Philip Alston lauds Putrajaya for raising poverty line to a more accurate level. Photo: Twitter/Philip Alston

KUALA LUMPUR: Former United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, has applauded the Malaysian government following its commitment to raise the poverty line to RM2,208 from RM980.

In his Twitter account recently, the law professor and chair of the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law said the government had taken a courageous step towards bringing its poverty line closer to reality.

“The line announced is more than double the previous one and results in an official poverty rate 14 times higher than previously acknowledged.

“Adjusting the line is a vital first step. The challenge now is to systematically address poverty by instituting a comprehensive social protection scheme and to provide greater data transparency, in line with almost all democratic countries,” he said.

Alston noted that the government needed to take seriously the plight of millions of citizens disproportionately affected by poverty and excluded from official figures, indigenous people facing severe discrimination and rights violations, and women who were often excluded from the workforce.

In addition, he pointed out that the 5.6 per cent new poverty rate, revised from 0.4 per cent, was only one-third of that estimated by most independent analyses and he urged the government to include an even more realistic benchmark in the 12th Malaysia Plan.

On Friday, the Department of Statistics Malaysia announced that Malaysia’s Poverty Line Income (PLI) had been revised to RM2,208, according to the calculations based on the 2019 methodology.

The PLI was previously calculated according to the 2005 methodology, which benchmarked poverty at RM980 based on the basic requirements for a household to live healthily and actively.

Chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the PLI revision was in accordance with current needs that emphasised optimal food intake and quality non-food basic requirements.

Over 400,000 households in the country with monthly incomes below the revised level were considered poor in 2019. – Bernama