PETALING JAYA: A former high-ranking finance ministry official has cast doubt on an academic’s claim that Malaysia’s urban middle class is 40% poorer, calling for him to prove such claims.
Speaking to FMT, Ramon Navaratnam, a former treasury deputy secretary-general said Universiti Sains Malaysia associate professor Shanker Chelliah’s assessment of the urban middle class’ economic position was “alarmist and dramatic”, since it was not backed up by research and statistics.
“If there is substantive justification for his statement, then it should be made public. Otherwise, it sounds irresponsible.
“I urge Shanker to back up his statement with proof, as it could cause a lot of confusion and this is not something we want. Academics should remain as academics and not be politically-motivated.”
Ramon also disagreed with Shanker that the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M), which is a cash aid to Malaysians who fall below a certain income level, did not help the urban poor.
“It is incorrect to say the urban poor do not benefit from extra financial aid. The question is whether BR1M is being spent on essential items.”
Ramon said to ensure BR1M had a maximum impact, vouchers, rather than cash should be given for the purchase of essential items.
He said this would ensure the financial aid was not spent on non-essentials or entertainment, while also benefiting small businesses selling essentials.
Earlier today, Shanker claimed the Malaysian middle class shrank in metropolitan centres across the country and that most of its members would end the year almost 40% poorer than they were in 2015.
He said this was due to the withdrawal of cooking oil and sugar subsidies, the depreciation of the ringgit, the decrease in foreign inflows and the increase in outflows, among other factors, and that this triggered a chain reaction.
Shanker also said BR1M did not help to improve the living standards of the urban poor because the cost of living continued to rise. -FMT