Leaked CPA shows significant decline in only one census division
by Bria King
The New Democratic Party (NDP) is questioning why only one of 13 Census Divisions has seen a significant decrease in poverty within the last decade, while Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has asserted that the country did better, not worse in terms of poverty within the 10-year period between poverty assessments in SVG.
The opposition political party circulated a document last Wednesday, October 28, which contained leaked information from the 2018 Country Poverty Assessment (CPA).
According to this document, 36.1 per cent of the people in St Vincent and the Grenadines are living in poverty; just under 6 per cent more than the percentage recorded in 2008.
It also noted that in the Colonarie census division, the poverty headcount rate, which speaks to the percentage of the entire population who had fallen below the poverty line, sat at 15.4 per cent in 2018.
This is 24.8 percentage points less than in 2008, when 40.2 per cent of the people in that census division had fallen below the poverty line.
“…We need to understand why only Colonarie, why not the rest of the country? That’s what everybody wants to know…” Daniel Cummings, the NDP’s candidate for West Kingstown said at the press conference last Wednesday.
Cummings noted that there were fewer people living in poverty in that census division while poverty increased in other areas.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves grew up in the village of Colonarie. The village is also a part of the North Central Windward constituency, which has been represented by Gonsalves since 1994.
“It is said that the only district…the hometown, Colonarie, home village, that is the one which poverty has fallen by 28 per cent meaning Ralph tekking care of his villagers. That’s the political purpose of that,” the prime minister said, while speaking at the ‘Meet the Leaders’ event at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College on Friday.
Gonsalves noted that Colonarie as a census division includes other villages such as Union, New Grounds, Chapmans, Diamonds, Lively, Mount Grenan, Belle Vue, Colonarie, Park Hill, South Rivers, Gorse, Mangrove, Byera and Chester.
The prime minister said that the CPA was incomplete and that he had never been sent the document that was circulated by the NDP.
He also questioned the motives of the individual in the state administration who saw it fit to send information on an incomplete process to the opposition.
According to the leaked document, the Layou census division, though minor, also saw a decrease in the poverty headcount. In 2008, 32.4 per cent of the people in that division were recorded as having fallen below the poverty line.
In 2018, that figure moved to 31.9 per cent, 0.5 percentage points less than the previous figure.
The Barrouallie and Chateaubelair census divisions have seen significant increases in poverty within the 10-year period.
In the Barrouallie census division, poverty in 2008 stood at 28.5 per cent. Ten years later, that figure has jumped to 60.2 per cent, an increase of 31.7 percentage points.
In the Chateaubelair census division, poverty stood at 43.1 per cent in 2008. The 2018 figures indicate that that number has increased by 17.2 percentage points, for a total of 60.3 per cent of the people in that division living in poverty.
Other census divisions, including Bridgetown, Marriaqua and Calliaqua have also seen fairly large increases in poverty.
The Bridgetown census division saw an increase in poverty by 21.9 percentage points within the 10-year period, moving from 24 per cent in 2008 to 45.9 per cent in 2018.
Where 29.6 per cent of people in Marriaqua were below the poverty line in 2008, that figure increased to 44.6 per cent in 2018. This is an increase of 15 percentage points.
Calliaqua also saw an increase of 15 percentage points, having recorded 29.6 per cent in 2008 and 44.6 per cent in 2018.
In the Georgetown census division, 65 per cent of the people are recorded as living below the poverty line in 2018, 9.4 percentage points more than in 2008 when the figure was 55.6 per cent.
In Kingstown and the suburbs of Kingstown, the figures have seen a minor increase in poverty with Kingstown recording 15.2 per cent in 2008 and 19.2 per cent in 2018.
The 2008 figure for the suburbs of Kingstown was 31.3 per cent. In 2018, it increased to 36.6 per cent.
Poverty is also said to have increased both in the Southern and Northern Grenadines.
According to the document, 12 per cent of people were living in poverty in the Northern Grenadines in 2008. This has increased to 22.6 per cent in 2018.
In the Southern Grenadines, 15.6 per cent of the people were living in poverty in 2008. This figure increased to 22.6 per cent.
Gonsalves quoted several figures at last Friday’s event, when he commented on the leaked CPA information, to defend his view that the country did better, not worse in terms of poverty within the 10-year period between poverty assessments in SVG.
He said the average per capita income was $8000 in 2001 and that it had since increased in excess of $20,000.
In 2001, there were 30,000 houses. The prime minister said this figure has increased to 43,000.
He added that only 70 per cent of the houses in 2001 had electricity, whereas 99 per cent of the houses today have electricity.
Gonsalves further noted that under 70 per cent of the households in 2001 had water, where now, 98 per cent of the current households have water.
“You had people, when the other poverty study was done, not going to school. You have more people on pension now than before. You have more people getting family supports. Now, you walk ‘bout St Vincent and Grenadines, you say St Vincent poorer than 2001? I don’t know if you remember 2001, but let me say this: because these canards, otherwise known as misrepresentations and downright lies, must be corrected,” he said.