Eliminate discrimination to eliminate poverty

Sharan Raj

Modified 1 Sep 2019, 4:05 am

LETTER | THE United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Phillip Alston gave a much-needed wake-up call to Malaysia on our poverty scenario. 

Undeniably the poverty line needs be revisited, but the method solving poverty needs be revisited as well.

Poverty eradication by BN was more focused on social mobility for subsequent generations. BN infamously fed on poverty to stay in power by giving handouts near elections and blaming on other races. 

Poverty existed due to discrimination, allowing the upper echelons of society to squeeze out more wealth from the bottom rungs. The higher the ability to discriminate, the higher the inequality within a society.

The ability of employers to overwork but underpay migrant labour led to artificial low wages and joblessness in Malaysia.

The system granted employers the ability to discriminate migrant workers as they have 'less rights' than the average Malaysian citizen. Xenophobia is used as a justification every time NGOs/CSOs advocate an end to discrimination.

The contractual system that started with cleaners and security guards has reached teachers, pharmacists and engineers. The contractual system discriminates Malaysian from receiving annual pay raise and fair wages. 

Eventually, rising inflation and stagnant wages will push more people into poverty. Without fixed employment, the working class is forced to live in rented homes benefiting the house owners.

Malaysians are suffering from malnutrition due to high food prices. Yet, our farmers are suffering from poverty due to low price for their produce. 

The middlemen or brokers in agricultural production are keeping our farmers and fisherfolk poor. The ability of middlemen to discriminate our farmers and control our food prices has led to the misery at both ends of the food supply chain.

Discrimination creates and sustains poverty within society. Poverty can only be eliminated effectively if discrimination is eliminated. 

Pumping in more subsidies and welfare benefits will not solve poverty. Malaysia needs to eliminate discrimination such as access to quality education, access to healthcare, job security, accessibility for OKU, sexual discrimination, racism etc. 

Clearly, poverty is real and alive in Malaysia.

Giving free breakfasts for kids to solve malnutrition is definitely welcome, but the real question is why the parents cannot afford nutritional benefits for their kids?

Giving tax breaks to family members with OKU is welcomed, but why can't people with disabilities go from point A to point B without depending on someone?

The big question is will Pakatan Harapan end discrimination to solve poverty or continue feeding on discrimination like BN?

SHARAN RAJ is a central committee member of PSM.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.