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To be able to combat poverty

Mar 24,2014 - Last updated at Mar 24,2014

To achieve sustainable development it is imperative to put an end to poverty, which is the main challenge for governments around the globe.

Success in combating poverty could be considered an indication of success in other sectors. Hence, ending poverty is a goal all countries want to achieve, and is the main contributor to human well-being.

Jordan, which has a population of more than 6.5 million, is no exception. Poverty alleviation is still one of the major challenges for the government.

According to the status of poverty report published by the Department of Statistics in July 2010, based on data from the Household Expenditure and Income Survey of 2008, there was an increase in Jordan’s poverty rates from 13 per cent in 2006 to 13.3 per cent in 2008.

The report also showed a substantial increase in the number of poverty pockets, from 22 to 32, over the same period of time, and an increase in the national absolute poverty lines from JD556 per person per annum in 2006 to JD680 in 2008.

There are several reasons for such trends in poverty-related numbers. One is the huge inflation rate associated with the world financial crises and the regional political situation. Another is inappropriate government intervention; a third is the lack of scientific evaluation methods that measure the feasibility and impact of this government intervention. Yet another reason is the lack of serious economic opportunities outside the big cities (Amman, Zarqa, Aqaba and Irbid).

In order to be able to put an end to poverty, there is need for appropriate poverty survey tools that enable diagnosing the issue and identifying efficient interventions to combat it.

Such tools should be able to also determine the main reasons for poverty. Once the reasons are known, the right solutions can be easily identified.

An analytical study prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Development Practices at the Columbia Global Centres-Middle East, in Amman, and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, in New York, upon the request of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation identified the main factors behind poverty in Jordan.

The study identified four main poverty risk factors. One is the number of children: Families with five children or more are 4.2 times at greater risk of being poor, as compared to families with fewer than five children.

A second factor is the level of education of the head of household. The study showed that families where the head of household has a primary level of education are 4.8 times at greater risk of being poor than those where the head has a post-secondary degree. Also, families where the head of household has a secondary level of education are 2.6 times at greater risk of being poor compared to those where the head has a college degree.

A third factor is the female employment status. The study showed that the proportion of women in the workforce is more than 2.5 times higher for the wealthiest quintile, compared to the poorest quintile.

The fourth factor is the nationality. The study showed that a non-Jordanian family has a 1.8 times greater risk of being poor than a Jordanian family.

The study included some other risk factors like geographic location and occupation.

According to the study, families living in Mafraq, for example, are 1.5 times at greater risk of being in poverty than those living in other parts of the country, while those in Amman are half at risk of being poor as compared to the rest of the country.

Also, families where the head of the household is unemployed are 1.3 times more at risk of being poor, compared to families where the head of the household is employed.

The study identified four categories of households in poverty: households with no income source; households with insufficient income; households with high family expenses; households with specific social and culture norms. The study also suggested specific solutions for these households’ problems.

There is no doubt that the government has spent tremendous efforts and investment to combat poverty, and, during the last decade, implemented several programmes to alleviate poverty across the Kingdom. 

But there are still questions regarding the impact and feasibility of these efforts.

The government should have solid strategic interventions to combat poverty, based on objective poverty survey tools that make it possible to identify the main reasons for poverty.

Those interventions should be built on an efficient assessment of the previous interventions, measuring their impact and learning lessons that would lead to identifying the required corrective measures.

The writer is sustainable development expert based in Amman. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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