The fourth social protection conference dubbed “Poverty: Dollars to Dimensions” was held in conjunction with a wide array of social partners. It’s a high level technical meeting that is expected to bloom with meaningful results in the next year and a half. But poverty is more than just being homeless or short on cash. Love News spoke to the experts who have been tasked to help Belize define poverty as it exists within the 8,866 square miles.
Jose Sanchez: “The Ministry of Human Development has engaged stakeholders in a series of workshops to define poverty and to eventually develop a multidimensional poverty index. The social planner of the Ministry Mark Antrobus says that would lead to policies that would help people.”
Mark Antrobus – Social Planner: “We always looked at income and expenditure in the previous country poverty assessments and now we are trying to look at other aspects of well being, not just money. We have got some professionals from the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Institute so they are really the experts. They do multidimensional poverty index for the world, for all the countries that have data. Really now we are looking into the methodology and trying to bring it into the context of Belize. We will be doing a series of participatory consultations with the public to find out what is important to them. What do they think is important when they think of poverty? Then hopefully we will be able to gather some data through a series of surveys, a census and then hopefully 2021 we have this comprehensive poverty assessment. People say that housing is really important to them. If you are deemed to be poor then that is generally poor housing, if that is what people suggest then great we can put in a housing program that maybe builds new houses, that repairs houses. People think education is important to them but they struggle to get to high school for example then we can put programs in place to help people in secondary schools better.”
Jose Sanchez: “This process of defining poverty then engaging policymakers and institutions have been carried out in Latin America and Asia. According to Monica Pinilla from the Human Development Institute at Oxford University. The multidimensional poverty index should be completed by 2021.”
Monica Pinilla – Representative of Human Development Initiative, Oxford University: “You will be able to measure poverty, you will be able to identify those who are multidimensionally poor and know why they are multidimensionally poor. To prioritize one of the dimensions and indicators that need more policy actions, in that case, you will need to be able to reduce the incidence, the intensity, and reduce poverty in general. The are different multidimensional poverty index, we have the global multidimensional poverty index that aims to compare poverty around the world and in this index we include indicators related to health, education and living standards. Other national MPI’s ( Multidimensional Poverty Index) includes care related to similar dimensions but also they consider dimensions as employment, environment such as security so it depends on the context that you are including. In the case of Belize we don’t have a list but they did a quality report about the voices of the poor, identified different dimensions and indicators that people living in multidimensional poverty are saying: things related to crime, with access to education, with access to healthy and nutritious food were the dimensions that multidimensional poor people living in Belize are saying.”
Mark Antrobus – Social Planner: “It is not something to walk away with this week to say we now understand what poverty is. It won’t be something that at the end of this year we will have a good definition of poverty, it will take a little bit of time. I will say that once we have that definition that is when we start putting those programs in place.”
Jose Sanchez: “The consultations with public and defining poverty will start in September. Education, housing and health are expected to be at the top of the poverty index.”
Mark Antrobus – Social Planner: “Now if you want to decrease poverty the only option is military were as if we look at multiple dimensions and say a poor person’s lives in poor housing, can’t go to secondary school and has poor health then to reduce poverty we have three options. We can help people in housing, we can help people in education and we can help people in health. More importantly, we look at households who are perhaps poor in all three areas and have a combined definition in each of those dimensions.”
Jose Sanchez: “Though we will be able to define poverty will the government have the budget to mitigate meaningful programs to mitigate or end it. Jose Sanchez for Love News.”
The four conferences are being funded by UNICEF with support from the World Bank, World Food Program and other organizations.