Nurul Izzah moots new multidimensional index to measure true scale of post-pandemic poverty

Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed pose with the Permatang Pauh MPI Report 2021 October 21, 2021. — Picture courtesy of Nurul Izzah’s office

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said a new Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed in collaboration with former Professor of Economics and Director of the School of Poverty and Development at Universiti Malaya Dr Fatimah Kari could be used as an alternative and realistic method of measuring poverty in the country.

The Permatang Pauh MPI Report 2021, a four-month study with planning starting as early as 2019, was presented by Fatimah, who detailed how this was a pilot programme to identify and confirm the need for a more holistic approach to poverty measurement in Malaysia to determine the extent of the pandemic’s impact on vulnerable groups.

In line with the report, Nurul Izzah also reiterated the need for gender-based perspectives in the planning and spending of the government’s Budget 2022.

“The government will have to take a serious look at progressive taxation as a mechanism to finance sufficient aid and a holistic safety net for the rakyat; windfall tax, for example — as suggested by KRI in their recent report,” she said in her speech, referring to the Khazanah Research Institute.

The launched of the report today was also attended Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who commended the Permatang Pauh MP’s office on its efforts to eradicate poverty in Malaysia through a multidimensional index study in the parliamentary constituency, while also engaging local youth as enumerators of the study.

Mustapa was reported as saying the Permatang Pauh MPI study could be replicated across other constituencies to produce a more comprehensive poverty measurement.

In a statement for the launch, Nurul Izzah said the MPI index used a higher score to indicate a higher degree of deprivation and used nine main dimensions, six of them considered conventional with the remaining three specific to the pandemic.

“The conventional dimensions used are housing facilities recorded the highest deprivation score, followed by education, sanitation, water supply, health and electricity.

“The three main indicators related to the Covid-19 pandemic showed relatively high exclusion scores — particularly those related to residential home comfort; job loss, and businesses affected by the movement control order (MCO); as well as home teaching and learning,” she said.

In the report, it was found that women heads of households have a much higher deprivation score in each dimension of poverty than their male counterparts, particularly in the dimensions related to home teaching and learning, job or income loss, and discomfort brought about by the MCO.

“The high deprivation of the home teaching and learning dimension among children of female-led households carries serious implications and needs to be addressed with a comprehensive policy strategy,” said the statement.

The report also stated that the average education level score of single mothers is lower compared to the average head of household schooling level.

The study stated the average basic income for heads of household is RM2,131.85 per month, compared to RM1,451.71 per month for those that are women-led (68.1 per cent-of the average).

The study also revealed that children from lower income bracket of B40 also experienced nutritional poverty and risk becoming a “dropout generation” in education.

“This study recorded a low deprivation score within children in terms of water supply (0.079) and electricity (0.07).

“However, the deprivation score in terms of housing and sanitation was found to be relatively moderate at 0.344 and 0.278 respectively.

“The level of Poverty Line Income (PLI) used in the study modified to factor in Covid-19 was found to be RM2,151; almost 8 per cent higher than the value of the PLI for Penang in 2019 (RM1,989),” said the statement.