By Paneetha Ameresekere
Sri Lanka’s poverty headcount declined to 4.1 per cent last year, from 6.7% in 2012/13, when the last of such censuses were taken, the Census and Statistics Department (CSD), in a report released on Thursday (19), said.
The Official Poverty Line (OPL) for last year was Rs 4,166 per soul per mensem, as opposed to real per capita expenditure per month for a person fixed at Rs 3,624 in 2012/13 to be poverty neutral then.
The average shortfall was Rs 620 in real terms per month, per poor person, last year, the CSD said.
Last year 843,913 individuals were in poverty as opposed to 1.3 million as per the immediately preceding survey conducted for the year 2012/13. The total poor households were 3.1 per cent of the total households, or 169,392 households as at last year, the CSD said.
‘With the average monthly shortfall in expenditure per poor person being Rs 620 in real terms per month, an oerall expenditure of Rs 523.3 million per month is required for 843,913 poor people to bring them out of poverty’, the CSD said.
Meanwhile, the highest Poverty Headcount Index was reported from the Kilinochchi District and the lowest fromthe Colombo District.
The highest number of people who were below the poverty line was reported from the Kandy District and the lowest reported from the Mannar District. The highest inequality of real per capita expenditure was reported from the Kurunegala District and the lowest from Ampara, the CSD said.
Even though poverty has declined to a greater extent at national level in the last few decades, poverty disparities still exists across provinces and districts, the CSD said.
At the provincial level, the lowest poverty headcount index of 1.7 per cent, representing 101,342 poor people, was reported from the Western Province, while the highest (7.7 per cent) representing 83,834 poor people wasreported from the Northern Province (NP), it said.
The Mullaitivu District in the North, where the estimated poverty rates are high (12.7 per cent), however, collectively, accounts for only 1.4 per cent of poor people nationwide due to its small population size, the CSD said.
Gini coefficient of per capita expenditure, which measures expenditure disparities, where a figure zero indicates that there are no disparities or perfect expenditure equality, whereas ‘1’ indicated the highest expenditure disparity, indicating that only one person is responsible for all the expenditure in Sri Lanka, was 0.39 last year.
However, the CSD, in its poverty headcount survey of 2012/13 conducted in the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa era, didn’t give the Gini coefficient of per
capita expenditure for the totality of the island. Therefore, it’s not possible to ascertain whether inequality levels vis-à-vis expenditure has increased or contracted. Currently, the CSD functions under Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.