Dr M: Govt may recalibrate poverty measurement if UN rep is right

  • Nation
  • Friday, 23 Aug 2019

PETALING JAYA: The government may reconsider recalibrating methods used to measure the country's poverty rates after a United Nation's representative said it may be higher than the official numbers.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government would study the findings of UN human rights expert Philip Alston, who dismissed Malaysia’s claim to having the world’s lowest national poverty rate.

"I will study what they said to find out if it is true or not.

"If it is necessary (to recalibrate the methods), we will," he said after attending a fundraising dinner in conjunction with Yayasan Perintis Malaysia's (MyPerintis) fourth anniversary on Friday (Aug 23).

Alston had earlier in the day claimed that Malaysia's poverty rate was much higher than what was officially reported.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said Malaysia used an unduly low poverty line that did not reflect the cost of living and excluded vulnerable populations from its official figures.

“While Malaysia has achieved undeniably impressive growth in reducing poverty in the last 50 years, the official claim that poverty has been eradicated, or exists merely in small pockets in rural areas, is incorrect and has crippled policymaking, ” he said at the end of his recent 11-day visit here.

According to Alston, Malaysia’s official poverty rate dropped from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016.

He said a range of rigorous independent analyses suggested a more realistic poverty rate of 16 to 20%.

He urged the government to urgently reconsider its approach if the country was to make any real progress on this matter

He added that under-counting also led to under-investment in poverty reduction and an inadequate social safety net.

Economics Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, in response, said he was disappointed with Alston's findings and defended Malaysia's calculations.

"We stand by our absolute poverty rate which stands at 0.4% of total households in 2016 or 24,700 households.

"The poverty rate is derived from internationally accepted standards based on the Canberra Group Handbook on Household Income Statistics, Second Edition (2011), which is published by the United Nations," he said.

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