PETALING JAYA, 16 August 2020 – Education policies must be changed if Malaysia is to meet its target of eradicating poverty by 2030, according to an economist.
“The government need not introduce some new bizarre policy (but should) reevaluate existing education policies and how it can empower the poor,” said Adli Amirullah, a senior economist at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.
Adli said the government should focus its policies to include all races and religions, rather than targeting Bumiputera poverty alone. “I believe that poverty does not care if you are Bumiputera or not, it hits everyone,” he said.
He said equal education opportunities would help low-income communities make the next step up the socioeconomic ladder.
“For example, someone born in a rich family has (better) access to early education and extra classes compared to (someone born in) a poorer family. So how can the government revolutionise the implementation of our education policy so the poor will have equal opportunities as the rich?
“This is the question policymakers need to address and solve,” he said.
Malaysia’s poverty level was revised last month from a monthly household income of RM980 to RM2,208, the first change in 15 years. Last week, a minister said Malaysia hoped to eradicate poverty by 2030.
Another researcher, Christopher Choong Weng Wai of Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) said it was important to have long-term goals and quantifiable results in achieving poverty eradication.
Without resilient income and livelihood strategies, those just slightly above the poverty line may easily fall back into poverty when there are shocks in the system such as Covid-19.
“The quality of poverty eradication matters more,” said Choong, KRI’s deputy director of research.
“We need to set the goal of poverty eradication from just meeting basic needs to attaining decent living standards via good quality jobs, closing the gap between the poor and average living standards of society.”
First published in Free Malaysia Today, 16 August 2020