From Dr Ahmad Ibrahim
Kudos to the prime minister for making poverty reduction the centrepiece of his Madani principles.
In the past, reducing poverty was always proclaimed but often lacked the diligence needed to execute it.
It has always been the practice to report poverty in percentage terms, but seldom in absolute case numbers. The percentage may have declined but the actual number has been rising throughout the world.
Poverty is no longer a rural problem. More and more, poverty has escalated in cities. Research has provided convincing data on the chronic rise in urban poverty.
However, the response has not matched the seriousness of the issue. Clearly, the poverty issue warrants more effort from those in power.
Here at home, we always shout with pride about the number of billionaires we have. What good is that if many among the nation’s poor still endure days without access to proper food? Not to mention less than habitable shelter?
We talk a lot about inclusivity in all our development plans. Are we truly practising this? If so, why is there still so much poverty around us? Some NGOs are doing their level best to help. Clearly, it is not sufficient.
When the prime minister announced that the government would address the nation’s poverty, the news was welcomed by all.
It has been written that Malaysia Madani, or Civil Malaysia, as conceptualised by the new administration, is about reforming Malaysia into a country that believes in humanity and good values, such as fair, just and effective governance.
The word Madani is an acronym made up of six core values, namely sustainability, prosperity, innovation, respect, trust and compassion.
The prime minister said, with the new concept in mind, that the government would focus strategically on eradicating poverty as well as restructuring the economy and bringing it towards recovery.
There are some who equate Madani with the earlier rhetoric of 1Malaysia, Keluarga Malaysia and more.
Only time will tell whether Madani is not just another proclamation. If pursued religiously, sticking to the many declared principles, Madani may well be the turning point for the country to become truly inclusive, harmonious, prosperous, progressive and sustainable.
As a country blessed with abundant natural resources, many see no reason why Malaysia cannot achieve the pinnacles of development. There are many countries with less than half the resources we have which have been able to progress better than us.
Sustainability is undoubtedly a path we should strive for. What is troubling is that there are those who are trying to exploit sustainability for profit and personal gain.
The sustainability certification scheme is one which can be turned into a viable business.
What saddens most people is that there is no consideration at all as to how the scheme will impact the livelihood of people along the supply chain.
Take the natural rubber supply chain for example.
Proponents of the sustainability certification scheme bring out all kinds of negative narratives against rubber growing – not much different from what was said against a sister crop, the oil palm.
The most common is blaming the crop for deforestation. Also that as a mono crop, it is not constructive for biodiversity.
As they press for certification, there is no mention about how to resolve the poverty of the rubber farmers.
How can there be sustainability when a key player in the entire supply chain does not get a fair share? It is time for these sustainability profiteers to be reminded that eradicating poverty is the number one goal of the UN sustainable development goals!
Prosperity of the people is an important pillar of sustainability. It is morally wrong to focus sustainability solely on the environmental pillar.
We should not forget that people are a major element of nature. There is therefore no sustainability with unresolved poverty.
Dr Ahmad Ibrahim is a professor at UCSI University’s Tan Sri Omar Centre for STI Policy.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.