Concerning farmers’ complaints that they did not receive any agricultural subsidies, the Federal Government should organize more activities to provide timely advice and assistance to farmers on the ground.
At the same time, the Government must also establish a comprehensive, transparent, and accountable mechanism for implementing agricultural policies to ensure that the subsidies can reach those who need them most.
Under the 2022 Budget, the Federal Government announced RM1.7 billion in subsidies and incentives for the agriculture and fisheries sectors, including RM1.5 billion in subsidies for seeds, fertilizers, and rice production. In the wake of the severe flood in 2021, the Government also announced RM100 million in aid for affected farmers.
In addition, as the prices of fertilizers and pesticides have skyrocketed due to the disruptions of the global supply chain, the Government has repeatedly promised to increase subsidies.
Nonetheless, many farmers on the ground are disgruntled, for they are unable to obtain information on the subsidies, not to mention apply for them.
As such, a few questions arise. Are the Government’s subsidies insufficient due to high applicant volume? Is it possible that the mechanism of giving out subsidies is rigged and only enriches certain parties, while the majority of the farmers do not benefit from it?
Information related to agricultural subsidy policies, such as the standards, scale, evaluation, distribution procedures, and subsidy recipients, are always unavailable to the public. Due to the lack of open and authoritative data sources, it is virtually impossible for the people’s representatives and NGOs to track and monitor the subsidy mechanism.
Hence, I would like to put forward three (3) suggestions to the Government to comprehensively strengthen transparency and accountability of the agricultural subsidy mechanism, strictly investigate any violations of rules and procedures to root out self-enrichment, and ensure that farmers on the ground who really need subsidies can benefit from the mechanism.
First, the Government must uphold the principles of openness, objectivity, and transparency.
When implementing any policies and subsidy programs to benefit farmers, respected deparments and agencies must publicize and explain the content, procedures, and requirements to the farmers through television, radio, newspapers, the Internet, and other media. This will help farmers understand the policies and allow the public to get the relevant information and monitor the subsidy mechanism to ensure transparency and efficiency.
Second, the Government must regularly report the progress of subsidy measures and provide detailed information on how subsidies are distributed in different regions, including the number of recipients and the amount of subsidies they receive.
Moreover, the reports must be regularly published on the Government agencies’ websites and submitted to the Parliament, State Assemblies, and relevant committees for scrutiny.
Third, a Parliamentary Select Committee for monitoring and reviewing agricultural subsidies should be established, with members of the opposition party being included in it.
The members should be empowered to monitor, coordinate, and supervise the implementation of subsidy policies in real-time. In addition, during the policy evaluation phase, the committee should invite relevant NGOs to share opinions and insights from a different perspective to complement the limitations and deficiencies of the policies.
In any case, strict enforcement is necessary to prevent the misuse of subsidies. Those who are found to have misused subsidies and officers who have violated the regulations should be brought to justice to serve as a warning to the public and prevent future violations.