KOTA KINABALU: The State Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Chief MinisterÕs Department has refuted the news report that Sabah is the poorest state in the country, saying poverty rate in the state was reduced from 24.2% in 2004 to 16.4% in 2007.
In a rebuttal issued yesterday, the State EPU said the World Bank had acknowledged in its Inclusive Growth report on 10 Nov that between 1976 and 2004, the State and Federal Government had made great strides in poverty reduction, so much so that the number of poor households in Sabah had been reduced from more than 50% in 1976 to 24.2% by the end of 2004.
ÒThese are facts which are borne out by official statistics based on the Household Income Survey (HIS) which is carried out at periodic intervals by the Department of Statistics.
ÒThe Sabah State EPU also wishes to state the fact that based on the Household Income Survey, the State Government under Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman had successfully reduced the incidence of household poverty in Sabah from 24.2% in 2004 to 16.4% in 2007.
ÒIf not for the ensuing financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 and the resultant increase in the prices of many essential items such as food and transportation due to the reduction in fuel subsidies, the Sabah EPU is confident that the incidence of household poverty would have been reduced much further.
According to the State EPU, the mean monthly gross income of Sabahans had at the same time increased from RM2,593 in 2004 to RM3,102 in 2009, a very respectable average growth of 5.3% annually for the period 2004-2009, which is better than many states in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, income distribution data from the HIS also indicated that for the same period the number of Sabahans enjoying income of between RM1,000 to RM1,999 had increased substantially by 2009.
The Government is targeting to totally eliminate hardcore poverty by the end of this year.
ÒIt is regrettable that certain people have chosen to ignore the fact that even in developed countries, by their own standard measure of poverty, a substantial proportion of their population remains poor,Ó it said.
ÒFor example, the CIA World Fact Book, an often cited reference document, has stated that in 2004, 12% of the population of the United States and 14% of that of the United Kingdom in 2006 live below their respective poverty line and thus classified as poor.
ÒDo these make United Kingdom and United States poor countries or poorest amongst the developed countries which perform better than them?Ó
The State EPU said the World Bank team in the course of the preparation for the Inclusive Growth report had made a working visit to Sabah in September 2010 and had had discussions and consultations with a cross section of individuals and groups in Sabah both from the private and public sector including academics and NGOs.
ÒThe World Bank team had also visited and assessed the state poverty eradication programmes such as projects under the Mini Estate Sejahtera (MESEJ) program and the microcredit scheme under Yayasan Usaha Maju, a State Government agency providing small loans to the poor and low income group especially women to allow them to do small scale businesses and economic activities that can provide sustainable incomes for them and their families.
ÒIt is a fact that the World Bank was impressed with these programmes, the tremendous success in the reduction of poverty in Sabah and the State GovernmentÕs dedication and continuing efforts to eradicate poverty in Sabah.Ó
It said that other than the poverty eradication programmes mentioned earlier such as MESEJ, the State Government is presently undertaking many other poverty programmes aimed at not only raising the income of the poor but also ensuring a better quality of life for poor families in both rural and urban areas especially in housing, education and health.
The State Government has embarked on the implementation of the AGROPOLITAN projects in areas with pockets of poverty in Sabah such as Banggi, Pitas, Tongod, Kota Belud, Tenom and Sook/Nabawan under the 9th Malaysia Plan.
On completion these Agropolitan projects would significantly contribute to reducing poverty further in Sabah.
Likewise, the Federal Government had also embarked on the implementation of the six National Key Results Areas (NKRAs) (2010-2012).
One of these is the NKRA pertaining to the development of Rural Basic Infrastructures in Sabah.
The plan calls for the construction of 1,020 kilometres of rural roads, provision of electricity and water supply to ensure that 95% and 90% of rural folks in Sabah obtain these services, and construction of new houses and repair of existing ones involving 12,494 of poor households.
Meanwhile, the NKRA for Low Income Households had set target to raise income level of the bottom 40 % of households through the 1ZAM programs in four main areas Ð agriculture, business, jobs and training.
The State EPU expressed confidence that with all these untiring efforts and dedication to development, Sabah will definitely prosper and on track to become a developed state, where the fruits of development will be shared equitably by all Sabahans.