KUALA LUMPUR: The government is ready to review the definition of the National Poverty Line (NPL), says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"The government is ready to review the NPL to provide a true picture of poverty in Malaysia.
"What is more important are the efforts to eradicate poverty in an ongoing and effective manner," he said when answering a question by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PKR-Port Dickson) in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday (Oct 7).
The review of the NPL comes in the wake of the recent report by UN Special Rapporteur Prof Philip Alston, who said that Malaysia used an unduly low poverty line that did not reflect the cost of living and excluded vulnerable populations from its official figures.
According to Alston, while Malaysia's official poverty rate dropped from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016, independent analyses suggested a more realistic poverty rate of 16 to 20%.
"The government takes note of the report, but it must be clarified that the official poverty rate for Malaysia is calculated based on observations of the Household Income Survey (HIS)," Dr Mahathir said.
Although the HIS is relevant and could be relied on to evaluate poverty at the macro level, he noted that caution was needed when using this method to evaluate poverty at the micro level for the state and district levels.
He said this was because the method did not take into account factors such as consumption patterns and household demographics.
"The government is aware of these realities and started a review of the NPL in March. The implementation of this study is being done by the Statistics Department, the Health Ministry and related departments and agencies," he added.
Dr Mahathir also said that the government had introduced the use of the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) during the midterm review of the 11th Malaysian Plan last October.
He added that the MPI was a more inclusive approach that took into account factors such as health, education, income, and standard of living.
Besides the review of the NPL, Dr Mahathir said he had directed the Economic Affairs Ministry to study the recent UN report.
On the poverty level, Dr Mahathir said it would be different from that which was calculated solely on the HIS in previous years.
To a supplementary question by Ahmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil (PKR-Lembah Pantai), Dr Mahathir said Budget 2020, which will be tabled in Parliament this Friday (Oct 11), would distribute allocation to areas and states where poverty was a serious matter.