World Bank pledges to help collect poverty data in 78 nations

By on 19/10/2015

The World Bank Group has announced the launch of a regular $300m data collection project to ensure the world’s poorest nations will be able to measure progress towards the new millennium goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

The World Bank has identified 29 countries that had no poverty data from 2002 to 2011, most of which are small island states in the Caribbean Sea or the Pacific Ocean, such as Trinidad and Tobago; Tonga; Haiti; Cuba; and St. Lucia; as well as Somalia; Myanmar; Libya; and Algeria.

It identified another 28 nations, which had just one survey that collected poverty data during that time, most of which are low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Zimbabwe; Yemen; Tanzania; Swaziland; Sudan; South Sudan; Morocco; Mauritius; Maldives; Liberia; Lebanon; Kenya; Iraq; and Iran.

Poverty-fighting efforts have long been constrained by a lack of data in many countries, preventing analysts from identifying trends in how countries were making progress toward their goals, and posed a barrier to improving the lives of poor people.

Addressing this problem, the World Bank Group pledged on Thursday to work with developing countries and international partners to ensure that the 78 poorest nations have household-level surveys every three years, with the first round to be completed by 2020.

Speaking in Washington, where the World Bank’s headquarters are based, last week, World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim said: “We will not be able to reach our goal unless we have data to show whether or not people are actually lifting themselves out of poverty.”

He added: “Collecting good data is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty.

“We pledge, working alongside our partners in countries and international organisations, to do something that makes common sense and is long overdue: to conduct surveys in all countries that will assess whether people’s lives are improving.”

The World Bank estimates the total cost of the initiative to be $300 million every three years, in addition to what countries are already spending on core data collection. These costs would be expected to be borne by a mix of countries’ own resources, donor funding and World Bank financing. The major expansion of household-level data collection will be discussed and coordinated with countries and partners in the months ahead.

Jan Walliser, vice president for equitable growth, finance, and institutions at the World Bank Group, said: “The World Bank is committed to supporting countries in making this happen.

“We will work with our country partners to build capacity and ownership of this agenda, convene agencies and governments to learn from one another, help set international standards that ensure high quality in every country, and mobilise financing so that no country has to choose between investing in its people and collecting essential data.”

Ghana’s finance minister Seth E. Terkper welcomed the announcement. He said: “Our success in halving poverty over the last 20 years is built upon a solid foundation of quality, transparent household-level data through the Ghana Living Standards surveys.

“We welcome the World Bank’s efforts to ensure that every country has the same opportunities that we have had to gather the crucial information they need to improve the lives of their citizens.”

Kaushik Basu, chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank Group, added that “data gives representation to people who may otherwise be marginalised and forgotten, hence our decision to greatly step up efforts to collect more and better quality data in developing countries.”

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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