It is recognised that economic indicators alone are inadequate to measure the wellbeing of society.
Used in combination, indicators may paint a better picture.
The recent revelation by the United Nations that Malaysia under reported its poverty level was damning.
Anecdotal evidence on poverty incidents are aplenty and many feel the pinch due to the high cost of living.
A more representative measure of poverty is the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) as it attempts to measure living standards, health and education.
Additionally, there should be more work done to address inequality.
There were conflicting views on Malaysia’s Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, be it on income or wealth.
Efforts to categorise households according to income levels should be lauded but they must also address the accuracy of measurement and data transparency.
Beyond poverty and inequality, Malaysia must look at other measures that can be important for the wellbeing of society.
People should eat healthy food and lead an active life.
MPI and Gini coefficient may be sufficient for comparing poverty among countries, but additional characteristics unique to the wellbeing of Malaysia must also be looked at.
Considering our multiracial society, perhaps one of the most pressing challenges facing Malaysia is to maintain harmony between ethnic groups.
If we are to progress as a nation, government reform must be continuous.
There must be good leadership on both sides of the political divide.
But reforms can be painful and politically unpopular.
To stay in power, politicians might employ popular measures that are detrimental to society.
Hopefully, the will of the people will side on reason and rationality, not rhetoric or short-term gains at the expense of other groups.
Regardless, it must be expected that the journey to achieve people’s wellbeing would be a long one, considering the politicking and lacklustre economic performance.
Thus, we urge politicians and policymakers to put the interest of the people first and avoid costly mistakes.
Mohammad Abdul Hamid
Public policy graduate, Universiti Malaya; and Masters, University of Cambridge