Unicef study comparing urban poverty to Africa ridiculous: DBKL

StarMetro article on Feb 27.

KUALA Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has questioned the validity of the recent Unicef report claiming that children in public housing areas and People’s Housing Project (PPR) faced poverty and malnutrition.

Mayor Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz said it was ridiculous to compare the situation to one faced in the African nations.

He said based on DBKL’s survey in such flats, some residents had improved their situation and could afford the better things in life.

“If Unicef concludes that these children do not have enough food, it does not make sense,” he said.

He said the residents had various avenues to turn to for help including Baitulmal and the Welfare Department to provide monthly financial assistance and help with the monthly rent.

“We also have the baiti jannati programme where the hardcore poor are given PPR units.

“We are a very caring government,” he added.

Meanwhile, the National Public Complaints and Welfare Service Centre (PAR) wants to know the method Unicef applied to produce their findings.

Its chairman Datuk A. Chandrakumanan said a lot of things mentioned in the study did not add up and was not reflective of the overall scenario of the way of life at government housing schemes.

“The report is lopsided and the number of surveys conducted did not reflect or represent the number of PPR residents effectively,” he said.

Chandrakumanan elaborated that each PPR had an average of 13,000 residents, of which 40% are children.

“If that was the case, about 88,400 of the 221,000 residents of 17 PPR flats under the study, were children.

“But going by the number of respondents interviewed by Unicef, they only surveyed 2,142 children which amounts to just 2.42%,” he said.

“That was a gross misinterpretation of the data and hence raised concerns on the credibility of the report in general,” he added.

Chandrakumanan noted that the report also did not mention the various welfare aid in the form of free uniforms, shoes, bags and cash aid given to underprivileged children living in PPR by the Federal Territories Ministry’s welfare arm, the Federal Territory Foundation (YWP).

“YWP allocated RM9mil last year to fund educational programmes in schools and that did not include other government aid provided.

Chandrakumanan, who has often been a liaison between DBKL and PPR residents on various welfare and community issues for decades, said that going by the numbers and his experience on the issue, the study was not a true representation of facts.

However, a former academician involved in the State Selangor Poverty Survey, Jeffrey Phang disagrees with Amin Nordin and Chandrakumanan.

He said there was a big difference between the measurement of absolute poverty and relative poverty.

Absolute poverty, he said, indicated how many people were poor, while relative poverty defined the reasons they were poor.

“Relative poverty reflects that poverty is not only single dimensional but multi-dimensional.

“Low education can lead to less employment opportunities, a single household member needing dialysis can pull the whole household into poverty, and the living conditions itself may affect the character of the youth thus making them unemployable,” he said.

Phang said the Unicef study used the more realistic multi-dimensional poverty measurement that was promoted by Oxford University (Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative).

Phang said Malaysia was open to use this new method to measure poverty but had not implemented it nationwide.

“Using the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) if the household fails in any of the dimension of education, health or living standards, then the household is considered to be in relative poverty or is referred to as multi-dimensionally poor,” he pointed out.

Based on this, he said most PPR flats had living standards that failed in the conditions set.

“This is why the researchers can safely say that 99.7% of the people in PPR flats are in relative poverty,” he added.

When asked if the number of respondents were adequate to reflect the actual situation, Phang said it was.

“They took a sample of 966 from 17 sites. Each site consists of 7,000 household which is quite realistic, thereby getting a confidence level of 95% and 3% margin of error. If you increase the sample from 966 to say 3,000, it will not change the confidence level significantly. So the sample size is okay,” he added.

Last Tuesday, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said DBKL and the Government had never been negligent in providing safe and conducive housing services to residents in PPRs.

He added that DBKL prepared various educational platforms at the housing areas, such as childcare centres, pre-school education, 1Malaysia Internet Centre and public libraries.

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