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A/HRC/44/40/ADD.1: Visit to Malaysia - Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights


06 April 2020

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Malaysia claims to have the world’s lowest national poverty rate 0.4 per cent, but that claim is based on a statistical sleight of hand that yields a highly unrealistic poverty line. Rigorous independent analyses show that the claim to have all but eliminated poverty is just not true. While Malaysia has done an impressive job of reducing poverty in recent decades, millions of people still scrape by on very low incomes with tenuous access to food, shelter, education and health care, and limited ability to exercise civil and political rights. Denying the existence of poverty has stymied progress, encouraged significant underinvestment in poverty reduction, caused widespread misunderstanding of who is poor and led to bad policymaking.

Following the Special Rapporteur’s visit, the then Prime Minister and other officials indicated that the Government was ready to review the poverty line to provide a more accurate picture of poverty. Sadly, recent developments under the new Government raise serious concerns that this initiative is now off track.

Correcting the poverty line must be seen as an urgent priority. It must also be just the first step on a path that includes rewriting the policy narrative on poverty, recognizing that it is not just an isolated problem for indigenous peoples or those in rural areas but a much more prevalent and frequently urban phenomenon. The Government should institute far-reaching reforms of the fragmented and inadequately funded social protection system, follow through on promises made to indigenous peoples and address the plight of millions of non-citizens, including migrants, refugees, stateless people and unregistered Malaysians, who are systematically excluded from official poverty figures and neglected by policymakers.

Issued By:

Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

Delivered To:

the Human Rights Council at its 44th session