03
May
15

Poverty: Losing touch with realities on the ground

QUICK TAKE: Come, I slow clap for you. Yes you. Man in the driver’s seat of the Performance and Management Delivery Unit, better known by its Malay acronym, Pemandu!

Puns aside, Malaysiakini on April 28 quoted Pemandu CEO Idris Jala as having said that the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP)’s latest report shows only one percent of Malaysians are poor.

This he said is an improvement from 2009 when 3.8% of Malaysians lived below the poverty line.

“Over the years, we have seen tremendous success in poverty eradication. This also represents a far cry from the first records of poverty in Malaysia collected in 1970, when 49.3 percent, or almost half, of the population was living in poverty.

“A 2013 survey carried out by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) found that Malaysia recorded a 55.3 percent reduction in the percentage of population living below the poverty line, the biggest reduction among Asean countries,” he said.

Wow. I am much impressed. Very amazed. But wait a minute.

I am sure that Idris is aware of the fact that Malaysia’s poverty line income – fixed at RM763 in Peninsular Malaysia, RM912 in Sarawak and RM1,048 in Sabah – is well below the standards recommended by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and recorded in the Malaysia Human Development Report 2013.

Concerns that Putrajaya’s insistence on measuring absolute poverty line does not reflect the real situation is also not new.

The United Nations defines poverty as income below 50% of the national mean monthly income and economists have for many years recommended that Putrajaya should instead adopt this method of measuring relative poverty.

In fact, on April 28, the point was once again raised during a forum organised to launch a new civil society coalition – Gabungan Merdeka Rakyat – by student activist Muhammad Amar Atan from Universiti Malaya.

Among others, Muhammad Amar stressed that emphasis should be given towards ensuring that no workers are living below the relative poverty line as they would be paid a fair and just minimum wage.

According to the UNDP’s 2013 report for Malaysia, the relative poverty line in 2012 was RM1,813, or half of the household median income of RM3,626.

The Malaysian Insider, in a report on Dec 1 last year, quoted findings from UNDP’s study which states that in 2007, 17.4% of Malaysians were in relative poverty.

This figure then increased to 19.3% in 2009 and 20% in 2012.

…more
01 May 2015 – Ant Daily
Poverty: Losing touch with realities on the ground

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