JULY 15, 2002 MON

Chinese clan offers reward for having more babies

With the Chinese population set to drop to 18% by 2020 if nothing is done, a clan group is giving cash incentives to arrest the slide

PETALING JAYA - Much like its incentive grant for members' children who excel in their studies, a Chinese clan group plans to launch a special fund to reward parents for having babies.
The Chinese population has shrunk from 37 per cent after independence in 1957 to a low of 26 per cent now. It is expected to drop even further to 18 per cent by 2020.
The Federation of Kwong Siew Associations of Malaysia has also adopted a slogan for its drive: 'One Child is Too Little, Two Carries No Weight, Three is Still Odd, Four Deserves Incentive Bonus, Five is Slightly Better, Six is Just Ideal.'
While it will initially benefit only the members, it may be extended to non-members later.
To qualify for the incentive, parents must have at least four children; and cash incentives of RM2,000 (S$925) will be given for the fourth, fifth and sixth child.
After two years of planning, the federation's 3+1 Baby Trust Fund, set up to tackle the decline in Chinese population, will be launched on Aug 25.
Its president Michael Ho Sai Chong said the federation wants to encourage members to increase the Chinese population and promises to give cash incentives from the fourth to sixth child.
'We want to help realise the government's goal of a 70-million population by 2100. We are concerned over the declining number of Chinese in the country, which has dropped from 37 per cent of the population in 1957 to 26 per cent today,' he said.
That figure is likely to drop to 18 per cent by 2020 if nothing is done, he added.
Mr Ho said 15 babies are expected to benefit from the fund before the year's end.
'After almost two years of planning and overcoming hurdles from within and outside and having gauged the response and support from our members nationwide, we will finally launch the fund.
'The concept is similar to the yearly encouragement grants given by all clan associations in Malaysia to their member's children for having excelled in their studies,' said Mr Ho, adding that the federation planned to expand the scheme to non-members in the future.
A seven-member board of trustees has been set up for the purpose, he said.
The Selangor and Federal Territory Soon Tuck Association would start the ball rolling by handing over RM32,088 during the launch and signing ceremony.
The fund aims to raise more than RM50 million, an amount based on a calculation of RM10 collected from each of the country's 5.6 million Chinese.
'Most of our members are agreeable to this idea. The RM10 will be like putting their hongbao to a good cause. We can collect RM1 million from our members alone through this method,' he said.
The federation's adviser, Kampung Tunku state assemblyman Wong Sai Hou, said it hopes to change the attitude of the Chinese towards having children.
He said Chinese couples should have no excuse for not having more children as the economy has improved, entry into public universities has become more open to the Chinese and health care has improved.
Comparing it with Singapore's baby incentive, which has had limited success, Dr Wong said Malaysians' attitude was different.
'The Chinese here place importance on their roots and on preserving their generation. I hope they will change their attitude and not be kiasu about having children.
'There is a need to give recognition to those who want to reproduce,' he said.
Mr Ho said the trustee had formulated various plans to raise funds after the signing ceremony.
Also in the pipeline are the establishment of nurseries and childcare centres and a fertility scheme to encourage members to bear more children. --The Star/Asia News Network