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Official poverty stats

Fred Wesley
Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cabinet has agreed that the preliminary report on Poverty and Household Incomes in Fiji be the official statistics on poverty and household income.

A Ministry of Information statement said yesterday that the report was prepared using the 2008-09 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES).

Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Planning, National Development and Statistics, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

Household Income and Expenditure surveys are an integral component of statistics being compiled by the Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics.

These surveys provide the following information at regular intervals:

- Living standards of urban and rural dwellers;

- Income and expenditure distribution for use in poverty studies;

- Statistical data for revising expenditure weights of the Consumer Prices Index, ensuring it is truly reflective of changes in the cost of living;

- Certain demographic characteristics like the age and sex distribution of the urban and rural population; and/or

- Informal sector activity for use in the estimation of GDP.

The HIES closely follow the manual of the United Nations National Household Survey Capability, which is used to obtain a two per cent representative sample of households, which reflects the population of various ethnic groups in rural and urban areas.

The surveys are conducted over a one-year period to capture seasonal changes in household income and expenditure. The information collected includes the sources of income and types of expenditure incurred.

In addition to cash income and expenditure, subsistence production and consumption are included as a component of household income and expenditure.

The survey information captured in the above manner is analysed to produce various reports including that on poverty and income.

The 2008-09 HIES data, which is the most recent survey, has now been analysed to produce the preliminary report on Poverty and Household Incomes in Fiji.

The Prime Minister explained that the preliminary report, which is compared with the 2002-03 HIES, focuses on key poverty and income distribution findings.

The report presents statistics under national, rural-urban, divisional, and ethnic categories.

The statement said that although the current policy was to discontinue ethnic categorisation, this remains necessary in the compilation of statistics such as poverty and household incomes in order to facilitate better targeting of resources by Government and development partners.

Commodore Bainimarama said the preliminary report indicates a decrease in the incidence of poverty in Fiji in 2008-09 compared to 2002-03.

"While urban poverty decreased from 28 per cent in 2002-03 to 19 per cent in 2008-09, rural poverty increased from 40 per cent to 43 per cent," he said.

"Based on the poverty gap analysis, it is estimated that 71 per cent of poverty alleviation resources should be targeted to rural areas."

Commodore Bainimarama said that while the incidence of rural poverty had increased, it was important to note the survey did not take into account Government initiatives implemented after March 2009.

He said the data collection period for the HIES was from April 2008 to March 2009, and therefore, the findings did not reflect the impact of government intervention programmes for the poor that were implemented after the survey period, particularly the bus fare subsidy and the food voucher scheme.

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