New Poverty Line Still Does Not Reflect Urban Reality Says Expert

About 1.1% of the Malaysian population are multi-dimensionally poor according to MPI’s findings last year.PETALING JAYA: An expert has argued that the revised poverty line (PLI) of RM2,208 is still low for people living in cities and urban areas.
Denison Jayasooria, the co-chair of the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance, said even though the government had done well in reviewing the PLI, it still did not capture “lived realities“ of people, especially those living in the Klang Valley or other major cities.
“This (the low PLI) was the major issue raised by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. At that time there was a lot of resistance. I think since then, with the household income survey, it has changed. That’s the positive sign.
“However I would say it is still low for urban poverty measurement. The median household income released by the Statistics Department is actually RM6,561 which will then mean the PLI for urban areas should be RM3,280.”
He was speaking at a forum called “Unpacking Malaysia’s New Poverty Line Income (PLI) and MPI Findings” organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Denison argued that the reality of deprivation could be far higher in urban contexts, and that this might not be captured in official data.
He also said there was a need to look at the indicators used to measure the multi-dimensional poverty index or the MPI.
The MPI is a measure used to supplement the PLI for a broader view of poverty in the country. It measures vulnerability and quality of life in areas aside from income. It was introduced during the 11th Malaysia Plan for 2016 to 2020.
Malaysia’s MPI takes into account four dimensions: mean monthly household income, education, health, and standard of living.
Across the four dimensions, there are eleven indicators including a minimum of six schooling years, school attendance, access to healthcare facilities within five kilometres of place of living, access to clean, treated water, condition of place of living, room crowdedness, and having basic communication tools.
Based on these measures, in 2019, Malaysia’s MPI counts 1.1% of the population as being multi-dimensionally poor.
Denison said however that the benchmarks set for these indicators were too low.
He gave examples of minimum schooling years and water supply and sanitation.
“Not that sanitation and clean drinking water is not a problem in rural and interior locations, but most urban locations and semi- rural locations are not affected.
“And for education, the minimum standard brought up in the 11th Malaysia Plan was 11 years. But in the MPI, this was reduced to six years of schooling.
“We’re now arguing that anyone without 11 years of schooling hasn’t reached the minimum Malaysian standard.”
“So I think these are the kind of issues we are facing. We cannot put very low indicators,” he said, adding that this could result in unrealistic conclusions when it came to poverty in the country.
Meanwhile, chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin revealed how the government increased the PLI to RM2,208.
He said the benchmark for minimum expenditure, such as health and food, were marked higher to reflect an optimum level. He added that more expenditure items were also included to measure poverty, such as mobile devices and private cars.
“I can say that the numbers are very much different because of the proposal that, instead of just looking at the minimum standard, we have to look at the optimum.
“In terms of non-food items (expenditure) we see that what has not been a necessity in the past is becoming necessary now.
“For example, the requirement for a mobile device or phone data and to have a car. In the 2005 PLI, we didn’t include how much money was needed to be spent to own a car.”
“But to be a developed nation, I think that is a basic requirement for the people in this country.” - FMT

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