After a gap of several months, the Central Statistical Office has updated its Poverty Datum Line survey to June, which has enabled me to update my own version of the tables. The data are drawn from the major cities and regions of the country and averaged to permit the calculation of the trends for the country. Only US dollar figures are recorded in the tables.
The Poverty Datum Line is said to represent the cost of supporting a standard of living that must be achieved ³if a person is deemed not to be poor². The amount that must be spent on food is said to cover the cost of 2100 kilo-calories per person and if an individual¹s consumption does not exceed the food poverty line, that person would be deemed to be very poor.
The tables show the food and total consumption figures for individuals and for families of five, the average size of households that was established by the 2002 Population Census. However, the items and proportions in the non-food index are based on surveys concluded in 1996, so their validity now might be questionable.
Between January and June this year, the cost of the basic food requirements per person are said to have fallen from about $36 to $26 a month, while the cost of the food as a proportion of total spending has fallen from about 32% to just under 30%.
To establish the needs for a family of five, the amounts calculated for one person have been simply multiplied by five. This seems to lack the sophistication needed to deflect criticism, but the CSO claims that the totals, which reflect fixed quantities of items that are not disclosed in the tables, are the costs of minimum needs that are ³consistent with the preferences of poor individuals and households².
As the June totals reached $429,55 per household, and as average incomes are believed to be below $250 a month for most employees, and well below that figure for many of them, the figures confirm observations that more than one income is needed per household. Contributions from informal activities almost certainly close a large part of the gap, but remittances from relatives working abroad and rents received from lodgers are probably very important sources for many families.
I hope the tables will prove helpful and that the figures needed to update them will now become available regularly.