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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government's maiden budget for 2021 would see increased allocation for welfare assistance and poverty eradication efforts.
The Rembau MP said that though the current government was faced with a politically tough decision in revising the poverty margin, he said that the move was crucial to tackle the issue.
Speaking to the press after visiting and distributing meals to the homeless and urban poor in Chow Kit, he lamented the fact that the RM900 poverty margin previously recorded was left unchecked for such a long time.
"By revising the poverty line, of course the incidents of poverty will increase. Politically, this is a very tough decision that we had to make, because poverty will rise and it will be under our watch. But we decided to do that because we have to embrace reality. The existing poverty line has not been revised for more than a decade,” he said.
"So once the new poverty line is implemented, all our systems, programmes, will have to be readjusted, which means we have to spend much, much more on welfare, we have to spend much, much more on income support. So we understand the implication of changing the poverty line will have massive fiscal consequences and we are willing to do that because we cannot have a situation where the poverty line is RM900 per household. That's simply not realistic.
"Yes, of course. Budget 2021 will be the first budget with the new poverty line. So with the new poverty line, you will definitely see an increased amount of allocation for welfare assistance and poverty eradication efforts,” he added when asked if the upcoming national budget would contain a poverty uplifting agenda.
Khairy added that the government is also currently preparing a multi-dimensional index on poverty, which includes details on access to education and healthcare, basic necessities and utilities.
He added that the report would also be useful in tackling the issue of stunted growth among children affected by poverty, which was previously reported.
"That also means that we have to look at the typical food baskets that we give. Sometimes the food baskets that we are giving have cordial syrups and all that, so we have to work together with private sector partners to make sure that whenever they are giving something, they are giving the right kind of food baskets to the recipients.
In July, the government revealed that Malaysia’s poverty line index (PLI) had increased by a whopping five percentage points to 5.6 per cent or 405,441 households from 0.4 per cent or 24,700 households in 2016 after Putrajaya revised its PLI calculation methodology.
In a press statement today, minister in Prime Minister’s Department in charge of economy Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said that the current national PLI is RM2,208 a month per household, which has increased by more than double from its previous PLI in 2016 which stood at RM980 per household.
The survey is conducted twice every five years by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in the Prime Minister’s Department. The EPU is supported by the Statistics Department, Health Ministry and a few other ministries as well as agencies.
The 2019 survey began from March 2019 until June 2020.
Among some of the changes made in the latest PLI include revisions to the food category.
It streamlined the term “minimum” food required to “optimal minimum” food required, which takes into consideration better quality food items based on the 2020 Food Pyramid and the Malaysian Diet Guide 2020.