Only 1pc of Malaysians considered poor, minister insists

File picture shows Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Chief Executive Officer Pemandu, at the Invest Malaysia forum 2014 Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
File picture shows Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Chief Executive Officer Pemandu, at the Invest Malaysia forum 2014 Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — A minister defended today Pemandu’s assertion that the number of poor Malaysians dipped to 1 per cent of the population or just 300,000 people in 2014, saying the country’s definition of poverty is based on international standards.

Pemandu CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala said Malaysia’s definition of poverty is aligned with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the country’s income measurement follows the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) standards.

“It is the challenge for many governments to reconcile the disconnect people feel between statistics and sentiment,” Idris said in an article titled “The measure of poverty” on his website.

“I would first want to clarify on statistics – how poverty rates are calculated in Malaysia. Second, I want to assure all Malaysians that the government is attuned to concerns and have been acting to eradicate poverty and uplift the quality of life under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP),” he added.

The minister was responding to criticisms levelled against the recently-released Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) Report 2014 which said that

Idris said Malaysia has two categories of “poor” people – extreme poverty and poor.

Households that fall under extreme poverty, he explained, earn monthly incomes of less than RM460 in Peninsular Malaysia, less than RM630 in Sabah and less than RM590 in Sarawak. This category of Malaysians are categorised as those who do not earn enough to get food, clothing and shelter.

The “poor”, on the other hand, are defined as households that earn less than RM760 monthly in Peninsular Malaysia, less than RM1,050 in Sabah and less than RM910 in Sarawak. They are considered as those not able to afford healthcare and education.

Government agency Pemandu said in its Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) 2014 annual report released last month that poverty rates in Malaysia fell to 1 per cent last year, or 300,000 people.

Defending the finding, Jala pointed out that the latest World Bank overview of Malaysia said the country has “succeeded in nearly eradicating poverty”.

“The share of households living below the national poverty line (US$8.50 per day in 2012) fell from over 50 per cent in the 1960s to less than one per cent currently,” said Idris, who added that Statistics Department figures back the rate of 1 per cent poor.

The minister also said Putrajaya aims to lift the household incomes of the bottom 40 per cent from the mean monthly income of RM1,440 in 2009 to RM2,300 this year.

“According to data from the Ministry of Finance, this target was met, ahead of schedule, in 2014 (RM2,312),” he said.

“We have their names – all 168,483 of them – through the e-Kasih database which is frequently updated to further identify and focus on this target group.

“They can enrol in 1AZAM programmes to equip themselves with the tools to help them break free from the clutches of poverty,” he added.

Idris also said moving forward, the government plan to improve education, provide empowerment programmes, give BR1M cash aid to the poor and promote economic development.

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