KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has been urged to review the poverty line income (PLI) and the definition of poverty to better reflect the current cost of living and the actual number of those in poverty.
Parliamentary Caucus on Reform and Governance chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pic) called on the government to use a multi-dimensional approach to deal with the complex subject in its reform initiative.
"We also want to ensure the implementation of policies and programmes must be effective to avoiding leakages and abuses of power," he said during the seminar on "Economics, Poverty, and Gaps in Malaysia: Definition and Implementation" in Parliament on Tuesday (Sept 24).
This followed a report made by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Prof Philip Alston on Aug 23.
The report claimed that Malaysia's rate of poverty was between 16 to 20%, which was far off the official figure of 0.4%.
At the seminar, economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram said the government should not use the old system to measure poverty in the country.
He pointed at several challenges that led to poverty, including food security and access to good quality food.
Among others, he proposed the government to come up with a free lunch initiative for all school students.
Meanwhile, Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang proposed for the government to establish a Technical Expert Group to recalculate the PLI using international best practices to derive credible estimates of poverty.
"This is the commonly-accepted approach adopted by most advanced countries when calculating important or sensitive statistical measures.
"It is time for Malaysia to move towards a fully transparent approach by abandoning outdated practices designed to generate 'feel good' numbers," he said.
He noted that the government should direct the Economic Planning Unit and the Statistics Department to release disaggregated data (anonymised to comply with the requirements of the Statistics Act) from the last Household Income-Expenditure Survey to permit researchers to undertake independent analysis.
"The release would represent the commitment to open and transparent sharing of data consistent with the Pakatan Harapan manifesto," he added.
Sungai Petani MP Datuk Johari Abdul said that the government could take short-term measures to address the issue.
This includes improving the current education system and taking an innovative approach to doing things.
"If we keep doing the same things day in and out, similar to what we have done in the last 61 years... the situation will not change," he said.
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