One of the biggest issues in the forthcoming Sarawak election is the level of income distribution, inequality and poverty in the state, or more specifically how many people have been left behind or totally left out in this resource-rich state.
BN propaganda inevitably touches on how the official poverty rate in Sarawak has purportedly plunged during the Taib years to only around 5 per cent now. Take for example this piece in the BN’s SarawakReports.org:
In the mid-1980s, Chief Minister Taib faced a Sarawak where nearly 32% of its population lived in poverty, a shocking statistic to anyone living in the Western world. In three decades of democratic leadership, Taib has helped pull his citizens out of the depths of destitution. Now only 5.3% of Sarawakians live in poverty. For comparison, that is less then half the amount of Americans who live below the poverty line, a startling feat.
Less than half the US poverty rate? Betulkah? That is indeed startling! This assertion is repeated over and over again in sarawakreports.org. But then, what about that inconvenient truth – all those natives living without proper water and electricity supply and latrine facilities?
How realistic is the official poverty rate figure then? Coming up with a realistic poverty rate depends on how you set the poverty line income threshold, and whether that threshold is a fair reflection of reality.
Aliran expert Philip Khoo takes a closer look and gives us a clue as to what a more realistic poverty rate for Sarawak might be. His conclusion is even more startling than Sarawak Reports’ claim!