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ZimStat stops releasing poverty data

by Staff reporter
18 Jan 2021 at 06:26hrs | Views
THE Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZimStat) has abandoned the release of poverty datum line (PDL) data for a family of five to focus only on individual data, the NewsDay Business has established.

Over the years the country's statistics office has been disseminating data on a family of five as a threshold to measure poverty levels in the country. Although individual PDL data was part of the information released, it was never used as a benchmark to measure the cost of living nor was it used to negotiate for better salaries by labour unions.

According to the latest PDL data for the month of December 2020, the Total Consumption Poverty Line (TCPL) for one person stood at $4 670 in December 2020.

This means that an individual required that much to purchase both non-food and food items as at December 2020 in order not to be deemed poor. This represents an increase of 5,5 % when compared to the November 2020 figure of $4 425 64.

ZimStat confirmed the change in data reportage in a statement accompanying the latest report.

"With effect from November 2020, ZimStat is now producing the Poverty Datum Lines (PDL) using the lower bound poverty line. The method refers to the sum of food poverty line and the average amount derived from non-food items of households whose total expenditure is equal to the food poverty line," ZimStat said in statement.

"The food poverty line (FPL) represents the amount of money that an individual will require to afford the minimum required daily energy intake of 2 100 calories."

Contacted for comment ZimStat prices statistics manager Thomas Chikadaya said the move was in line with international standards.

"We are now following international standards. Poverty statistics is reported per individual. All poverty statistics were like that only Zimbabwe chose to also report on a household of five," said Chikadaya.

Economist Victor Bhoroma said adopting the release of PDL for one person was geared towards removing pressure coming from labour when negotiating for wages from government.

"My feeling is that when you look at the calculation at the family basket. It has more or less an alarm behind it and I sense that particular alarm was not desirable with the government whenever they were negotiating with the apex council for civil service salaries," Bhoroma said.

"So in a way inasmuch as those are international standards, working an individual basket is easier and does not cause alarm to labour and does not give a lot of pressure to government. You might argue that not every family has five people. So I think the government has decided to follow that particular route so as to reduce pressure on it and reduce alarm to the population when it comes to the increase in poverty datum line."

Questions have been raised as to how the country's inflation is easing at a time cost of living is soaring every month.

The country's year-on-year inflation rate as of December 2020 it was 348,5% down from a high of 837% in July.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce chief executive Christopher Mugaga said there was nothing amiss with the move as reporting PDL for a single person can be more reflective of poverty levels in the country.

"I don't see anything wrong with the revised way of reporting PDL. Indeed it is in line with the international standards reporting PDL for a single person," Mugaga said.

"It can even be more reflective of poverty levels in the country given that a family of 5 basket was concealing deep-seated poverty given that an average family is beyond 5 people. By both interpolation and extrapolation, one can still decipher that constitute a family of 5. So the move does not mean much, its just a cosmetic shift in reporting standards but fundamentally the difference remains the same."

Research economist Takudzwa Chisango pointed out that adopting an international standard would be an anathema to the ever rising cost of living.

"While it's good that we have adopted the said international standard and that the basket of commodities has not been changed, we should not engross ourselves much into the standard on how PDL data is being reported. The fundamental thing is to redress that which is making it soar," Chisango said.

Source - newsday