Leaked report indicates 36 percent poverty in SVG
The New Democratic Party (NDP) has released leaked information from the 2018 Country Poverty Assessment (CPA) which shows that about 36 per cent of the people of this country are living in poverty.
On Wednesday, just one week before general elections, the NDP held a press conference to highlight the contents of a seven-page document which highlights key elements of the country’s most recent assessment of poverty.
The CPA is carried out every 10 years and according to the document circulated by the political party, poverty among the population has risen from 30.2 per cent in 2008 to 36.1 per cent in 2018.
“It is a reality that the country has become poorer; that more people are in poverty than they were before; more people are unemployed than there were in 2001,” NDP’s president, Dr Godwin Friday said on Wednesday.
Friday said the CPA is an important study as it gives a view of how poverty is affecting the people in a country and whether more people are slipping into poverty and indigent poverty.
He added that it was not a partisan issue and said that data from such a report was helpful with planning the way forward with strategies to alleviate poverty.
Making reference to the leaked document, Friday said there are more people who are below the poverty line and who have fallen into indigent poverty over the period between 2008 and 2018.
The poverty line is defined as the minimum expenditure required by an individual/household to fulfil their basic food and non-food needs.
In 2008, the annual poverty line sat at $5,523. The report shows that this has increased to $6,547 in 2018.
This means that $1,024 more per year is required for persons to meet their basic needs.
The indigent poverty line is based on a minimum amount of money required to purchase a basic food bundle.
It therefore speaks to households or persons unable to meet the cost of obtaining these basic food items, who are then classified as being critically poor, indigent or food poor.
In 2008, the annual indigence line was $2,446. In 2018, it had increased to $3,142. This means that a household/individual would have to generate $696 more per year in order to meet their basic food requirements.
The report’s figures highlighted that indigence in St Vincent and the Grenadines has moved from 2.9 per cent to 11.3 per cent in the specified period.
It notes that in 2018, 45.4 per cent of persons were susceptible to becoming poor if there were to be an unanticipated event such as a natural disaster or to economic shocks.
This is almost a 3 per cent decrease when compared to a 48.2 per cent figure in 2008.
“Their own assessment proves that the pain that the people are feeling, the expressions of, arm, you know hardship, that we see around the country is real and it is urgent because we have, you can imagine now, with COVID-19 that the situation now has deteriorated dramatically and when I called on Parliament to put the money where the pain is, that is no idle request. The pain is real and it is growing according to government statistics,” NDP’s president said on Wednesday.
Daniel Cummings, NDP’s candidate for West Kingstown threatened in September to release the Poverty Assessment figures if the government did not do so.
Prior to Parliament being dissolved earlier in October, Cummings had posed questions in the House in relation to the assessment on two separate occasions, to which Camillo Gonsalves, the minister with responsibility for finance and planning responded by saying that it was not complete.
“They didn’t like the data. The researchers have presented all of the critical data,” said at Wednesday’s press conference,” Cummings said at Wednesday’s press conference. “They clearly did not like the results and they did everything—you would recall we asked the question in Parliament twice and they went all around the mulberry bush, refused to make the information public. They didn’t like the results. That was the problem.”
Other key findings of the 2018 report note that the indigent population accounted for about 12,421 residents.
Women comprised a larger share of the poorer population, where the headcount rate was 41.6 per cent of women – 10.4 percentage points higher than the male headcount rate of 31.2 per cent.
The report also notes that children are more at risk of being in poverty and the poverty headcount decreases with higher educational attainment.
The poverty headcount ranged from 40.2 per cent among those with primary education or less, to 1.8 per cent among those with university level education.
Cummings described the contents of the leaked document as “frightening” and said the government has had access to the information for a long time.
He added that the government put a stop to the completion and publication of the report in early 2019.
“We thank God that there are responsible persons in this country who understand the importance of the public being aware of this information and have made it possible by an angelic intervention, for us to be able to bring it to you today,” he said.
The politician also said that the study was done well in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He further suggested that because the country’s economy has “nosedived since COVID”, it is likely that figures would be worse if the study were to be executed in 2020.