By the end of 2010, Government would be better positioned to seriously put a further dent in the level of poverty in this country, as it seeks to ameliorate the plight of the needy. That is because, by then, it would have in its hand a full assessment of the impact of this social scourge on some Barbadians.
Starting this quarter, a Country Assessment of Living Conditions (CALC) or poverty assessment will be conducted by the Ministry of Social Care and the Caribbean Development Bank, in conjunction with the Statistical Department and the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Director of the Bureau of Social Policy, Research, and Planning in the Social Care Ministry, Kirk Humphrey, said the CALC had a number of aims. Some of them seek to identify the poor, the type and magnitude of poverty, and bring about a full understanding of and the actual causes of poverty. Since 1997, Barbados has not carried out a scientific approach to studying poverty, and according to Mr. Humphrey, “data over 10 years become limited in application to addressing certain policy issues.”
Therefore, he pointed out that the CALC was happening at this time to bring the Ministry’s data science up- to-date, “so that in moving forward in planning, our programme and policies would be accurate and relevant, and the timely data would guide and inform our programmes and policies.”
He added: “So that when we intervene in certain social problems, it will be based on sound empirical data, and allow us to implement the kind of programmes that will bring benefit to Barbadians.”
The study has five components. These are: a participatory poverty assessment, a survey of living conditions and household budget, a macro-social assessment, an institutional assessment, and a poverty and social impact assessment. Stating that to his knowledge, most countries in the region have only carried out a study using the first four, the Director said the fifth component would look at how Barbados’ programmes impact on people and would thus be seen as an impact assessment.
Explaining how the participatory poverty assessment aspect would help, Mr. Humphrey said it would give a more fundamental insight of people’s understanding of their own plight. “It goes to the people; so they tell you how they experience poverty. They tell you how they deal with it, and what their livelihood strategies are, so it is the person’s real experience of poverty,” he said.
About the survey of living conditions and the household budget, Mr. Humphrey remarked that it would throw up quantitative data and reveal what Barbados’ poverty line would be. “So when you hear Barbados speaking of a poverty line ‘x’ amount, then any person living below that line is in a state of poverty. This is where we would get that information from,” he explained.
According to him, the macro-social assessment component would focus on the historical, social and economic environment in which Barbados found itself. “This will determine the country’s capacity to address its own poverty, what has been our social history, and the prevailing economic situation,” Mr. Humphrey said.
The institutional assessment aspect would seek “to analyse the various institutions responsible for delivering social and poverty eradication programmes; in terms of their capacity, staffing, resources, evaluating the outcomes and monitoring those outcomes.”
After the information is collected and analysed, Mr. Humphrey stated it should lead to one upshot – “the improved delivery of services to our clients. It should therefore allow us to target in a more co-ordinated and systematic way and assist us in implementing and designing specialised programming that will bring positive change to the lives of those persons who are affected by poverty in Barbados,” he stressed.
The CALC will be guided by a Government-appointed committee known as the National Assessment Team (NAT). It comprises members of the private and public sectors, permanent secretaries within the various departments, and representatives of non-governmental and community based organisations. As pointed out by Mr. Humphrey, the NAT has a significant role to play, since all major decisions would be made by that body and it would have the responsibility of ensuring that those issues that are relevant to Barbados are addressed in the CALC. The full process of the CALC will be co-ordinated by the Director of the Bureau of Social Policy, Research and Planning.
In another week, on Wednesday, April 29, to be precise, the launch of the Country Assessment of Living Conditions will take place at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, and it is hoped that all Barbadians would buy into this process, because without their contribution it would not be successful.
As citizens of this country, we must do the best we can to ensure that the poor among us is assisted in every way possible. That powerful dictum by the 35th President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, should be kept foremost in mind: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” We owe it to the less fortunate among us to be there for them, in any reasonable way possible.