Survey: 12.7% of SI Population Live in Poverty

About 78, 500 People Live Below Poverty Line

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MoFT, Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare delivers his remarks. Photo... SINSO Media

THE first-ever Report of the Solomon Islands Poverty Maps based on the 2012/13 Household Income and Expenditure Survey and the 2009 Population and Housing Census, shows about 12.7 percent of the population or about 78,500 people in Solomon Islands live ‘below’ the poverty line and are regarded as “poor”, according to Minister for Finance and Treasury and Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Manasseh Sogavare, MP.

Honourable Sogavare revealed the statement at the recent launch program of the Poverty Maps-Ward Level report held at the Honiara Hotel.

“And since we know that poverty is more a rural phenomenon, tackling this falls within my government’s policy focus to bring service delivery to the majority or 87 percent of the population in the rural areas.

“Previously, at the provincial level, we found that the poverty incidences were significantly higher in Makira and Guadalcanal provinces. And although Makira had the highest poverty rate, today, as we go deeper down to the lowest geographical area or ward level, we see that there are wards in Guadalcanal Province such as Ward 13 – Walasi and Ward 9 – Avuavu that account for the highest concentration of populations in poverty in the entire country, with 59.2% and 59.0% respectively.

“We had no official evidence of these previously, and these new findings shed light for the first time in these areas,” the Minister for Finance and Treasury said.

Highlighting a key Result and Challenge

He added that as you may be aware, the findings of this report is timely, as in less than 12 months from now, the country will be heading to the national elections in early 2019.

“The findings and the maps clearly portray and illustrate the magnitude and spatial distribution of the proportion of the population in poverty at the ward levels. It should be a useful guide to set the direction and strategic focus for the current and upcoming political leaders towards addressing and alleviating all forms of poverty in our villages, wards, provinces and in our country,” he said.

“The new report and the maps will complement and add value to the poverty report of 2016 that was launched by the former Minister of Finance in mid-2016. In that report, poverty was estimated down to the provincial level only due to survey sampling limitations.

“However, in this work, and for the first time, innovative methodology was applied to overcome this and combine data from both a survey, i.e., the 2012/13. Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) and the 2009 Census, to enable the estimation of small area or ward level poverty and inequality rates.

“In concluding, I want to convey my appreciation for the leadership of the Government Statistician, Mr. Douglas Kimi, and the Permanent Secretary for MOFT, Mr. Harry Kuma. I also want to thank the staff of the NSO for their hard work towards this project.

“Lastly, I wish to call upon all stakeholders, development partners, private businesses, non-government organizations, media and the people of Solomon Islands to take ownership of this report and findings and join the government in integrating these work into our everyday decision-making process for the development of our country,” he said.

An observation and implication in my province

Honorable Sogarare said let me attempt, for example, to relate the implications of these findings in my own province (Choiseul) and, perhaps, my own area of East Choiseul constituency.

“Choiseul Province has a poverty rate of 9.5% and is ranked the fourth highest below Makira, Guadalcanal and Honiara. When I zoom into the ward levels and into my own area of East Choiseul constituency, I observe from this report and maps that most wards with above-average poverty rates can be found in the North West of Choiseul, and not so much in my constituency.

“However, when I look closely in my electorate, I observe that Ward 14 – Kirugela has a poverty rate (8.5%) below the provincial average while the other wards in my constituency such as Ward 11-Susuka (9.7%); Ward 12- Senga (10.6%), Ward 13 – Kerepangara (9.8%) have poverty rates slightly above the provincial average – for the first time I have these facts in my hands, and to me, this means there is still more hard work that needs to be done.

“Accessing better education and health while addressing employment and income generating opportunities continue to remain some of the biggest challenges in my area if poverty is to be arrested and reduced. The same can be said in other provinces and in our country,” Sogavare said.

Government Policy responses

Meanwhile, he said that his government and Ministry recognises the paramount importance of quality and timely official statistics and data in decision-making and policy formulation consistent with the National Statistics Development Strategy 2015-16 to 2035.

