What is the truth about poverty in Sabah, Sarawak?

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Official poverty figures appear contradictory, points out our correspondent: it is almost certainly impossible that poverty in Sabah has plunged to less than a third of what it was in 2009, especially since it has apparently fallen by only 25 per cent in Sarawak.

Long Singu, Sarawak © Lizzie Bardwell courtesy of Molong Post

“Dusuns poorest of all in Sabah, P’ment told” is the headlines for a report carried on the Sapp website.
According to the report, Chua Soon Bui (SAPP-Tawau) had asked the government to list the natives according to poor and hardcore poor and to list the plans it has to help them.

The answer given in Parliament was that the Dusuns form the majority of the poor and hardcore poor in Sabah with 7,715 poor and 1,149 hardcore poor, followed by Orang Sungai (3,075 and 290) and Murut (3,063 and 284). ln Sarawak, Ibans form the highest number (11,305 and 411) followed by Malays (3,520 and 113) and Bidayuh (2,284 and 84).

Allegedly, there are 28,657 residents in the poor category in Sabah and 21,899 in Sarawak. In the hardcore poor category, there are 2,544 and 1,113 in Sabah and Sarawak, respectively.

If this is correctly reported, then either the Tenth Malaysia Plan is wrong or the answer given in Parliament is wrong.

In the Tenth Malaysia Plan, it was reported that there are 99,100 poor households in Sabah and 27,100 in Sarawak in 2009. Note that these are households; so, if one wants to estimate the number of persons (or residents) who are poor, one would multiply the household numbers by 4.9 for Sabah and 4.5 for Sarawak. This results in about 486,000 persons in Sabah and 122,000 in Sarawak.

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However, let us assume that the answer in Parliament referred to households, the standard way that poverty figures have been reported in this country in the various Malaysia plans. It is almost certainly impossible that in the year-plus since, poverty in Sabah has fallen so dramatically that it is now less than a third of what it was in 2009, especially since it has apparently fallen by only 25 per cent in Sarawak.

The SAPP, or other Parliamentarians should go back to Parliament and seek a clarification on this discrepancy.

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