J Solomon, MTUC secretary-general.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) welcomes the government’s decision to revise the national poverty line index (PLI) substantially from a monthly household income of RM980 to RM2,208.

In a statement, MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon congratulated Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed for their firm political will in taking the bold step to recalibrate the poverty index of the country to a much more realistic level.

“MTUC believes the government will agree that the new national poverty index of RM2,208 can be further improved, considering the benchmark is for a family of four to live actively and healthily.

“This is to cater to the high cost of living in urban areas where 75 per cent of Malaysians are employed, with many of them on low paying jobs while saddled with high household debts due to the spiralling cost of living,” he said.

According to the statement, the revised national PLI puts the country’s poverty rate at a more realistic 5.6 per cent.

“We are happy that there are enough voices of reason within Putrajaya to make these important adjustments as the 0.4 per cent poverty rate which stood previously was based on an anarchic methodology of calculation which failed to capture the gravity of the problem,” he said.

Solomon said the new benchmark for poverty was considerably less than the RM2,700 monthly income MTUC had been urging the government to fix as the minimum living wage especially in urban areas.

Nevertheless, he said establishing a new PLI index at more than double the monthly income set previously, bodes well for government’s pledge to tackle poverty with more realistic data.

He said it was very important as poverty had increasingly impacted Malaysia’s 15 million workforce over the years and more so now due to the economic fallout as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the statement, MTUC also hoped that the establishment of a new PLI will bring forth effective public policies which would create jobs and enable workers to have better wages, more disposable income and increase their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings for retirement.

“MTUC calls on the relevant ministries and public agencies to give top priority to Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed’s call that they pay heed to the 2019 PLI in reviewing and formulating policies related to poverty eradication and social assistance.

“We agree with the minister that only by using accurate statistics, the government would be able to formulate the right strategies and policies especially in drawing up the 12th Malaysia Plan,” he added.

Solomon said, with the new PLI set at RM2,208, the government must now acknowledge that the minimum wage of RM1,100 to RM1,200 especially for urban areas was not realistic nor tandem with the cost of living.

MTUC also urged the government to revisit the low minimum wage and bring it on par to the living wage proposed by Bank Negara Malaysia. – Bernama