PSM: Giving handouts and subsidies won't address poverty, addressing discrimination will


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 01 Sep 2019

PETALING JAYA: The Pakatan Harapan government must revise its methods of addressing poverty across the country, says Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) central committee member Sharan Raj.

Implementing subsidies and welfare benefits is not going to solve the issue, as poverty stems from all forms of discrimination - race, sexual orientation, mobility, as well as access to quality education and healthcare, said Sharan.

In a statement issued Sunday (Sept 1), Sharan also said discrimination creates and sustains poverty within a society.

"Poverty can only be eliminated effectively if discrimination is eliminated," he added.

Sharan pointed out that poverty eradication under the former Barisan Nasional administration was more focused on social mobility for the subsequent generation.

"Poverty existed due to discrimination allowing the upper echelon of society to squeeze out more wealth from the bottom.

"The higher the ability to discriminate, the higher the inequality within a society."

Low wages and unemployment in Malaysia existed due to a system practised by employers to over-work but under-pay migrant labour, said Sharan.

The system, Sharan said, had granted employers the ability to discriminate migrant workers because they have "less rights" than an average Malaysian citizen.

He claimed that the contractual system affecting migrant blue-collar workers had already reached white-collar jobs in Malaysia.

This system, Sharan said, has discriminated regular Malaysians from receiving annual pay raises and fair wages.

"Eventually, rising inflation and stagnation will push more people into poverty."

At the same time, Sharan said while Malaysians are suffering from malnutrition due to exorbitant food prices, farmers are suffering from poverty due to the low prices of their goods.

He claimed that the middlemen in the agriculture sector are keeping farmers and fishermen poor.

"The ability for middlemen to discriminate our farmers and control food prices has led to misery at both ends of the food supply chain," he added.

Meanwhile, Sharan welcomed the Education Ministry's decision to introduce free breakfast in schools, but asked why parents could not afford nutritional benefits for their children.

"Giving tax-breaks to families with disabled relatives is welcomed but why can't the disabled go from point A to point B without depending on someone?" he asked.

"The big question is will Pakatan end discrimination to solve poverty or continue feeding on discrimination like Barisan."

On Aug 22, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston (pic) said that Malaysia's stance that less than 25,000 households (or 0.4%) in the entire country lived in poverty was unrealistic.

He added that our official methodologies undercount poverty.

Alston further alleged that Malaysia's official poverty line of RM980 was also unrealistic, and that our actual poverty rate could be between 16 and 20%.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, however, said Malaysia stands by its official poverty figure of 0.4%, as it 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.

In response to Azmin, the Prime Minister's economic adviser Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid said there was a need for Malaysia to change its method to measure poverty rates, as it was outdated.

The former Khazanah Research Institute director said the poverty line income (PLI) rate used by the Economic Affairs Ministry - a monthly income of RM980 for Peninsular Malaysia, RM1,180 for Sabah and RM1,020 for Sarawak - was very low.

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