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COMMENT | 12MP: As M'sia gets richer, do Malaysians become poorer?

COMMENT | An estimated 60 percent of Malaysians are poor or impoverished.

The Statistics Department announced on Aug 6 that 580,000 Middle 40 percent (M40) households slid down to the Bottom 40 percent (B40) group in 2020, because of a decline in their income due to Covid-19.

That makes up roughly 10 percent of total households, or B40 increasing to B50. In view of even more severe lockdowns in 2021, further downward shifts in M40 are expected, resulting in the bottom income group ballooning to B60.

Against this backdrop, the prime minister launched the much-awaited 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) on Sept 27, touting “fundamental reforms in realising the spirit of Keluarga Malaysia that will truly transform the development strategy to achieve a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable Malaysia”.

Perhaps the most striking target of the 12MP is that Malaysia will attain high-income nation status. The Gross National Income is targeted to reach RM57,882 (US$14,842) per person by 2025, which is comfortably above the minimum threshold of US$12,696 set by the World Bank for 2020.

This will translate to an average household income of RM10,065. Malaysia will indeed be a rich country, financially, by world standards. Even as for many other standards, we are literally scraping the bottom.

The question is whether Malaysians, in particular the above-mentioned B60 group, get to enjoy the benefits of a high-income economy.

Will their income and well-being rise in tandem with this increase in national wealth? In fact, a well-crafted social equity and safety net policy framework should ensure the poor enjoy proportionally greater benefits than the rich.

I have posed this issue as a question so as not to be pre-judgemental. Let’s explore the facts and figures laid out in the...

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