BY the standards of a very austere international poverty line, such as the World Bank’s US$1.25 per person per day in 2005 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), global poverty has fallen rapidly in recent decades.
Most countries assess poverty on the basis of national poverty lines that are anchored to the standards, expectations and aspirations of their societies.
With social progress and economic growth, these standards evolve and, consequently, the poverty thresholds underpinning national poverty analysis also tend to rise.
To provide a quantifiable measure that engages with these concerns, the World Bank has recently proposed a definition of “shared prosperity” as growth in the income of the bottom 40 per cent of the income distribution over time.
In late 2013, the World Bank set out two goals for the institution: ending extreme global poverty and promoting shared prosperity.
The two goals are often referred to as twin goals.
The poverty goal is defined as “reducing to no more than three per cent the fraction of the world’s population living on less than US$1.25 per day” by 2030.
The shared prosperity goal is defined as “fostering income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population in every country”, without a particular target value.
This year’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri message by Prime Minister Da-tuk Seri Najib Razak again emphasises the importance of assisting the B40 group.
In Malaysia, the bottom 40 per cent of households are earning a monthly income of less than RM3,900.
In my constituency of Hutan Melintang, Perak, a rural area, the income bracket is lesser. There are households that earn less than RM1,000 a month.
Following Najib’s message, we organised a door-to-door campaign for the B40 families.
This campaign was launched to identify and assist B40 families in Hutan Melintang, Bagan Datuk, under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
We visited more than 30 B40 families. Some are disabled, have no permanent employment, divorced and grieving the death of breadwinners.
We found that most of the B40 households in Hutan Melintang spend their incomes on basic needs.
A large portion of their incomes is spent on food and shelter, and a very small portion is spent on clothing, medicine and education.
The lack of skills and capital enables these B40 families to survive, but not to improve their welfare in the long run.
They are more vulnerable to financial and economic shocks than the M40 households, and these shocks can come in various forms, such as temporary or permanent unemployment, physical disability, death and recession.
The campaign can assist and support B40 families in Hutan Melintang.
We emphasised the importance of spending within one’s means and assisted the B40 households to manage their finances and track their expenses.
We provided free consultation regarding legal and socio-economic issues.
Many do not realise the opportunities available to them since they focus on survival on a daily basis.
The campaign is to make them realise that there are governmental and non-governmental agencies offering support and assistance for B40 families.
We have to ensure that these services reach them.
We hope that the campaign can be emulated and conducted in all rural areas in the country.
DR M. SARAVANAN, MIC member, Hutan Melintang, Perak