Given our history, should we, again, leave uplifting the lives of our poorest to the politicians?

Posted on September 14, 2018


many-colours-one-dreampemerintah-harus-lakukan-ini-agar-kemiskinan-berkurang-juzI met up with my sifu last Tuesday.

Asked him to help me out with a question.

On hindsight, I should have tossed 2 questions at him.

My question : how much have the BN governments allocated towards poverty eradication efforts?

The question I ought to have asked but did not : how much was total BN governmental expenditure during that same period?

Efficient and reliable as he always is, he got back to me with the information yesterday.

“The total expenditure on Poverty Reduction development programmes from 1971 – 2010 = RM 88 Billion. ( 2nd Malaysia Plan through to the 9th Malaysia Plan). Fyi, no data provided for 10th & 11th Malaysia Plans (2011-2020). U will note that Jibby was PM from 2009 to 2018! Perhaps it went to 1MDB ? I must point out that RM88 billion was expended over 40 years for poverty compared to RM 42 billion for 1MDB scandal!”

If I had put the second question to, and got the information from sifu, I might be able to get a picture of what portion of BN government spending over those 40 years was allocated to poverty eradication.

The answer’s probably out there somewhere in cyberspace, but I’m just too lazy to look.

Will throw this question to sifu when next I meet him.

This is what is bugging me, though.

From government statistics, in 1970, with a population of about 10 million, 50% were categorised as poor.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) was kicked off to address the issue of poverty.

in 1974, if I am not mistaken, Petronas was created.

We had joined the league of oil and gas producing nations.

The financial resources were at hand to make the aspirations of the NEP a reality.

And, yet, today, with a population of about 30 million, applying a poverty line income of, say, RM2k for a household of 4 persons, about 30-40% of the people would be categorised as poor.

Wherein lies the problem?

Was it that simply too little was allocated, finance and real, sustainable effort, over those years to uplift the lives of the poor, leaving them trapped in a cycle of poverty they could not get out of?

In this regard, I recall, when I was in Kuala Terengganu in January, 2009 for the by-election. I then wrote the following :

“…as the rest of the Barisan Rakyat team took time out to send Gus and I to the airport, Marina pointed out to me two structures and their surroundings that left me in near tears.

The first was the Crystal Mosque.


From the highway, looking directly at this structure, one is momentarily awe-struck.

Until one dips one’s line of vision from the mosque and then one  sees the state of the houses.

Does God command us to build Him opulence or to reach out to our less fortunate brothers and sisters?

Sorry, I digress.

Is the situation of inadequate funding for  poverty eradication worsened in that even the little that was allocated were never applied towards their intended objective, most siphoned away by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats for their own enrichment?

I think this succinctly explains why, in a wealthy oil and gas nation, so many of our people still languish in poverty, deprived of decent social, educational and economic opportunities.

The PH manifesto, at pages 19 and 20, hints that the latter is a real factor that has thwarted plans at easing the problem of poverty in the country.

” Our country’s economic growth does not produce equitable benefits to the citizens. The rich are getting richer but the middle and lower classes continue to be under pressure. The increase in median wage level of Malaysians has been too low. The number of people earning below RM2,000 per month is too high. These improprieties must be corrected immediately.

The nation’s wealth is being monopolised by just a few political leaders, their wives and children. They live a lavish lifestyle while the people struggle to cope. The Pakatan Harapan Government will ensure our nation’s wealth are shared more equitably by the Bumiputera and every citizen regardless of race and religion, including especially the Indians and the Orang Asal. 

…Pakatan Harapan believes that assistance must be given so that no one is left behind. This calls for a mechanism that is more structured, after a comprehensive study of how developed countries do it. 

…The Pakatan Harapan Government will ensure the giving of assistance is not influenced by party politics and not abused by politicians. The distribution through political parties and through those with vested interest will be stopped because this is unethical. Distribution will be done through government agencies and respected welfare bodies through a statutory payment mechanism.

The portion in red, in my view, tells the full story of the almost 50 years of make belief poverty eradication efforts on the part of the BN governments during those times, along with an equally careless and corrupt civil service.

The portion highlighted in green leaves me concerned that nothing is about to change in efforts at poverty eradication.

Whilst PH advocates putting poverty eradication efforts beyond the influence of party politics or the abuse by politicians, yet they envisage that such programs will be administered by government agencies and respected welfare bodies”?

Through “a statutory payment mechanism” , whatever that might mean.

Have we not learnt from the last fifty years?

Is this what we want?

And if not, ought we not speak up?