White flags are a symbol of structural failure

ON my usual commutes to buy food from hawkers during the pre-covid-19 period around Ipoh, I used to notice poor young children begging the people who buy food there to buy them also something. These are usually in areas where there are apartments nearby.

My wife and I had several such encounters and I wondered if the children and their parents had their names registered with the local government, which could help the families concerned, in addition to providing them with the necessary assistance for their economic development. .

There were no white flags back then, as aid is left to charitable groups, where people have some kind of informal work that allows them to meet their basic needs coupled with the help provided. monthly by government agencies.

Due to the foreclosure, however, this so-called informal work is no longer there, which has caused serious hardship for many families who cannot depend on welfare, especially with current inflation. This is why white flags have been placed in several houses across the country.

While social assistance helps to some extent, it does not take into account the overall nature of poverty in these families.

Local governments, being unelected entities, are structurally not empowered to tackle poverty issues. There is also a lethargic bureaucracy that is not fully motivated to deal with them as it is not directly accountable to the people in elections.

Even though there are meetings between local government officials and groups on issues such as housing and land, monitoring becomes an uphill battle and is delayed, or there is a need to refer to other agencies government.

There is also local politics at stake; an advisor who belongs to a political party may not want to help in areas where an opposing party holds the parliamentary seat.

These are the realities on the ground and the current white flag symbol for needing help is not only about basic necessities per se, but has to be seen in a broader perspective as the failure of the centralized government structure. current, which has made local governments toothless, bureaucratic and ineffective in dealing with the reality of poverty and health care.

Today we find white flags in homes, hotels and even by those who are unemployed via social media like LinkedIn because the government has not taken a broader structural perspective to address these issues in the context. of Covid 19, where the real solutions are local solutions and not so-called national solutions.

The Covid -19 crisis has shown that the centralized governance structure has failed to cope with the high numbers of Covid -19, in addition to creating a devastating impact on the economy.

* Ronald Benjamin is secretary of the Association for Community and Dialogue.

* This is the opinion of the author or post and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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