Give now to the public, not take

I find it very, very difficult to understand why rich organisations seek contributions from the public. In good times, I can understand it as people have extra cash and would be happy to contribute to a good cause. But during hard times, I would think that organisations would know better than to ask the public to fund their initiatives, no matter how beneficial it is to the public.

Take the Star Foundation’s Star Frontliners Initiative to which the Star Media Group, which owns The StarĀ newspaper, has pledged RM1 million to help provide essential medical supplies to fight the covid-19 pandemic. It’s indeed a very laudable project. Hospitals need testing kits and respirators in the event there is a spike in covid-19 cases. We don’t want a situation as in Italy and Spain where medical health personnel have to make the heart-wrenching decision as to who can use the respirators and who can’t and are left to die because they don’t have sufficient respirators.

I totally support the Star Foundation’s initiative but, surely, it can get funds from sources other than the public? In the current crisis, the people are overwhelmed. Even those who can afford to take care of themselves and their families are stretching the ringgit because they have now more dependents to take care of — more are staying home, more family members and extended family members are out of jobs, house helps and their families are without jobs and they, too, are being helped.

Savings and educational funds are being tapped into. Yet, because we are aware of the gravity of the situation many people will still contribute whatever they can. They know that they may be victims and need such medical equipment and give now, thinking they are eventually helping themselves. All the more reason why rich organisations should not exploit their vulnerability and depend on them for funds.

The fact that rich organisations ask for funds from the public in trying times simply reflects a disconnect with the people on the ground. It shows that they have lost touch with the reality on the ground. That is crass insensitivity.

Not that the public should not be asked to give. Sure, inform them that such a fund exists and is seeking contributions but don’t depend on the people to provide the bulk of the funds. Often, in trying times as everyone wants to help, a number of funds will spring up.

Recently, the Cabinet launched a Covid-19 Fund where the ministers contributed a portion of their salaries. That’s a good gesture but they are asking the public to contribute too. And some will.

Now, there’s the Star Frontliners Initiative. People are expected to give to different funds. How much do they have to give? Isn’t this a time when the government and wealthy organizations give to the public?

The homeless, the poor, the students confined in hostels and the elderly living alone need help and food because their movement and sources of food and essentials have been restricted by the Movement Control Order. Set up initiatives so that vulnerable groups such as these get the essentials they need.

Instead of seeking funds from the public, the government and organisations such as the Star Foundation should jointly form one fund with the sole aim of controlling the covid-19 pandemic. They can get the help of big companies and high net worth individuals to contribute a percentage of their net profits to the fund. With the money they can negotiate with suppliers so that enough covid-19 test kits are distributed to the hospitals and respirators can be delivered at short notice in the event of a shortage.

Right now a number of ad hoc initiatives are being introduced but these will not have the dramatic effect a combined and concerted effort will have on the population.

By these efforts, if we reach a stage of zero new cases and there’s still money or bought equipment in reserve, that can be donated to countries which are struggling with the pandemic. It will elicit a grateful response which may open up new markets for our products in the future.

What we need now is a joint concerted effort to battle the covid-19 pandemic not uncoordinated efforts relying on public largesse. Right now the public needs the government and rich organisations to help it not the other way around!


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