RM5,900 average household income? Lies, damned lies, and statistics, says MP

On Sunday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar (right) was quoted by national news wire Bernama as saying that the average household income in the country has risen to over RM5,900 a month. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
On Sunday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar (right) was quoted by national news wire Bernama as saying that the average household income in the country has risen to over RM5,900 a month. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 ― The federal minister's claim that Malaysian households make an average of RM5,900 monthly is a farce that does not represent the actual earning capacity of most Malaysians, an opposition lawmaker said today.

DAP's Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim said the figure is a result of creative use of statistics in the 2014 Household income Survey (HIS) preliminary report to paint a “dishonest” picture of increased prosperity among the people.

“By patting its own back on the so-called achievement, the government created a false sense of its own success, thus risked ignoring the real situation and the work that still needed to be done,” he said in a statement.

On Sunday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar was quoted by national news wire Bernama as saying that the average household income in the country has risen to over RM5,900 a month, a significant increase from the RM5,000 monthly average recorded in the 2012 HIS.

Sim stressed that the figure does not make sense when the government itself admitted that 80 per cent of Malaysian households had benefitted from the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) cash aid programme, whose recipients must earn less than RM3,000 a month.

He added that government statistics also showed that 82.5 per cent of Malaysians below the age of 30 earn less than RM3,000 a month as at September last year.

The first-term parliamentarian noted that Abdul Wahid's figure was derived from averaging the total income of all households in the country, regardless of earning capacity ― a method that invariably puts out skewed findings due to the income inequality.

Sim stressed that the median household income in Malaysia ― which stood at RM3,626 in the 2012 HIS ― gives a clearer idea of how much Malaysian households actually earn as it differentiates between low and high income earners.

He warned that the government's habit of glossing over figures could distract from its responsibility in dealing with the cascading issues of employment conditions, youth and graduate underemployment, unfair industrial practices, gender discrimination, over-dependence on low-skilled migrant labour and brain drain.

“According to Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni, Malaysia’s Gini Coefficient Index, which measures inequality (0 means perfect equality, 1 means perfect inequality), was 0.431 in 2012, one of the highest in the region, compared to countries such as Thailand 0.4 and Indonesia 0.37.

“Thus, the problem about telling lies is not that others will be convinced but rather the one telling the lies believed his own lies,” he said.

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