Siti Kasim urges govt not to dismiss UN report on nation's poverty rate

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 24 Aug 2019

PETALING JAYA: Activist lawyer Siti Kasim has called on the government not to simply dismiss suggestions made by a United Nations representative to reassess the existing poverty line income (PLI) in the country.

"The reality on the ground is you cannot survive in Kuala Lumpur with a PLI of RM980," said the lawyer.

UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston had on Friday (Aug 23) called on the government to re-assess how it measured poverty so that the hardship faced by many Malaysians was not dismissed "by statistical sleight of hand".

Alston said that rigorous independent analyses had suggested Malaysia's rate of poverty was between 16 to 20%, which was far off from the official figure of 0.4%.

Alston claimed that Malaysia had used an "unduly low poverty line" that did not reflect the cost of living to stake its claim as having the world's lowest national poverty rate.

Alston said Malaysia should stop arbitrarily withholding information that was crucial to understanding poverty and inequality, such as household survey microdata.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali had responded by saying Malaysia would stand by its official figure of 0.4%, as the rate was derived from internationally-accepted standards based on the second edition (2011) of the Canberra Group Handbook on household income statistics published by the United Nations.

Azmin said certain comments made by Alston were baseless and uncalled for.

Siti said the United Nations report was meant to assist the government, and therefore it should be taken in the right spirit towards betterment.

"The United Nations has released its report on this by researching extensively on the topic.

"It is the Government's turn to take heed instead of being defensive. Pay attention to vulnerable areas and issues as highlighted," she said.

Siti said the lack of microdata, as suggested by Alston, made it difficult to sustain some of the government assertions.

"Malaysia always over promise and under deliver.

"Because it is in the Malaysian culture to sweep problems under the rug.

"So over the years nothing changed for the better; in fact it gets worse. We don't confront our problems and solve them. We let them simmer and they rot," she said.

Siti said education was the way out of poverty.

"But our education system is a failure. It is steeped in religion and low in science. It is mired in quota and miserly in meritocracy.

"Therefore instead of pulling people out of poverty it makes them unemployable.

"And when coupled with corruption from the lowest to the very highest level of our society, what we have today is a rent-seeking economy instead of a value added one," claimed the outspoken lawyer.

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