Poverty rises 3.5 percent
43,000 living below poverty line
By ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Forty-three thousand people were living in poverty in The Bahamas at the time of a survey conducted in the first half of 2013, the Department of Statistics revealed yesterday.
The results of the Household Expenditure Survey showed that 12.8 percent of the population lived in poverty, an increase of 3.5 percent over the 9.3 percent of the population who lived in poverty at the time of the Living Conditions Survey in 2001.
The absolute poverty line — the minimum required for an individual to meet his or her basic needs — stands at $4,247 annually.
In 2001, the absolute poverty line stood at $2,863.
The latest survey was conducted between February and June 2013.
The results showed that Haitian nationals had the highest prevalence of poverty at 37.69 percent.
But Haitians represent 7.48 percent of the population, according to the survey.
While the rate of poverty among Bahamians stood at 11.14 percent, Bahamians represent 87.68 percent of the population.
The rate of poverty among people from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada stood at 3.36 percent.
Those nationalities represent 1.62 percent of the population.
Other nationalities in The Bahamas have a poverty rate of 3.69 percent.
Almost three quarters of the poor resided in New Providence, where the poverty rate stood at 12.68 percent.
The rate of poverty in Grand Bahama was 9.69 percent.
The survey notes the rate of poverty among the Family Islands collectively stood at 17.16 percent.
Director of Statistics Kelsie Dorsett said the downturn in the Bahamian economy in conjunction with the rate of unemployment contributed to the increase in poverty levels.
Unemployment was recorded at 16.2 percent in May 2013.
That figure dropped to 15.4 percent, according to the latest Labour Force Survey results, which were released earlier this year.
Although the rate of poverty among women was lower than men, women represented a slightly larger percentage of the poor, according to the survey.
Men represented 48.17 percent of the poor, while women represented 51.83 percent of the poor.
The survey indicated the number of households considered below the poverty line increased from 5.3 percent in 2001 to 8.7 percent in 2013, an increase of 3.4 percent.
Households headed by women, which accounted for 47 percent of all poor households, had a higher rate of poverty than households headed by men, according to the survey.
The poverty rate among households headed by men stood at 7.9 percent compared to 9.7 percent poverty rate among households headed by women.
Dorsett said the survey provides a comprehensive and accurate profile of the poor and the data is critical to the formation of policy to address the needs of the poor.
“It will also be used, I am sure you have heard Social Services talk about their conditional cash transfer program system, which they are soon to implement,” she said.
“This will guide that system, assess it and help to monitor that system.”
The release of the survey’s results comes amid national discussion over the likely impact value-added tax (VAT) will have on the poor after it is implemented on January 1, 2015.
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis has said the cost of living is expected to rise by four percent.
Asked whether the poor can sustain this increase in the cost of living, Dorsett said the government has made presentations on how it expects the poor to be impacted. She did not want to comment beyond that.
Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin has said the government can “handle whatever fallout” may come from the new tax.
She said if the government finds that its efforts to protect the poor are insufficient, additional funding would be requested.
The government is in the process of implementing a new social safety net program, which is expected to streamline the assistance process.
In 2012, Griffin revealed that the number of people receiving some form of help from the government ballooned to around 10,000 people from 3,000 people in 2004.
The Department of Statistics interviewed the occupants of 2,123 households as a part of the survey.
Dorsett said her department hopes to conduct a Household Expenditure Survey every five to six years.
June 11, 2014