After repeated calls from the Opposition, New Democratic Party and alleged leaked information which came to light in 2020, the Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves has revealed that the 2018 Country Poverty Assessment has been terminated.
The disclosure was made on Tuesday, December 13 during the Question and Answer session in the House of Assembly.
Opposition Member of Parliament for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings posed the question to the Finance Minister, saying that the report “is long overdue”.
Minister Gonsalves told the House that the report is incomplete and a decision was made to terminate the process because the 2020 leak could call the credibility of the Ministry of Finance into question.
“… incomplete, inaccurate and misleading figures were unofficially and prematurely circulated to the public in late 2020. This compromised the integrity of the ongoing assessment and its findings had the process continued and the published figures differed from those that were previously circulated unofficially, the government may have been accused of tampering with the data and the credibility of the Ministry of Finance and in particular the Statistical Office would have been damaged.”
The leaked information, which claimed that 36 percent of Vincentians were affected by poverty, came just weeks before the 2020 General Elections.
Minister Gonsalves said the leak of the data “for apparently partisan political purposes” highlighted the issues of credibility relating to the collection, storage and analysis of data “by professionals in the bureaucracy.”
He also said the COVID-19 pandemic and the eruption of La Soufriere volcano presented challenges to completing the data collection. There was also the issue of merging “pre-pandemic and pre-volcano data with information gathered in the immediate aftermath of those cataclysmic events”.
“… the socio-economic landscape of St Vincent and the Grenadines has changed markedly since…2018…as such indicators of poverty and vulnerability would have changed drastically.”
As such, Minister Gonsalves said a new report is being planned and government signed a financing agreement with the World Bank on June 6, 2022 for $6 million towards this end.
“The World Bank has agreed to finance a survey of living conditions and has made available $478,000 US dollars for this activity. A total of $300,521 US was incurred on the 2018 Poverty Assessment at the point of termination,” Minister Gonsalves said, also noting that the living conditions survey is set to be done in 2025.
He added that the new Country Poverty Assessment Survey will be conducted following completion of the population and Housing Census, which is being funded at a cost of US$1.6 million, and some of the preliminary work has been completed with more to be done between June and September of 2023.
The methodology of the 2025 Poverty Assessment has not been confirmed and will be determined by the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
“…at the OECS level, the determination will be made whether we go with the diary method, the recall method or some hybrid of the two.”