Fighting for Human Rights
7 November 2019
I woke up an hour ago. I was woken up by a cacophony of roosters crowing; the hotel is located near a village. It is 6.40 am in Phuket, Thailand. We will start our human rights conference at 8.30 am. Breakfast starts at 6.30 am and I will go and makan shortly.
The PM economic advisor has unequivocally said it, that our poverty level is close to 20% and that our measure of poverty is just wrong. How can we continue to delude ourselves with claims that the poverty rate in Malaysia is 0.4%?
When I first ran in 2013, I campaigned in Desa Mentari, Kelana Jaya and saw the urban slums for the first time in my life. For the next five years as MP for Kelana Jaya, I channelled 80% of my miserably small RM250,000 per year community allocation to help the poor in Desa Mentari and Desa Ria. Of course, my middle class Subang Jaya communities were not too happy to receive the balance 20%. I gave most of my SJ community associations a token RM500 per year from my office, then saved most of the money for Welfare Month in June for the poor in Desa Mentari and Desa Ria. Over time, the grumblings from my Subang Jaya communities died down but the fact is many good, caring middle class people are just not fully aware of the real crisis we have in our urban poverty areas.
So when the government denies we have a problem by using skewed stats, then we are basically denying the existence of desperation in the urban slums and rural poor in Malaysia. Denial leads to no serious actions taken to address this massive inequality issue.
The poor need help, but they do not need more unconditional cash handout which robs them of dignity and makes them “thankful” to politicians. Cash handouts are truly useful if they are conditional and serves as a temporary stop gap measure. What the poor fundamentally need to better their lives, is fair living wages. What the Malaysian economy also needs is better domestic consumption, so if you pay your workers fairly, they in turn consume more domestically. This then helps the bottomline of business owners and employers. A virtuous economic cycle is then created and social economic desperation is eliminated. In short, the country becomes more equal, more prosperous and happier.
If we continue to game our economy to help only the elites and billionaires, whose main preoccupation now, seems to be to buy PLUS for a song, then we are not much better than previous administrations in dealing with the issues of inequality and poverty. So kudos to Dr. Muhammed Khalid for continuing to say it, as it is.
You can read the coverage here: https://m.malaysiakini.com/news/498883
In my budget speech 3 weeks ago, I raised the same matter of minimum wage. You can read it here: