PN backtracks on poverty line revision

PERIKATAN Nasional is allegedly backtracking on the previous Pakatan Harapan administration’s commitment to revise the national poverty line.

Former UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said this is based on PN’s response to the final report of findings from his trip to Malaysia last August.

“Malaysia’s new government has performed a backflip on its predecessors’ commitment to take poverty seriously,” he said, according to a Malaysiakini report.

The report from Alston’s official visit to Malaysia last year was released today.

He claimed that Harapan under then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had committed to revising the national poverty rate while PN today insisted “it stands by the absolute poverty rate”.

Alston was in Malaysia from last August 11 to Aug 23 and Mahathir had, in an initial response at the time, said the government will study claims that the actual poverty rate is closer to 15 percent.

Alston said that PN’s response to his final report, which maintained that it stands by the absolute poverty rate, has raised doubts over implementation of much-needed changes

“The government’s reversal is deeply concerning because the current line is inadequate and almost universally considered to be misleadingly low.

“The insistence that the line is ‘derived from internationally accepted standards’ is a smokescreen and ignores the blatant mismatch between reality and statistics,” he said.

“Pretending that almost no-one in the entire country lives in poverty doesn’t change the reality that millions are poor.

“Saving face is one thing, but distorting the facts is quite another,” he claimed.

In its response as included in the report, the government said the Poverty Line Income (PLI) of RM980 is calculated based on basic requirements for a household to live healthily and actively, which is more than the PLI targeted in the Sustainable Development Goal 1 at US$1.25 per day (RM5.25).

The PLI is also higher for Sabah at RM1,180 and Sarawak RM1,020 to take into account additional costs, such as transportation.