Abang Johari (centre) fields questions from reporters while Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan (second right) looks on. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KOTA SAMARAHAN (April 29): The state government will conduct a comprehensive study to determine the level of poverty of Sarawakians in order to come up with better policies to help the poor statewide.

Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said this study will serve as an independent survey for his administration to formulate policies based on the data collected.

According to him, the study will be carried out by the state Economic Planning Unit (EPU) within this year, and expertise in the related fields will be engaged to ensure that the data collected reflects the real situation on the ground.

“Sarawak government will do a study, an independent survey to determine the level of poverty in Sarawak. We must get the right enumerators who do not just do statistics which are not accurate.

“You have to go to the ground to find out the actual income and the standard of living of our people. So I want a comprehensive study, and then you will have the data.

“Once you have the data, then you can formulate policy that is linked to the data. We need to engage experts in the field of economics and poverty. We don’t want any random person to collect data,” he told reporters after visiting the Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house hosted by Stakan assemblyman Datuk Hamzah Brahim at his service centre at the Campus Hub here today.

He was responding to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who earlier today said his unity government aimed to eradicate hardcore poor in the country.

The Anwar named Sarawak as among the states that still recorded high levels of hardcore poverty. Sabah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah were also on the list.

Abang Johari said he had spoken to the prime minister and the minister in-charge of economy to conduct a holistic study on the subject matter.

He observed that even though some Sarawakians were categorised as poor and received assistance under the e-Kasih system, many of them actually owned properties such as land.

“In Sarawak, many own property, for example, land, but these landowners are categorised as poor. From the point of knowledge (intellectual), maybe they are poor. We need to determine.

“Some areas in Sarawak – Pakan for example, is the poorest district but the people there can afford cars since the price of pepper is good and they harvest from their land.

“Yet they are eligible for e-Kasih (assistance). For as long as they are recipients of e-Kasih, they are categorised as poor, but in actual fact they are not poor,” he said.

Abang Johari thus opined that if e-Kasih recipients owned property, they ought to be delisted from the e-Kasih system.

He said this was why the study needed to be done in an impartial and professional manner in order to determine the level of poverty among Sarawakians.

Only then could the state government decide what action to be taken to address real poverty, he said.

“We need to determine poverty, whether it is in terms of cash or intellectual,” he said, asserting that the way for a government to tackle poverty is through education.

Abang Johari believed that the study would enlighten his administration on how to go about addressing poverty in Sarawak.

He said the study should also help eliminate comments such as ‘Sarawak is a rich state but the people are poor’.

“People would think that we are not doing anything. You look at Samarahan, it is already jammed. This means that people of Samarahan can afford cars but they still receive e-Kasih (assistance).

“So we need to study professionally to determine the level of poverty,” he added.