Malaysia’s poverty: Time to recognise policy failures, Anwar tells Azmin

Port Dickson Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim delivers his speech at the 90th Anniversary and Premier Business Award 2019 at Nexus Connexion, Bangsar South, September 7, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Port Dickson Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim delivers his speech at the 90th Anniversary and Premier Business Award 2019 at Nexus Connexion, Bangsar South, September 7, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 — PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim recommended the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) to recognise policy failures as a key factor behind the higher than expected levels of poverty in the country.

In particular, he called upon Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, whose ministry oversees the EPU, to realise that such failures resulting in “great disaster” happens when the diagnosis behind the cause of poverty is wrong.

“Last month we were given a shocking account by Prof Alston from the United Nations, debunking our analysis statistics that poverty is at 0.4 per cent,” Anwar said in his speech during the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (KLSICCI) 90th Anniversary and Premier Business Awards.

The Port Dickson MP said he similarly found it difficult to believe the government’s official poverty figures, as the reality on the ground is far different.

“In any village in Port Dickson, you can go to a Malay kampung, Indian estate, Chinese fishing village, Orang Asli settlement, all of them register much greater figures of poverty.

“So what Alston has done, notwithstanding some misgivings, is not shocking to me. But it would be shocking to those who have clear disconnect,” he said.

Anwar added Malaysia’s policies have either proven to be wrong or have clear fundamental flaws such as with the New Economic Policy, which he said has failed to address poverty even among the Malays after 40 years.

“In real terms abject poverty remains. There has been social mobility but in terms of overall figures, it is certain that a major review is needed.

“We must acknowledge the need for a review of fundamental programmes. Policies based on race have become obsolete, new policies based on needs is the way,” he said.

Anwar encouraged KLSICCI as well as its Malay and Chinese counterparts to undertake programmes which transcend race.

“If we expect the Malays to change their mindset, then everyone must do the same. We cannot see old mindsets where programmes or foundations are only based on race.

“We need to move on to a new economic agenda based on needs and the need of the country to grow. This means the government must do everything possible to propel the economy, attract investments within the Industrial Revolution 4.0,” he said, adding this is necessary to reduce the rich-poor gap.

Anwar earlier referred to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston, who said on August 23 that Malaysia’s official poverty statistics is inaccurate as it does not reflect the living costs and excludes vulnerable populations from its figures.

He added the probable poverty level in the country could be as high as 15 to 20 per cent.

However Azmin objected to Alston’s bleak estimates as baseless, saying on August 24 that the government stands by its 0.4 per cent poverty figure as it is derived from internationally-accepted measurement standards.