KUCHING: Poverty can be eradicated through creation of jobs to enhance the resilience and long-term sustainability of the country’s development in the future.
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) Prof Datuk Dr Madeline Berma said there was growing concern that the aspirations of the country’s middle class were not being met.
“This is an issue that is big, which is, we are not creating what we call decent work or occupation for the people,” she said during a webinar via Zoom on a topic titled ‘Inequality and Poverty: The Way Forward,’ on Wednesday (Aug 4).
She added that the current economic situation now was imbalanced, therefore the country needed fair, just and more sustainable economy.
“We need to humanise our economic growth, which means through development projects, we are also targeting people to help them move forward.
“Through many years, we are only looking at numbers, whether there is growth in our economy. This has resulted in us missing the target, which is the people.”
She also explained that the country needed to adopt the shared prosperity model, introduced by the prime minister.
She said it was no longer one-size-fits-all and emphasised that economic models cannot be a Malaya-based model.
“We cannot say that Malays are the same as Bumiputera or the same as Pribumi because they are very different.
“In shared prosperity, we also need to ask which groups that should be the focus, whether is it the T20, M40 or the B40 group.”
Prof Berma added that the country needed to choose whether its shared prosperity model was income- or human-centric.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that we all lose our humanity where people are begging for help, some raising the white flag and so on.”
To propel the country’s development, she suggested the rights-based approach.
“This kind of approach is what most non-government organisations choose, which is based on the rights of the people, providing them assistance and help empower the people.
“Next one is, expedite the basic amenities, especially for Sabah and Sarawak, quickly in terms of quantity, quality, accessibility, connectivity and cost.”
To develop human capital, she said education needed to be accessible by all.
“The pandemic has stopped our youth’s ability to learn and gain new knowledge, which is why they are called the lost learning generation.
“They are not going to schools but learning online from home, making them really different than others.”
She also said there was the issue of the quality of education, urban bias, dropouts during the pandemic, traditional knowledge, 21st century learning and skills development.
Prof Berma noted that children without identification card or who are stateless should not be denied their rights to education.
“In new ways of managing changes in the country, the government should focus on rising expectations and also face new risks, namely ethnicity, religion, politics and health.”
She stressed that Malaysia should aim to have human economies to care for the people, without exploitation and with income security, also include rich people to pay their fair share of tax.
Malaysia should also be investing in preparedness and prevention and reward work not wealth, she added.
Furthermore, she said that, according to World Bank Group, Malaysia would become a high-income country in 2024 to 2028.
“In the past, that target was year 2020. Now, we must look forward to the future and this is a very good possibility.
“By creating two million more high quality job opportunities for high-income jobs, poverty can be reduced, which is important long term.”