New strategies needed to combat poverty, rebuild economy, says Tok Mat

Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan says special attention must be given to the urban and rural poor.

PETALING JAYA: The revised poverty line of RM2,208 calls for new strategies to curb poverty and to strengthen the country’s economy following the Covid-19 crisis, Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan said.

He welcomed the new poverty line, revised from RM980 previously, as “it shows the reality on the ground”.

Mohamad, also known as Tok Mat, said that based on the new poverty line, poverty had increased to 5.6% in 2019, compared to 0.4% under the 2005 methodology. This showed that about 405,000 households were living in poverty compared to about 17,000 previously.

He said the figure could be higher now because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has left thousands without jobs.

The new poverty line was announced by the Department of Statistics yesterday. Chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the revision was in accordance with current needs that emphasised optimal food intake and quality non-food basic requirements.

In a statement, Mohamad cited a recent World Bank report which stated that the economic fallout from Covid-19 could drive an additional 11 million people into poverty in East Asia and the Pacific unless “urgent action” was taken.

Because of that, he said, Putrajaya would need to come up with new strategies to tackle the poverty issue while looking at measures to rebuild the economy.

He said special attention must be given to the urban and rural poor.

“The urban poor are facing job losses and cost of living issues while the poor in the rural areas are struggling with lower commodity prices, poor market access and productivity issues due to the lack of innovation.”

He said the poverty level in the rural areas was reported at 12.4% last year, which was much higher than the 3.8% recorded in the urban areas.

Mohamad said the drastic increase in poverty levels due to the economic slowdown made it difficult to classify the B40, M40 and T20 groups.

“All these parameters have now overlapped and Malaysia will see an increase in poverty across all races, especially among the Malays and Indians,” he said.

According to a domestic income survey in 2019, he said, poverty among the Bumiputera, Indian and Chinese communities stood at 7.2%, 4.8% and 1.4%, respectively.

Although every segment of society was affected, those who felt the impact the most were the working class and wage earners, except civil servants.

He said proper strategies need to be drawn up to avoid past mistakes that only identified certain races as being poor, adding that the reality remained that Malaysia would not achieve its developed status in 2020.

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