UN envoy challenges Malaysia’s claim to near zero poverty

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – A United Nations (UN) special rapporteur yesterday challenged Malaysia’s claim to have nearly ended poverty, saying there was “significant poverty” with an estimated one in six people in the Southeast Asian country considered poor.

Malaysia’s official poverty rate fell from 49 per cent in 1970 to just 0.4 per cent in 2016.

UN rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston said the rate was “extremely artificial”, doesn’t reflect the cost of living and excluded vulnerable populations.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government, which won a stunning election victory to oust a long-ruling coalition in 2018, has not commented on the report.

Alston said the national poverty line of USD235 per household a month is “tragically low” as it would mean an urban family of four surviving on under USD2 per person daily.

“While Malaysia has achieved undeniably impressive growth in reducing poverty in the last 50 years, the official claim that poverty has been eradicated or exists merely in small pockets in rural areas, is incorrect and has crippled policymaking,” Alston told a news conference.

United Nations rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston visits Kampung Numbak in Sabah. PHOTO: AP