Raise poverty line further, MP tells govt

Klang MP Charles Santiago says Malaysia should look at setting a higher new poverty line income since it is aiming to become a high-income country.

KUALA LUMPUR: The country’s new poverty line income (PLI) of RM2,208 is still an underestimation, an opposition MP said.

Klang MP Charles Santiago said at a press conference at the Parliament building today that the new PLI allocated only 52% of the RM2,208 for non-food expenditure.

Citing the Employees Provident Fund’s “Belanjawanku Expenditure Guide”, he said the guide stated that non-food expenditure should be around 77% of spending.

“It’s baffling to note that the policymakers believe a family of four can survive in an urban area paying RM1,170 for rent, clothing, transport, healthcare, education and essential payments.

“Such inaccurate weightage of the non-food component will result in a skewed PLI measurement, leading to an underestimation of the number of people living in poverty,” he said, adding that the government should raise the poverty benchmark further as Malaysia was aiming to become a high-income country.

Klang MP Charles Santiago

He said a higher benchmark would help address poverty comprehensively.

Citing a Unicef report released last year, Santiago said 20.7% of Malaysian children under five years old suffered from stunted growth while 11.5% suffered from wasting and 12.7% from obesity.

“Was this because they didn’t eat enough of the right food?” he asked.

He said there could be a connection between poverty and stunted growth among children.

The Department of Statistics Malaysia announced last month that the government had revised the national PLI from RM980 to RM2,208 a month.

It came after the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, last year said Malaysia’s official poverty line did not reflect the cost of living in the country and excluded vulnerable populations.

This prompted the Pakatan Harapan government to propose a review of the nation’s poverty rate.