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Govt told to move away from hardcore poverty as ultimate measure
Published on: Thursday, June 06, 2024
By: FMT, Mikha Chan
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Govt told to move away from hardcore poverty as ultimate measure
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has frequently given deadlines for the eradication of hardcore poverty in various states.
PETALING JAYA: An economist has called on the government to move away from its definition of hardcore poverty following recent claims and goals set by state leaders on its “eradication”.

Benedict Weerasena, research director of Bait Al-Amanah and a research associate at the Center for Market Education, said celebrations of hardcore poverty eradication may be misplaced, as the metrics used create a “false narrative”.

He said, as was the case in the past, the current measurements of poverty line income (PLI) and food PLI – which the metric of hardcore poverty is based on – was unrealistically low, and does not fully account for the cost of living.

“The poverty line used (between 1970 and 2016) was unrealistically low, excluded many vulnerable populations from official statistics, and underestimated poverty rates, obscuring the urgent need for intensified efforts,” he told FMT.

Weerasena’s comments came after Pahang menteri besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail said on May 29 that the state had eradicated hardcore poverty.

In recent months, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has also frequently given short deadlines to the government for the eradication of hardcore poverty in various states.

Hardcore poverty is defined as households with a monthly income of less than the food PLI, which is based on the price of a standard food basket that would meet the nutritional requirements of a single household.

The official poverty metric, revised in 2022, which set the PLI at RM2,589 and the food PLI at RM1,198 (up from RM2,208 and RM1,169 previously) are still in use.

The pre-2022 figures had allowed the government to claim a national poverty rate of just 0.4% in 2016.

However, Weerasena said Malaysia would do better to shift its perspective away from the “illusion” of zero hardcore or absolute poverty, which was solely based on income, and towards the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) instead.

He said the MPI highlighted non-monetary aspects such as inadequate education, poor living conditions and insufficient access to healthcare, while reminding policymakers to think of multidimensional solutions.

“This includes enhancing the coverage of social protection schemes, expanding opportunities for quality education, ensuring access to affordable housing and addressing institutional barriers.

“It’s not just about providing the hardcore poor with the resources they do not have, but promoting reforms that can place them in improved conditions to earn the resources they believe they need,” he said.

Teo Sue Ann, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia for Sustainable Development Goals (APPGM-SDG), echoed Weerasena’s views, saying Anwar was bold to claim in February that extreme poverty had been eradicated in Kuala Lumpur, especially if it was derived from statistical data.

Teo pointed out that the city’s diverse population also comprised people from undocumented and stateless communities, many of whom APPGM-SDG encountered in Kepong last year.

They were found to be barely surviving on a day-to-day basis, she said.

Teo also told FMT that undocumented or stateless individuals were often not accounted for in the national statistics.

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