Sunday, April 22, 2007

A country that means to win the war on poverty 

Last week's post showing how the "best and brightest" of previous Venezuelan administrations had driven millions of Venezuelans into misery and despair made me realize I haven't updated the Venezuelan poverty numbers in quite some time.

Of course, these numbers have proven quite contraversial as the opposition and their international cohorts lied and said that the Chavez administration had changed the methodology for calculating poverty. No such thing happened. Poverty is calculated under Chavez the exact same way as as it was under previous administrations. The details the opposition lies and their rebuttals can be found here, here, and here.

Here are the poverty numbers through the first half of 2006:

Starting with the basics we see that total poverty has fallen from 50.4% just before Chavez took office to 39.7%. Of course, there is a major blip where poverty shop up to over 60% when the opposition launched its coup and oil strike to drive Chavez from office. That means in the last 3 years poverty has been reduced from 62.1% to 39.7% - a spectacular reduction of almost 23% percentage points!

As will be recalled poverty is defined as anyone who cannot afford all the basic goods - food, clothing, housing, etc. - that the government defines as essential. That is the situation that 39.7% of Venezuelans currently find themselves in.

There is a further sub-set of the poor which are people who cannot even to buy all the food they need. These people are said to be in "extreme poverty". Currently, 12.9% of Venezuelans are "extreme poor". This is down from over 20% when Chavez came to power. It is down from over 30% when the effects of the oppositions oil strike were at their worst.

In absolute terms the number of poor has fallen from 11.2 million to 10.1 million (while the population as a whole has grown by about 4 million). Also, over a million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty with the number of exremely poor Venezuelans dropping from 4.5 million to 3.3 million.

These numbers are of course speak for themselves. This is the first administration since god knows when to have poverty drop on its watch. And it did it after having inherited an economy in a severe recession and havinig the severe blow of an oil strike to deal with.

However there is one last point that makes this even more impressive. Remember, these poverty numbers only include cash income - that is how much money people earn. It does nothing to take into account in-kind benefits.

What does that mean. It means that the cash stipends people get paid for participating in one of the govenrment's educational missions are accounted fo here. However, the benefit of improved access to health care through Mission Barrio Adentro - NOT reflected at all in these numbers. The benefit of the Mercal discount shops offering reduced prices would also NOT be counted as those reduced prices aren't income and therefore don't count. And on and on with Chavez's social programs the majority of which give great benefit to formerly marginalized Venezuelans but yet don't turn up in these statistics.
That needs to be kept in mind while viewing these numbers - they are certainly are good and cause for celebration yet even they don't reflect the full measure of the war against poverty and social exclusion taking place in Venezuela.


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