Country Manager for UNDP Solomon Islands, Azusa Kubota and other officials during the launching program. Photo… SINSO Media

“These poverty findings and maps provide a timely set of new key indicators at ward level that will inform the DCC government’s policy framework and in supporting the specific DCC government policy aim of “ Working towards food security and poverty alleviation for the nation and ensure a healthy, literate and a contented population”

“This report will support the effective monitoring and implementation of the government’s national development strategy (NDS) relating to poverty reduction strategies including the government’s fiscal (budgetary), monetary policy goals and the medium term development plan (MTDP).

Collaboration and Partnership

He expressed that he was personally overwhelmed by the outcome of this innovative project. The production of this report and the user-friendly maps portraying poverty rates at ward level is indeed a statistical and development milestone for our country and our people!

“As we know, this important poverty mapping project was implemented by the National Statistics Office (NSO) under my Ministry, in collaboration with the World Bank and the Government of Australia. He believed believe that the key to successful project outcomes depends on strong partnership and collaboration with our donor and development partners. This milestone is the result of such collaboration.

“In this juncture, I would like to acknowledge the World Bank for the highly technical support provided to the NSO and towards the completion of this analysis.

“My government is also indebted to the Government of Australia for funding and program management support including on-going support for the Statistics Adviser to the NSO.

Going-forward

He said the government is pleased that this work has been done carefully and professionally setting new benchmarks and goal posts, and thus puts us in a firm positon to monitor and evaluate, and counter poverty challenges going-forward.

“May I also join those of you such as the Government Statistician who continues to advocate for the importance of data and statistics in evidenced-based decision making and policy formulation in the country.

“May I also take this opportunity to call upon all development partners to support the government and the NSO prepare and implement the forthcoming 2019 Population Census.

“As you are now aware, the census data is a key source for this analysis. It would be impossible to compare the next findings without successfully completing the 2019 Census,” he added.

Government Statistician Douglas Kimi said,“ for the first time in our development history, we are able to formally identify small areas or wards below the national and provincial geographical levels to see, first hand, the magnitude and distribution of poverty incidences not seen before across and within the whole province.”

He said that the analysis at ward level is of high quality, innovative and a first of its kind for Solomon Islands. “It is another huge statistical and analytical milestone.”

The detailed maps and ward level poverty estimates in the Solomon Islands are created by combining information, for the first time, from the 2012/13 Solomon Islands Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) with data from the 2009 Solomon Islands Population and Housing Census.

(L-R) NSO Advisor, Willie Lahari, Government Statistician, Douglas Kimi, World Bank Consultant, Professor John Gibson, Senior World Bank Staff from Sydney Office, Dr Imogen Halstead and Country Representative of the World Bank, Dr. Guido Rurangwa after the launcing program. Photo: SINSO Media.

He said the HIES is a valuable source of data as it includes comprehensive questions on households’ consumption and expenditure which was used to estimate poverty rates at the national and provincial level.

“This work goes further and complements the earlier poverty report of 2016 poverty by estimating poverty rates at the ward level and not just the national and provincial levels.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Kimi said the study focuses on two key poverty measures which include; the headcount poverty rate (the proportion of the population living below the poverty line), and the number of poor.

He said estimates of these measures are derived from each of the 183 wards in the Solomon Islands and maps are drawn to illustrate the results.

“The study also derives and reports small-area estimates of the average level of consumption per adult equivalent, the poverty gap index (the average proportionate shortfall from the poverty line averaged over the whole population), the poverty severity index (where those with the biggest poverty gaps are weighted highest), and the Gini index of inequality in the level of consumption.

“In addition to predicted values for these poverty statistics, measures of precision are also calculated. In this study, the precision of the ward-level estimates from the survey-to-census imputation is similar to the precision of the survey estimates at the provincial level.

“The results show a wide range in the prevalence of poverty across the Solomon Islands. The estimated ward-level headcount poverty rates range from zero to 59 percent, with the highest poverty rates in southern parts of Guadalcanal and eastern parts of Makira.

“The estimates also reveal a great deal of within-province heterogeneity in poverty rates, which may partly reflect the difficult topography and other barriers limiting the spread of benefits from economic development,” Mr. Kimi said.