UN envoy challenges Malaysia's claim to have low poverty

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A U.N. special rapporteur has challenged Malaysia’s claim to have nearly ended poverty, saying there was “significant poverty” with an estimated one in six people in the Southeast Asian country considered poor.

Malaysia’s official poverty rate fell from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016.

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Philip Alston, the U.N. rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says the rate was “extremely artificial,” doesn’t reflect the cost of living and excluded vulnerable populations.

He says the national poverty line of 980 ringgit ($235) per household a month is “tragically low,” as it would mean an urban family of four surviving on under $2 per person daily.

He said Friday that Malaysia must reassess how it measures poverty to ensure proper policies are in place to help the poor.