” she said.
Another expectant mother Huzimah Saili, 36, said after so many years working under the federal government, she had never received such an incentive.
“I feel very lucky because for the first time, our state government is doing this for every Sarawakian. Please convey my ‘thank you’ to Abang Johari for helping all of us, without segregating us based on our status, income, race or religion,” she said.
This is Huzimah’s first child. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy in mid-January 2020.
“Other government incentives are given mostly for those under B40 category while those under M40 don’t get anything. When Abang Johari said these two are to be given to every Sarawakian baby and their mothers, I can honestly say all of the recipients are grateful.”
She asserted that with the forever increasing cost of living, not everyone can save every month for ‘rainy days’.
With the EFS, Huzimah, who works as a firefighter, is certain that there is some money kept aside safely in the bank until the child reaches 18 years old, and by then, the amount would have grown and definitely ease her family’s financial burden if the child wishes to further their studies.
“On top of that, the RM450 post natal aid to help mothers buy vitamins or supplements to refresh her body after giving birth is really one of a kind,” she said with a smile.
Huzimah hoped for both programmes to continue as long as possible and not stop at the end of 2020.
She strongly believed it will also strengthen the relationship between State Government and Sarawak’s multi racial society.
Electrical engineer Prescilla Inting, 30, and her husband Chong Bui Chyan, 34, also welcomed the EFS.
Their son Ivan is now 3 months old.
Chong echoed that the aid shows the Sarawak government is concerned about the future of its young generations.
“This is truly a good start in terms of preparing our children’s financial education. In fact, this is a sort of a ‘fixed desposit’ because the RM1,000 must be kept in the bank account. Abang Johari is doing the right thing by ‘teaching us how to catch fish’ rather than just giving it out,” Chong asserted.
He reasoned that any cash aid given out will not last very long, hence holding it in the bank until it matures was a good idea.
“Although my wife is not entitled to the post natal aid, it is alright because my son is entitled to EFS and he has received it. I am confident that parents who will be welcoming their newborns will be happy and grateful with Abang Johari’s initiative,” Chong said.
A welcome boon for many
Meanwhile, the EFS application can be made upon registering the child’s birth at the National Registration Department (JPN) and its branches.
Parents only have to fill up the information while JPN officers will submit it to Bank Islam.
The bank will then inform Sarawak Ministry of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development for verification.
Once it is approved, the ministry will issue a payment voucher to Bank Islam, and applicants will receive the RM1,000 in their respective bank accounts.
The incentive will be placed in a bank account and can only be withdrawn only when the child reaches 18 years old.
In the event of death before the child reaches 18 years old, parents can withdraw the money by providing the death certificate.
The EFS happens to be one of the 81 initiatives of Abang Johari to secure the future of every newborn in the state and to reduce the burden of parents.
The state government allocated RM40 million in 2019 and an additional RM30 million this year for EFS, while allocating another RM18 million for post natal care aid in 2020. —DayakDaily