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Malaysia mimics U.S. food stamps

Economic woes spur copy of America's subsidized grocery plan
Malaysia food stamps 2011 08 02Enlarge
A shopkeeper prepares an order for a cutomer at his chicken shop at a food market in downtown Kuala Lumpur on July 22, 2010. Official data showed the Malaysian consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.7% in June compared to a year ago, led by higher food prices. (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Malaysia's government plans to ease citizens' rising food costs by copying America's decades-old "food stamp" program.

The stamps will "cushion the rising cost of living," Malaysia's deputy prime minister told The Star newspaper.

As anyone from recession-hit regions of the U.S. should know, food "stamps" are extinct. The U.S. government has for years offered electronic swipe cards, which are now used by a surprising one in seven Americans.

It's unclear how Malaysians will use their vouchers, especially in cash-only street markets where the neediest are apt to shop for food.

As the Hindu newspaper explains:

"Food stamps have been used in the U.S. for over 70 years to assist its low-and no-income citizens. Recipients are given an account and a plastic card, known as the Electronic Benefit Transfer card, to purchase food like bread, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and dairy products."

But will they hand out government cheese?