Date: 24 August 2012
SHAH ALAM: An academician has urged the Economic Planning Unit to revise the guidelines defining poverty to better reflect current realities.
Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, principal research fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said a more realistic poverty line was needed to enable the government to formulate effective policies and programmes to address problems associated with poverty.
"Poverty should be redefined and different measurements should be used to capture the realities at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder," he told Bernama in an interview.
Currently, the national poverty line is based on the minimum monthly household income of RM760 in peninsular Malaysia, and RM1,050 and RM910 in Sabah and Sarawak, respectively.
Denison said the Poverty Line Income (PLI) and income measurements should be altered towards a multi-dimensional approach in taking into account factors like human needs and human rights, and quality of life.
He said greater focus should be given to address urban poverty, which was further compounded with many unresolved issues, such as inadequate public facilities at low-cost flats.
"There is an urgent need to address urban poverty and low-income living neighbourhood through neighbourhood based on inter-agency, multi-disciplinary and multi-ethnic delivery teams," he said.
Denison, who is secretary-general of the human rights group Proham, however stressed that Malaysia formulated good macro development plans and ensured growth with distribution as its priority.
Meanwhile, the head of the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship of Binary University, Prof Sulochana Nair, said that though abject poverty had been effectively reduced, the income inequality had significantly risen across different ethnic groups in the country and was therefore widening the inequality gap between the urban and rural communities.
"The rising inequality in the context of inflation and crime is negatively impacting the bottom 40 per cent of the socio-economic ladder who are earning less than RM3,000 a month in urban areas.
"These are the urban poor residing in low-cost high-rise flats in urban centres.
"Therefore, Malaysian policy must now be on equalising opportunities rather than equalising outcomes," said the former head of the Centre for Poverty and Development Studies of University Malaya.
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