As Malaysia moves forward in a challenging 2023, in the face of a possible global recession, a resurgent healthcare concern due to the rise in Covid cases in China and climate change, it is imperative for the Malaysian government to come up with necessary locally inspired strategies to protect and empower the urban poor and vulnerable.
One of those areas that need improvement is the way local governments function and how it will be able to meet the needs and aspirations of locals, not only in garbage collection or the issuing of licences but also regarding the importance of engagement and joint solutions with agencies and the local community to eradicate poverty.
It is unfortunate that after more than 60 years of Alliance, Barisan Nasional and the shorter span of Pakatan Harapan rule, these parties have not been able to resolve some of the underlying issues related to the urban poor such as housing, public transport, and the reskilling and upskilling of workers.
For example, in Perak, the Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue undertook a project called Agency Dialogue and Solution together with the All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia within the Parliamentary constituency of Ipoh Barat in 2021.
A social economic survey on the urban poor squatter areas around Buntong Ipoh was conducted in January 2022 and presented to the mayor on 2 April 2022, with the presence of Ipoh Barat MP M Kula Segaran.
There was an assurance given by Ipoh mayor Rumaizi Baharin on action that could be taken, such as the formation of a taskforce. Yet, to date, nothing concrete has been done by the local government.
The issues related to the urban poor are complex, such as the occupancy of local government and corporate land by the urban poor.
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These would need a coordinated effort between the local and the state government to ensure that these urban dwellers are given proper housing alternatives, besides creating an ecosystem for the poor to strive in an urban context.
Such coordination is clearly lacking among local and state agencies, which needs to be addressed if there is going to be a serious effort by the government to eradicate poverty among the urban poor.
In this context, there is a need for a bottom-up approach in engaging local communities to play a significant role in eradicating poverty. This requires a review of the current system of appointing local councillors who are merely firefighting in rubbish collection-related matters and cleanliness instead of also undertaking a proactive role in addressing issues related to urban poverty.
Therefore, the Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue urges Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming to start reforming the local government system so that it is compelled to work in addressing issues like urban poverty.
The significance of the performances of local government machinery will only materialise if changes are felt on the ground, especially over the plight of the urban poor. – Malaysiakini