Women and children, more so than men, are affected by poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to unpublished data collected by the government and leaked to the opposition.
The data further show that a quarter of all employed persons in the country were living in poverty.
The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), on Wednesday, held a press conference and gave to the media the data that had been collected in 2018 for the poverty assessment report, which is produced every 10 years.
However, the Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration has not released the report, despite repeated calls by the opposition in the last Parliament, which was dissolved on Oct. 9
The data show that nationally, poverty stood at 36.1% of the population, some 5.9 percentage points more than in 2008.
However, among women, the poverty head count rate was 41.6% — 10.4 percentage points higher than the male headcount rate of 31.2%.
Further, the poverty headcount rate increased with household size, ranging from 5% in single-person households up to 77% in households with seven or more persons.
Children are more at risk of being in poverty, the data show.
Poverty head count decreases with higher educational attainment, ranging from 40.2% among those with primary education less to 1.8% among those with university level education.
Among the employed, the poverty headcount was 25.2%, while the poverty headcount rate among the unemployed was 46.2%.
The working poor were less likely to be employers (self-employed with employees) and more likely to be private employees (mainly domestic workers, construction and farm labourers etc.)
The working poor were mainly engaged in industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing; farmers and farm labourers; construction; construction labourer; wholesale and retail trade; cashiers; education; and cleaners/janitors
Speaking at a press conference where the data was disclosed, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday said the report “is just basically describing what people are already feeling, it doesn’t inform them in that sense”.
Friday, however, said that the information “helps us to get a clearer picture of it, because you’re not basing it just simply an anecdote. It is based on comprehensive research. So people are already feeling the pain.
“This just validates what you’re feeling. And so, the basis on which they have rejected the government and continue to do so is already there, this will just make it clear, and hopefully, those persons who may need that further clarity to make up their mind that this government has not been good, not for poor people, not for the economy overall, not for the country.”
The data was released just over a week before Vincentians go to the polls to elect a new government.
In that vote, the NDP is trying to stop the ULP in its attempts to secure an historic fifth consecutive term in office.
“As I’ve said many times, November the 5th, which is going to affect us, it is going to determine what we do for the next five years. Do you want another five years where more people are sinking into poverty?
“Do you want another five years where … the haves are getting more and the have-nots are sinking further behind, where there’s greater inequality in our country. This is what I speak about when they see that the election is so important, because it determines not just what we do for the next five years, but it sets us on a course that will affect us well beyond that, and this is why we have to take it as a historic vote to bring the change that the country clearly … needs
Meanwhile, Daniel Cummings, the opposition’s spokesperson on health matters said that the data speak to “the dishonesty of the government — a group of people who are preoccupied with retaining power at all costs including sacrificing the people of the country.
“They are incapable of fixing the economy,” said Cummings, who is seeking a third consecutive term as MP for West Kingstown.
“More and more people are falling into abject poverty, below the poverty line. They are employing people below the poverty line, yet they are living as though everything is hunky dory, when you can’t deal with issues like preventing death from dengue because the hospital can’t get the supplies to do basic tests and all.
“Everybody’s facing it. But they are living in a cocoon, and denying people of the basic information and would not move out of the way to allow our country to progress. That is what this points to. It’s a disaster.”