Since becoming Sabah’s chief minister seven years ago, Musa Aman has worked tirelessly, and often thanklessly, to bring wealth to his people. His resource-rich state is booming: new buildings, roads and public amenities are everywhere. And by December, the last of the 15,293 very poor families will no longer be so any more. The cost to the government for them to move from poverty to riches is estimated at about 560m ringgit ($170m).
After a meeting with Mr Musa and his officials in Kota Kinabalu on April 26, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, federal minister of women, family and community development, said her ministry needed 1.66 billion ringgit to rid the remaining 32,693 very poor families in Malaysia.
Four months earlier, there were 44,643 of them. A series of social programmes such as the “agropolitan”, under the National Key Result Areas (NKRA) to transform Malaysia into a high-income society, have reduced the number by slightly more than a quarter.
Under these programmes, the poorest villagers who earned less than 540 ringgit a month are helped to farm land with cash crops such as oil palms and rubber, and rear cattle and goats to get out of poverty. They are given vocational skills training, loans under a microfinance scheme to start cottage business and low-cost houses to live in.
Sabah and Sarawak account for 70% of those who live in abject poverty. Sabah has about a third of them.