Review of poverty line already started: Dr Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 7): Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pictured) said the government started reviewing the poverty line from March to give a truer picture of the poverty situation in the country.

He told the Dewan Rakyat sitting today that it is being done with the cooperation of the Statistics Department, Health Ministry and the relevant departments and agencies.

Dr Mahathir explained that the poverty rate in Malaysia in the past was based on data obtained from the Household Income Survey (HIS) which followed international standards maintained by the  United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD).

Dr Mahathir was replying to a question from Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PH-Port Dickson) regarding a special report by the United Nations on the poverty rate in Malaysia, which claimed that the situation was worse than reported.

Elaborating further, the Prime Minister said statistics from the HIS were still relevant and reliable for macro level evaluation but at the micro level, like for states, the data had to be used carefully.

"(This is) because it does not reflect consumer patterns, needs and demography of households accurately due to errors in sampling that cannot be avoided,” he said.

In view of these facts, he said, the government took the step to review the poverty line (Malay acronym PGK).

Dr Mahathir added that in the Mid-Term Review of the 11th Malaysia plan, the government introduced the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) to complement the PGK, that is to measure and monitor poverty in various dimensions like health, education, income and living standards.

Dr Mahathir stressed that poverty eradication efforts will be continuous and effective, including updating eKasih, the national database on poverty.  

He said the government's main strategy in eradicating poverty is through efforts to raise incomes and purchasing power of the people, especially of poor and low income households.

“Among the assistance extended to these target groups are Bantuan Sara Hidup (Household Living Aid), facilitating home ownership and access to quality education and health facilities,” he said.

These efforts, he said, would ensure that each household would be given due attention in line with the inclusive development thrust of the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 to reduce income disparity.

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said he had instructed the Economic Affairs Ministry to evaluate the  ‘End of Missions Statement’ by the UN Special Rapporteur on the poverty situation in the country. 

Replying to a supplementary question from Anwar on the same issue, Dr Mahathir said the truth was that Malaysia had almost eradicated poverty if based on the old PGK, but now the situation had changed.

"If we take the old poverty line, certainly there has been a drastic reduction in hardcore poverty. Now, we find that not only income determines whether one is poor (or not) but also all services, facilities and assistance provided to them (the poor),” he said.

To measure level of poverty, he said, the government proposed that it be done taking into consideration the capacity of the people to secure three basic things - food, clothing and shelter.

"This is what determines whether an individual or group is poor or not. So this will be entered in the calculations of the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index," the Prime Minister explained.

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