I read in the news today that only 0.7 percent of the households in Malaysia are below the poverty line. Isn't that great?
I also read in the news today that in 2004, the households here that are below the poverty line was 1.2 percent. So there is a decrease from 1.2 percent to 0.7 percent in three years! If the trend continues, we'll eradicate poverty here in Malaysia by 2010. Isn't that fabulously great?
I also read further that 50 years ago, 60 percent of Malaysians were in the poor category. Mmm... So we have made much progress since Merdeka. Very impressive progress. We're not poor any more. Isn't that incredibly great?
To me, all these claims are simply BULLSHIT!
Who are all these people who play around with statistics? In the first place, amidst all the feel good revelations about the eradication of poverty, nothing is ever mentioned about how poverty is defined.
What is poverty and what is the poverty level? According to Aliran, the accepted measurement for poverty in the European Union is one half of the average household income. Here in Malaysia, the average household income is about RM3,200. By the European Union's definition, the poverty line would be RM1,600 per month.
But what is Malaysia's own definition of poverty? Would you believe that it is RM540? So if a household earns RM550 per month, the household is no longer classified as poor. Isn't that bullshit? It's a whole load of bumpkum. Can you really expect households to subsist on RM550 a month and yet not consider them as poor?
Again, I ask. Who are these people who play around with statistics? Who agreed that RM540 should be used as the yardstick to measure poverty here? I travel along the roads of Penang and I see vagrants in the streets, I see the beggars in the marketplace, I see homeless and sick people sleeping on discarded cardboard at nights in the inner city. I see these two dear old ladies who live out of plastic bags. How many more are there that I don't see?
It's pretty much irresponsible to say that we have managed to reduce poverty by so much without saying how we measure poverty. Those people who mouth such irresponsibilities do not live in the real world. In moving from one ivory tower to another, they are shielded from the real Malaysia.
But then of course, even if they see the extent of poverty in the inner cities or the rural areas, these people who play the political game are not bothered much. After all, people in poverty have much more to worry about daily. They worry about bringing food to their tables. They worry about feeding their families. They have much more pressing worries than to register themselves as a voter.
So you see, the politicians are not worried about the poor and destitute. After all, the poor don't vote and the politicians don't want the destitute to be counted at all. Bullshit, isn't it?
(This post is inspired by the topic discussion on Red FM this morning)