Rural poverty remains high
Published: Thursday | July 9, 2009
Dr Badrul Haque, special representative of the World Bank. - Contributed
A SHARP decline in national poverty levels in Jamaica over the last 20 years has failed to trickle down to the rural poor, a World Bank official has said.
Making a presentation to members of both Houses of Parliament Tuesday, Badrul Haque, a special representative of the lending institution, said rural poverty has remained "fairly high" despite a rapid decline in the national poverty levels from more than 30 per cent in 1989 to below 10 per cent at present.
"Importantly, if you look at the consumption of the poorest 20 per cent and the consumption of the wealthiest 20 per cent, that remains unchanged over the last 20 years, so that somehow doesn't square with this rapid decline in poverty," he told parliamentarians in Gordon House.
Commenting on gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Jamaica, Haque said the World Bank would, in the next four years, work more directly with Jamaica on "the growth agenda". He said the targeting of economic growth was added to the proposed country strategy it had been discussing with the Government.
He said Jamaica's average annual growth rate over the last 35 years had only been 0.8 per cent. He said if a population growth of 0.5 per cent were taken into account, the per capita growth would be flat.
Turning to the manufacturing sector, the World Bank expert said companies which used a significant amount of energy were spending at least three times more on electricity than their counterparts in the United States and seven times more than their competitors in Trinidad and Tobago.
"This is a major issue that needs to be addressed to improve competitiveness and we are in discussion with the Government to work on this," he said.
Haque said the agricultural sector, a potential source for growth, particularly through small-scale farming, was facing serious challenges.
The World Bank representative said for the sector to contribute significantly to economic growth, technology, improvement in infrastructure, and the vexed issue of farm theft were areas that had to be addressed.