Minister declares war on poverty

Ian Stewart

MALAYSIA is planning a nationwide survey on poverty after a government minister decided the number of poor in at least two states had been underestimated.

Annuar Musa, the Minister of Rural Development, said the survey would help the Government achieve its target of reducing the number of 'hardcore poor' to less than one per cent of the population by 2000.

Mr Annuar said a 'new and more aggressive approach' was needed to combat poverty and meet the target deadline.

Current estimates put the number of very poor Malaysians at three per cent of the population, while 13 per cent are categorised as poor.

But Mr Annuar said his ministry believed a significant number of people had been excluded from the register. 'The ministry will conduct the survey in 40 districts already identified as having the largest number of hardcore poor, including those in Sabah and Sarawak,' he said.

He said 30,000 families in the two Borneo states had been categorised as very poor but, after visiting Sabah, he believed the number could be higher.

Mr Annuar said the ministry's register listed 114,000 families throughout the country as hardcore poor.

'A family earning less than M$400 [HK$1,268] a month is considered poor while those drawing less than M$200 a month are categorised as hardcore poor,' he said.

Six of the 10 districts throughout the country identified as having the highest number of very poor are in the state of Kelantan, which has no natural resources and has missed out on the economic boom.

Mr Annuar said he believed Malaysia could reduce the number of hardcore poor to 0.8 per cent by the target date. It could not be pushed lower because there would always be economically disadvantaged groups such as the severely handicapped and the aged.

He said the new register would be divided into two sections - one for those incapable of increasing their income and the other for those with potential for improvement.