Monrovia – The World Bank has announced that about 54 percent of the population of Liberia is living below the poverty line. This means they live on less than $US2.00 a day.
Making the disclosure at the celebration of “End Poverty Day” on Monday, October 17, World Bank’s Country Economist Daniel K. Boakye said the figure was contained in a 2014 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) implemented by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
According to the survey report, the figure amounts to 2.1 million Liberians who were unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs between January and August 2014.
Mr. Boakye also noted that 18 percent of this population lives in extreme poverty.
It further noted that poverty was higher in rural areas compared to urban, 70 percent versus 43 percent respectively. But the larger share of the population living in urban areas, according to the report, means that there is roughly the same number of urban poor as rural poor.
The report also points out that the characteristic of poverty differ between urban and rural areas.
“The majorities of the food-poor, or those who caloric intake was insufficient to meet their basic needs, were living in the urban areas. Of those classified as non-poor overall in urban areas, 13% were nonetheless food poor, compared to 6% in rural areas.”
This higher incidence, according to the report, was likely driven by higher costs for urban necessities, such as rent and transportation, that crowd out spending on food.
“The main reason for the high level of poverty in the urban area is that after paying the nonfood needs, the urban center households have very little to support their food needs. There is nothing left to purchase their food items.”
However, from the survey it was also gathered that regional poverty was lowest in Montserrado County, and highest in the Southeastern “B” region, which is comprised of Maryland, River Gee, and Grand Kru Counties.
The report also finds that outside of Monrovia, the lowest incidences were in the South Central region, containing the Port of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County, a major center for Iron ore exporting, and Southeastern “A” region, the center of the logging industry and the Ross Port of Greenville in Sinoe County.
Meanwhile Mr. Boakye maintained that investing in agriculture was the best way to reduce poverty.
“Basically we see one sector as a very important component of addressing poverty, and that is the agriculture sector. If, as a country we can invest in agriculture, we can address poverty very significantly.
If we were to improve the productivity in the Agriculture sector, there will be enough food to sell in the urban sector and there will be enough income from the sale of agriculture products in the urban center, and rural farmers will have enough income to purchase their nonfood items,” the World Bank economist advised.
He advised that there is no time for complacency.
“Currently, we don’t even have the option of delaying because what use to give us a source of revenue or income into the country has almost dwindle about half its size. I am talking about the concession company that used to generate enough income from the mining sector.
Global commodities prices have dwindled by more than 50 percent on the average. And so there is a real challenge as to how the economy can stand on its own.
In the past we have over relied on the income coming from concessions.
So we are obliged to look at our agriculture sector and make sure that we will be able to support those in the sector to increase their output, especially productivity,” Mr. Boakye urged.
Also speaking, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Thomas Gbokie, conceded that the agriculture sector needed improvement.
He said the Ministry of Agriculture was working to improve productivity, adding that emphases have been placed not only on production, but how to add value to productivity.
The Deputy Minister noted that the setting up of an Inter-ministerial Task Force for agriculture and agro business by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was a clear manifestation of the Government of Liberia’s willingness to improve the Agriculture Sector.
The Task Force chaired the president and co-chaired by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Moses Zinnah.
He said among other things the government along with its international partners is immensely contributing to the sector.
“We are hoping that we can bring a new outlook in the sector, Deputy Minister Gbokie concluded.
This year’s End Poverty Day was celebrated by the World Bank through its regional offices in 17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The countries were linked with the World Bank central office in Washington D. C.
World Bank’s Senior Economist Aparajita Goyal said although agriculture was the largest job producer on the African continent (about 60%), the sector was plagued with lots of challenges, chief of which include climate change, lack of electricity and good transportation system.
The dialogue section of the celebration of the World Food Day featured several people, including government officials, farmers, journalists and civil society groups.
The farmers complained from lack of good road network, modern equipment to engage in mechanized farming and suitable markets to sell their products are major impediments facing them.
Speaking earlier from South Africa, World Bank’s Africa Poverty Team Practice Manager, Andrew Dabalen, said about 1.1 billion people have move out of poverty since 1990, something he said the world can celebrate.
He warned that in the midst of this success, much still need to be done.
“We still have some 800 people in extreme poverty, living on less than $US 2.00 a day,” he said.”
“And among these poor people, Dabalen noted that half of them live in the rural area.
He also pointed out that half of these poor people were children, with half of them living in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He said agriculture was the surest way to address the menace of poverty.
“We really need to have other alternative action in order to exclusively tackle the problems of poverty and inequality.
With the current environment the world is in, where commodities prices have collapsed, where a lot of countries are actually are actually in recession or having difficulty in accessing international markets for their products, utilizing land and labor is definitely the best way to reduce poverty,” he averred.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh -0880881540/[email protected]