The minister said currently, the overall percentage of the rural population in Malaysia had shown a decrease from 71.6 per cent in 1970 to 29 per cent in 2010, but in terms of figure, they had increased from 7.4 million people in 1970, to 8.3 million in 2010.
Malaysia's highest priority, he said, had been to address three interconnected objectives, namely, the eradication of poverty and improvement in the quality of life; addressing the issue of the growing social and economic disparity between urban and rural communities; and, thirdly the economic expansion through enabling greater access to markets and the creation of a range of business development resource centres.
These measures would bear the fruits of improved economic wellbeing and increased income flows, he added.
Mohd Shafie hoped that Asean member countries participating in the meeting would share successful practices and the means of dissemination, and become more creative and entrepreneurial in their effort to address rural development issues.
"In the effort to battle poverty, it is most important to eradicate the root causes of the problem. Aid must be used differently, and causes of poverty need to be tackled, not just to spend money to treat the symptoms which might recur.
"Thus, empowerment of the people, we believe, is a way to eradicate poverty, at the same time ensuring enhanced livelihood for the community as empowerment leads to a sustainable continuation of livelihood," he said.
AFY AFY GR