Jamaica recorded a 40 per cent drop in the poverty rate in 2018, the lowest in 10 years. This was disclosed by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, in a statement to Parliament on Tuesday (June 23).
“In 2018, the poverty rate was 12.6 per cent, a decline of 6.7 percentage points relative to 2017… . This is the lowest rate of poverty since 2008,” he said.
Noting that the figures are contained in the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions (JSLC), Dr. Clarke said this decline may be attributed to an increase in real gross domestic product (GDP), an increase in employment, an increase in the proportion of households in the lower quintiles that received remittances, as well as a slowing in the rate of inflation.
“The overall reduction in poverty for 2018 was driven by declines in all three regions. The Greater Kingston Metropolitan Area (GKMA) registered a poverty rate of 9.2 per cent, Other Urban Centres (OUC), 12 per cent, and Rural Areas, a poverty rate of15 per cent. Decreases of 8.5 percentage points were recorded in the GKMA, 7.8 per cent in OUC and 5.2 percentage points in Rural Areas,” he noted.
Turning to the main economic factors accounting for the overall decline in poverty, Dr. Clarke told the House that in 2018, Jamaica’s economy recorded a GDP growth rate of 1.9 per cent, the sixth consecutive year of growth and the highest annual growth rate in 12 years.
“The out-turn for 2018 also marked the first time that Jamaica’s GDP level surpassed the levels recorded prior to the global financial crisis,” he pointed out.
In addition, he noted that the Mining and Quarrying industry grew by 33.8 per cent relative to 2017, which represented the strongest growth rate of the mining sector since 1989.
Further, the Agriculture industry, after a contraction in 2017, which was due to widespread flooding, rebounded to expand by 4.1 per cent in 2018.
Additionally, the Finance Minister pointed out that the Construction industryrecorded a growth rate of 3.3 per cent, “largely on account of the record infrastructure spending and the public infrastructure works undertaken by the Government in that year”.
Also, remittance inflows in 2018 rose to US$2,345.8 million, compared with US$2,305.3 million in 2017.
“The JSLC data showed that 56.9 per cent of Jamaican households received remittances from abroad during 2018, a 7.8 percentage point increase when compared with 49.1 per cent in 2017,” he said.
In addition, as at July 2018, data from the Labour Force Survey revealed that the net number of persons employed increased by 10,300 to 1,222,600 persons, compared with July 2017. This represents the fifth consecutive year of increased employment for this period.
Other contributing economic factors wereone per cent growth of the Wholesale and Retail Trade, which accounts for 17 per cent of the economy, as well as lowering of inflation, which was 2.4 per cent –2.8 percentage points lower than the 5.2 per cent recorded in 2017. The inflation rate for 2018 was the second lowest in 40 years with the lowest recorded rate of 1.7 per cent recorded in 2016.
Dr. Clarke pointed out that in the midst of negative developments coming from coronavirus (COVID-19), “it is good and reassuring to know that as this Government carried on with the right economic policies that created jobs, reduced debt that provided more economic opportunities for all Jamaicans, the poverty rate was also declining and declining at a rapid rate”.
“Pre-COVID, all of Jamaica’s economic variables, including poverty, were moving in the right direction,” he asserted.
The Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions reflects the living standards of the Jamaican household. It is a joint publication by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), which collects the data annually, and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), which conducts the analysis. The prevalence of poverty is calculated annually by the PIOJ using the survey data on consumption expenditure.