Is Pakatan Harapan ready to accept that we have not eradicated poverty?

by A. Sivarajan

The UN Special Rapporteur on poverty rubbishes official figures that poverty is only 0.4% and says it should be close to 15%.

Is Pakatan Harapan ready to bite the bullet and accept that official statistics all this while have systematically excluded the millions living in poverty, unable to make their ends meet? Claiming to have eradicated poverty is a farce. This falsely claimed accomplishment has directly resulted in underinvestment in poverty reduction policies. This proves that a large section of our society have been neglected without an adequate safety net, while the country prides itself on being a middle income nation heading towards a high income category.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Prof Philip Alston today in a press conference criticized the government for holding on to an outdated poverty income line figure of RM980 per household, when the cost of living today have increased at least fivefold since the 1970’s .

Even though government agencies and research institutions have highlighted the matter previously, but PH has failed to boldly bite the bullet and accept the facts. According Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) , with the internationally accepted norm that relative poverty measured as 60% of the median income, KRI reported that relative poverty in Malaysia should be 22.2% of households.

PSM views this systemic exclusion seriously as recently highlighted by Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, Chairperson of PSM where individuals who had previously received the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia, are no more entitled to the new Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) scheme introduced by the Pakatan Harapan government. It seems that the Ministry of Finance under Lim Guan Eng has tightened the belt on cash transfers, where even a single-parent from the B40 household income group, who is below 60 years old and does not have children below 18 years has been kicked out of the BSH scheme. Another category of individuals from the B40 group denied BSH were because they had business registration or SSM. This is nonsense! as these households survive by opening small roadside stalls selling food and vegetables and they barely get RM1,500 monthly!

The unrealistic RM980 income poverty line directly affects wages of our working Malaysians, as the figure is a key component in the minimum wage calculation formula. If the more realistic relative poverty line income is used, the average minimum wage would be close to RM1,800 as demanded by PSM and MTUC and not the meagre figure of RM1,100.

UN Rapporteur’s findings today concur with the demands of civil society all this while to review the poverty line income and seriously address social protection programs to assist the poor. How can PH address poverty if it refuses to identify the poor accurately?

Secretary General, PSM

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