KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim has urged government officials to wake up to the reality of poverty in Malaysia as shown in recent remarks by a senior United Nations official, adding that those who were shocked by the official’s remarks had a “clear disconnect” with what is happening on the ground.
Anwar said any village in Port Dickson (where he is MP) would register much higher levels of poverty than shown in official figures.
The government’s assertion of almost having eliminated poverty were disputed recently by Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. He called for a recognition of urban poverty and a revision of the poverty level of a RM980 monthly income for a family of four, to include people with household incomes of up to RM2,500.
Alston’s suggestions were quickly rejected by Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, who then came in for criticism.
Anwar said: “So what Alston has done, not withstanding some misgivings, is not shocking to me, it’s shocking to those who have a clear disconnect. I strongly urge the government, particularly the Economic Planning Unit and the Economic Affairs Ministry to recognise this.”
Anwar, who is PKR president and a former finance minister, was speaking to the KL-Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry at its 90th anniversary dinner tonight.
He said one of the “greatest disasters and failures” of policy-making was when problems were wrongly diagnosed.
Among the reasons for the people’s rejection of the previous Barisan Nasional administration was the failure or fundamental flaws in BN policies, such as the New Economic Policy which he said failed to truly address poverty among the Malays after 40 years.
“In real terms abject poverty remains,” he said adding this existed within various communities and more so in the rural heartland. “We need to move on to a new economic agenda based on need and the need for the country to grow.”
The government had to do everything it could to propel the economy and attract investment, among other measures.
The poor, regardless of race, must be assisted by the government and private sector, and associations and chambers of commerce must undertake programmes which transcend race.