Multidimensional Poverty Measures a must for SIDS

Sep 2, 2013

There needs to be a more efficient method of determining poverty in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Photo credit: UNDP Barbados & OECS.

Bridgetown - There needs to be a more efficient method of determining poverty in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

This was the conclusion of Edwin St. Catherine of St. Lucia who works with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in conducting research on poverty levels in some parts of the region.

Mr. Catherine was speaking on the topic Measuring Multidimensional Poverty in Barbados and the OECS at a side event hosted by the UNDP at the 3rd Interregional Preparatory Meeting of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

He told delegates that most of the country-wide statistical information currently available comes from the census - the most recent for Barbados and St Lucia in 2010 and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean in 2011.

While noting the data is a potential source for a large group of indicators - it is geographically specific and allows poverty reduction agencies to target their programming. However, he said the information is not always readily available and based on its current use it is not a definitive way to measure poverty but rather looks at the living conditions of the society and does not adequately measure the impact of policies.

“Somebody can be multi-dimensionally poor but in terms of monetary poverty they are not poor because monetary poverty is basically a household concept. That is an issue you see in the case of children, nutrition you see as much as 53 per cent of children that are multi-dimensionally poor are not poor in monetary terms,” he stressed.

He outlined the challenges of the data collection process in Barbados and the OECS which include high costs, issues of confidentiality, data sharing, insufficient human and financial resources, the use of customized software and the lack of capacity to be actively engaged in software development and high staff turnover.

Mr. St. Catherine said there is a national and international demand for better methods of measurement particularly in the areas of employment. He echoed the comments of the UNDP which maintains that the regular measurement of economic growth through the gross domestic product (GDP) does not properly reflect the social fabric of the countries assessed.

“So we need a measurement that is relevant, that can communicate clearly to policy makers so that specific actions can be taken,” he said.

In the meantime Mr. St. Catherine said St. Lucia intends to upgrade its data quality by introducing tablets computers connected to a cloud internet source and sustain its consultative process which is important for good data collection.

“We can build out that data set to include assets to reflect living conditions to have that additional dimension included in a potential MPI (multi-dimensional poverty index) and track it more often through the labour force survey because of the more regular availability of that data set,” he said.

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Contact information

Janine Chase, Project Manager, Youth-IN, UNDP Subregional Office for Barbados and the OECS

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