THE ISSUE: Still some work to do
Does Barbados still have a poverty problem?
Most countries are faced with poverty, even though the intensity of the problem varies.
It is no different for Barbados and the Caribbean, although over time there has been some progress in reducing the challenge.
In 2010 the Caribbean Development Bank funded the production of a Barbados Country Assessment of Living Conditions (CALC) 2010. It was conducted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, and the findings were detailed two years later.
Using data from the National Nutrition Centre and other information, the report concluded:
“The average per capita indigence and poverty lines for Barbados were estimated as $3 970 and $7 861, respectively.
“In total 6.9 per cent of households and 9.1 per cent of individuals were categorised as indigent poor while 8.1 per cent of households and 10.2 per cent of individuals were categorised as non-indigent poor.”
It added: “In terms of geographical distribution, the Greater Bridgetown, outer urban and north and east strata had an above average population that was poor. In terms of the depth and severity of poverty, the Poverty Gap Index and Squared Poverty Gap for Barbados were estimated at six and 3.2, respectively, while the Gini coefficient [a measure of inequality of consumption] was 0.47.”
Comparing Barbados’ figures to the region, SALISES found that “the poverty levels in Barbados are somewhat lower than for other countries in the region with the exception of Antigua and Barbuda, which had a household poverty rate of 13.4 per cent and individual rate of 18.3 per cent in 2007”.
“The results…indicate that, with the exception of Nevis, the Poverty Gap Index in Barbados is relatively low in comparison to other countries in the region…. However, in terms of inequality in consumption, as measured by the Gini coefficient, Barbados demonstrates the second highest level of inequality after Antigua and Barbuda.”
The main purpose of the CALC was to “provide primary data for the construction of poverty estimates” and “to provide representations of the spatial distribution of poverty”.
As Barbados fell into economic recession in 2008, this resulted in job losses and it is believed that a number of people fell into situations of poverty.
Successive governments have focused on reducing the number of citizens in such situations.
The most recent effort emanated from a $20 million Inter-American Development Bank loan approved in 2015.
It was intended to help the island “strengthen its social safety net for its poorest citizens and improve labour market training opportunities”.
The programme’s three components included reducing extreme poverty through the expansion and consolidation of the Identification, Stabilisation, Enablement, and Empowerment Bridge Programme; reducing unemployment through improved employment services and demand-driven technical training; and creating an efficient management information system that connects programmes executed by various Barbados Government agencies.
The IDB-funded programme was intended to “cover 250 additional households or approximately 2 000 individuals during a four-year period, focusing on the following pillars: personal identification, education and human resources development, family dynamics and health promotion”.
Barbados has reduced poverty, but it has not eradicated it.
The programme financed by the IDB and other initiatives will take some time to show major results.
Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett indicated this much less than a year ago.
He said the plan was to improve monitoring and introduce more evidence-based approaches to solving poverty. (SC)