July 24, 2009
Northern Grenadines shows lowest poverty rate

The rate of poverty in the Northern Grenadines is 12 per cent, the lowest in the nation.

This statistic was part of the findings of the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Country Poverty Assessment (CPA) conducted by consultants between 2007 and 2008.{{more}}

The poverty rate in the Northern Grenadines stands in stark contrast to the Calliaqua area, which, although it shares a fishing and sea faring heritage with the Northern Grenadines and is also in a tourism belt, accounts for most of the nation’s poor (19.9 per cent).

Gatlin Roberts, Chief Statistician in the Ministry of Finance & Planning, told SEARCHLIGHT that ‘poverty’ is defined as those who “lack possession of those goods and facilities that are deemed to be necessary by society in achieving generally accepted social standards and physical needs”.

She noted that ‘the poor’ was described as ‘those falling below the poverty line’. In 2007/08, the poverty line was EC$5,523 per annum, which was the cost of meeting the basic food and non-food requirements of an average adult, at prevailing prices.

According to Roberts, the ‘indigent’ were defined as persons who were unable to meet the minimum food requirements, which, according to scientific nutritional studies, are estimated to be necessary for maintaining a healthy existence. The estimated cost of securing the minimum standard on the basis of the prices of the foods available in the market place in SVG at the time of the study was EC$2,446 per adult, per annum.

Herman Belmar, the Unity Labour Party’s caretaker for the Northern Grenadines, said he was surprised that his area had such a low poverty rate. He explained that very little food is produced in the Grenadines, yet the Northern Grenadines was still doing far better than ‘breadbasket’ communities. Additionally, Belmar said, very little market existed for the fishermen’s catch.

Belmar believes the success of the Northern Grenadines stems from residents ability to market fish in other neighbouring islands and the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in the islands.

When contacted, both Arnhim Eustace, Leader of the Opposition, and Dr.Godwyn Friday, Area Representative for the Northern Grenadines declined to comment on the CPA’s findings because they had not yet completed their assessment of the report.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves, sharing his views on the sharp decline in the Indigence Level from 25.7 per cent in 1995/96 to 2.9 per cent in 2007/08, said it did not come as a surprise. The Prime Minister credits the sharp decline to his government’s targeted strategic intervention programmes.

He made reference to the increase in public assistance, the Education Revolution, the Low Income Housing Project, the Land Bank Programme, the Micro Loan Programme from the National Commercial Bank where small business operators are granted up to EC$15,000 to start their businesses and material programmes, among others.

Dr.Gonsalves said he wants Vincentians to be mindful that while St.Vincent and the Grenadines’ indigence level fell, the numbers in Grenada and St.Lucia went the opposite direction. He also stated that he wants Vincentians to remember that the Country Poverty Assessment was concluded in 2008 when the oil prices on the World Market were very high.