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Friday, August 30, 2019

Major policy shift needed to address poverty, says Anwar

Anwar Ibrahim says the issue of poverty should be seen as urgent as the government prepares for the 12th Malaysia Plan.
KUALA LUMPUR: PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has called for better policy reforms to address poverty, as the government approaches the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP).
He urged Pakatan Harapan to have better reforms in economic and poverty policies, instead of making “small changes” from existing policies carried forward from previous Malaysia plans.
The 12MP covers the period from 2021 to 2025.
This follows a report by United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who called into question Putrajaya’s claim of eradicating poverty, saying the government uses a low poverty line that fails to reflect the actual conditions of the country.
Alston said the official poverty line does not portray the cost of living in the country and excludes vulnerable populations in its official figures.
Although Anwar said the government may not necessarily accept all of Alston’s claims, he appeared to defend the UN expert, saying he is no ordinary academic and has wide expertise in poverty issues.
Speaking at a press conference after chairing a meeting of the parliamentary caucus on reform and governance, which discussed the nation’s poverty line, he said it was based on figures in the 1970s, from the 2nd Malaysia Plan period, and remained unchanged despite the higher growth and income rates today.
Anwar said that before Alston, similar issues had been brought up by local professors, including Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Mohd Nazari Ismail from Universiti Malaya.
“Before this, we were already informed of a few studies by Khazanah called ‘the absolute vs relative poverty conundrum’.
“A visiting professor to Universiti Malaya who once worked at the World Bank, Martin Ravallion, had also questioned the poverty line and the poverty rate of 0.43%,” he said.
Ravallion had suggested that based on the country’s robust economic growth, the actual poverty line should be three times higher than it is.
He had also said researchers could only measure the true state of poverty in Malaysia by using the “raw micro-data” of household surveys conducted by the Department of Statistics, which were presently not available to the public.
Anwar said the issue of poverty should be seen as urgent now that the government was studying policies for the 12MP.
He said the 15% poverty rate as claimed by Alston may even be higher, as predicted by members of the caucus today.
“The two professors present today had predicted it to be at 20%,” he said.Anwar also said the caucus also proposed a special seminar to be held in Parliament in October to discuss the issue.

All MPs, senators, assemblymen, NGOs,academics and grassroots individuals woulod be invited to the seminar. - FMT

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