Kuala Lumpur, 26 August 2019 – The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) urges the government to be more open and transparent in providing statistics and micro-data in response to the recent report made by the UN Special Rapporteur on poverty.
In response to the report, Wan Ya Shin, Research Manager of IDEAS said “The report made by the UN Special Rapporteur highlights an important debate but these are not new issues and previous studies have underlined similar issues mentioned in the report. The Malaysia Human Development Report in 2013 by UNDP also highlighted the need to relook at how we measure poverty and the multidimensional aspects of poverty.”
“The current government’s initiatives of looking at relative poverty and multidimensional poverty index are good measures. However, the absolute poverty rate is still an important indicator to determine who are the poor. There needs to be the distinction between chronic and transient poverty as different strategies are needed to address these groups. The key to enabling further and in-depth analysis would be more open and transparent access to micro-data and key national statistics. Therefore, we need a strong political commitment to enable access to data to investigate different measurements and dimensions of poverty as well as strategies for tackling poverty.” Wan added.
On the social protection system, Wan commented that “I support the recommendation to have a more holistic social protection. In my study ‘Malaysia: Social Protection in Addressing Life Cycle Vulnerabilities’ (2017), it was found that the social protection system in Malaysia is fragmented and there needs to be greater coordination among the many ministries that were implementing social protection programmes. The social protection system should be viewed in a more holistic manner. Monitoring and evaluation of the programmes should be incorporated in the implementation in order to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness.”
In regards to vulnerable groups that were highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur, research by IDEAS on the economic impact of granting refugees the right to work found that “Refugees have the potential to contribute RM3 billion to GDP in 2024 if given the right to work and RM6.5 billion to GDP in 2040 if they are given access to education. Therefore, there would be significant benefits to fulfilling the promise in the manifesto to grant refugees the right to work.”
On the state of poverty among indigenous people, Wan expressed that “There needs to be disaggregated data on the Orang Asal in key national statistics to enable us to understand the state of poverty of the indigenous people and formulate targeted strategies. Another main concern is the high drop-out rates of Orang Asli children. In 2011, 30% of the Orang Asli children completed secondary school compared to the national 72% completion rate. According to SUHAKAM Report in 2010, causes of educational barriers include a high incidence of poverty, geographical barriers, cultural and linguistic barriers. We hope that Pakatan Harapan government will fulfil their promise of ensuring these children to quality education.”
The UN Special Rapporteur issued a report on the assessment of poverty in Malaysia and claimed that the poverty rate of 0.4% does not reflect the state of poverty in Malaysia. The key issue that was highlighted was the lack of access to micro-data and key national statistics. Besides that, the UN Special Rapporteur highlighted the need to have a holistic social protection system and challenges faced by segments of society such as the indigenous people, refugees and stateless people.