COMMENT | The toxic birth of Malaysia’s B50

James Chai


COMMENT | When his name was called, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin took confident and slow steps up the stage to present his speech. The Dewan Bankuasi was undoubtedly the grandest in Sabah’s State Administrative Centre - the tallest building in the entire Borneo, overtaking every humanity for the best view.

The mahogany wood behind the prime minister became a suitable backdrop for photographers, racing to capture the prime minister dressed in a tailor-made dark blue blazer, complemented with an even-toned crimson tie and a luxury silk pocket square. Muhyiddin’s fine taste becomes more apparent by the day.

His speechwriters have written enough to appreciate the importance of context. When in Sabah, speak of inclusive development.

Muhyiddin said that his government is “focused on addressing poverty and strengthening inclusive development in Sabah.” He called the Sabah Pan Borneo highway a “gamechanger”, besides other projects like the Sapangar Bay Container Port expansion project, the upgrading of 50 dilapidated schools, and the Sabah Rural Road project.

But he stopped for emphasis. Drawing from his fatherly empathy, he said he recognised the pandemic has worsened the livelihoods of many. Then came his punchline.

He sensed that the country’s poorest group have expanded: No longer B40, we now have B50.

The expansion of the lowest rung in Malaysia is not merely a statistical finding, it has devastating consequences to the affected group and...

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