|Abdou Kolley, Finance Minister|
With the high rate of poverty in The Gambia and the modest achievement in reducing it, there is a likelihood that the country will not met the goal number one of the Millennium Development Goals, which is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
However, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Abdou Kolley, acknowledged that as of now the country may or not achieve the MDG target of eradicating extreme poverty. “It’s a probability,” he confirmed, though he pointed out that the government is employing all efforts to achieve this all important MDG target and such efforts includes boosting agricultural production and productivity as it employs a large percentage of Gambia’s labour force and contributes significantly to the country’s gross domestic product.
Statistics indicates that majority of Gambia’s 1.8 million people still live in poverty despite the reported “robust economic growth” over the years. More than 40 % of those who are employed still live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.
Speaking on behalf of Ms Chinwe Diké UN, Resident Coordinator, on Monday at the opening of the 7th Regional Forum for IFAD-funded Projects held in The Gambia from 12th to 15th November 2012, Mr Abdou Touray said given the historical trends and modest reduction in poverty levels in The Gambia, the MDG target of halving extreme poverty will not be met by the country, if efforts are not accelerated.
He said the 2010 Integrated Household Survey in The Gambia shows that 48 percent of the population is living below the poverty line of US$1.25 per day and when US$1.00 per day is used, 36.7 percent are poor.
“This is shows slight decline from it 58 percent rate in 2003,’ said Mr Touray, Programme Specialist – Poverty and MDGs at the United Nations Development Programme country office in The Gambia.
He said poverty is highest in the rural areas, where 73.9% people live in poverty compare to 32.7% in urban areas. Kuntaur and Janjabureh local government areas, like the 2003 IHS survey, have the highest poverty rates with 79 and 73.2 percent respectively.
Several poverty studies have been conducted in The Gambia with each study adopting a different methodology but in all the studies, overall poverty and food poverty were used to estimate the head count index.
The first poverty study conducted in 1992 revealed that in terms of overall poverty, 31 per cent of the population were poor; 33.1 per cent of the population in the urban areas were food poor compared to 54 per cent in the rural areas.
The second poverty study conducted in 1998 showed that overall poverty was significantly increasing from 31 per cent in 1992 to 69 per cent by 1998. The study also showed huge differences between the populations living in different localities, as 60 per cent of the population in the rural areas were poor compared to only 13 per cent of those living in the urban areas.
The third poverty study was carried out in 2003. In this study, the poverty head count index was 58 per cent with the likelihood of ‘being poor’ higher in households located in rural areas; the proportion ranging from 34% for Banjul and Kanifing combined, 56 per cent in other urban areas and 67.8 per cent for predominantly rural areas.
Like in 1992 and 1998, overall levels in 2003 were also higher in local government areas that are predominantly rural compared to the urban settlements in the Greater Banjul Area.
The report of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper II (PRSP II), published by the National Planning Commission, indicates that 68 per cent of rural population and 40 per cent of urban population live in poverty.
Despite government’s efforts at eradicating poverty in the country, the menace is escalating as all recent surveys and reports have affirmed that the current status of poverty is increasing.