NUMBERS matter up to a point. Pushing it any further makes no sense to the common man. A five per cent gross domestic product doesn’t say very much about lives lived on the ground.
Hence, PH government’s move to place people before numbers in its mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan is a step in the right direction. But it should not stop there. It must make sure nothing is lost in translation, from concept to concrete.
The man in the Rapid omnibus quite rightly wants to be reckoned as more than a mere number. He is more concerned about how to get a roof over his head, about how to put food on the table for his growing family, and about how to stretch his shrinking ringgit.
Such concerns are big ticket items for the B40 man whose income is a mere RM2,000. What more, if he is left with only RM76 after expenses.
People in the M40 income group too put up with a similar struggle. Economists often forget this and tend to get carried away with numbers in a dismal way.
Their excuse is: what gets measured gets done. But life cannot be measured in coffee spoons. Policymakers will do well to know that numbers on paper do not always match life on the ground.
The mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan appears to have taken these concerns on board. At least two of the six strategic thrusts of the mid-term review have the B40 and M40 in mind.
Thrust one of the six-thrust mid-term review aims to bring about an inclusive and equitable society, with the end of game of pushing the groups several rungs up the social ladder.
With priorities redefined, B40 and M40 should see improvments in their standard of living and quality of life. Out of 47,000 homes targeted between 2017 and 2020 for the poor, 30,917 have been delivered.
Affordable housing however remains a challenge for the low- and middle-income households. Of the 606,000 houses planned for the period only 139,329 have been developed.
There seems to be two different realities when it comes to affordable housing. The government considers affordable houses as those priced RM300,000 and below.
Developers however have a different price tag in mind: RM500,000 and below. With Malaysia recording a median income of RM5,228, many find the houses in the market unaffordable.
One solution is for developers to reimagine affordability and build only homes that people can buy. Unsold homes are neither good for the people nor the developers. Bank Negara is pretty clear where the blame lies.
Its Third Quarter 2017 report does not mince its words: the large number of unsold properties is due to the mismatch between the prices of new launches and households’ affordability. “Over the period 2016 to 1Q 2017, only 21 per cent of new launches were priced below RM250,000. This is insufficient to match the income affordability profile of about 35 per cent of households in Malaysia .”
The developers may want to follow the example of the government by putting people before numbers.