Glowing statistics, but what’s the true picture?

Of late, we have been bombarded with statistics of all sorts. Very impressive, and commendable.

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Saudi Aramco’s US $ 7 billion (RM31 billion) investment in an oil refinery and petrochemical project in Johor. Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s involvement in a digital free trade zone touted to generate trade worth US$65 billion (RM286 billion).

And, of course, there are all those billions from China.

We may see the effects of these billions of ringgit of investments in the years to come, no doubt.

But, for the moment, let’s just look at the statistics for up to the present.

Under the  National Transformation Programme (NTP), 1.8 million jobs — half of which were high income jobs — were created from 2010 to 2016, Prime Minister Najib Razak said recently.

He also said that through the NTP, the Gross National Income (GNI) increased by nearly 50%.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) later pointed out that according to the latest figures by the Economic Planning Unit, the average income per person had fallen by 15% from US$10,345 in 2013 to US$8,821 in 2016.

If the figures were converted to Ringgit Malaysia, however, it would show an increase from RM32,596 in 2013 to RM37,930 in 2016 because of the depreciation of the ringgit, and that may have accounted for the said “increase” in nearly 50% of GNI.

A day later, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said that the fastest growth in income was recorded by the bottom 40% household income group known as the B40 who earn an average monthly income of RM3,900 and below.

All this is great and I am glad to know that the economy is going somewhere although our average income has fallen!

Some analysts say this is due to the cyclical downturn of the economy. Well, I can accept that.

I just have one concern. If the B40 has registered the fastest growth in income, shouldn’t the percentage have reduced? Shouldn’t the group become B39% 0r 38% or less? I’m no economist, so, am I missing something here?

That is the piece of statistics that I want to know. This is the telling statistic that will show if the government’s policies have benefitted the B40 group.

If the B40 population has decreased, the policies of the government must be lauded. If it hasn’t or, perhaps, have actually increased, then the government must rethink its policies.

Quite apparently, the billions poured into the economy has not filtered down to the people who most need it because the reality doesn’t seem to show it, unless, of course, I and the rest of us are expected not to believe what we see.

Companies are closing down, staff retrenched, and people are desperately searching for alternatives as prices shoot up.

So, where has all that money gone? To those who already have it? If that is the case, then, the income disparity between the B40 and the top 60% has apparently widened.

I’m just conjecturing here because I can’t find that B40 piece of statistics. I checked the Department of Statistics Malaysia portal but couldn’t find that piece of information.

Perhaps, there is an economist among my readers who can enlighten the rest of us on this issue on the correct interpretation of the statistics that are thrown at us.

Only a fair, reliable and independent analysis will give us a true picture of the state of our economy to help the business community make the right decisions and voters to vote based on correct information.

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