Saturday, September 17, 2011

Slashing Poverty by the Numbers

This vendor on Plaza Bolívar said she earns just a few thousand pesos per day, making her poor. 
Recently, Colombian Pres. Juan Manuel Santos dramatically reduced the nation's poverty rate with a simple method: defining down the poverty threshold.

According to the government's new definition, if you earn more than 187,000 pesos per month per person in your household (about $104 dollars), you're not poor. Suddenly, only just above 36% of Colombians are poor - compared to almost half, according to other stats I've seen.

These vendors said they can earn 10 - 20,000 pesos
each  per day when the police let them sell. And
they've got a prime location, albeit an illegal one. 
Even Vice President Angelino Garzon called the poverty definition "a real offense to poor people," and offered to take the economists who generated the number to a public market to see what 190,000 pesos would buy. That translates into an income of 6,333 pesos per day - barely enough to rent a room in a fleabag rooming house in the city center, not to mention buying food and clothing. No wonder so many non-poor Colombians are digging thru trash cans.

Poor guy: Senate Pres. Corzo.
Most likely, Senate Pres. Juan Manuel Corzo would define poverty very differently. In fact, he apparently feels poor himself, recently complaining that "it's impossible, with (a senator's) money to maintain two cars." Corzo wants Senators' gasoline subsidy restored. That upset lots of Colombians, since senators earn almost 40 times the minimum wage, of 535,600 pesos per month, or $297.500. Of course, the many Colombians working in the informal economy often make less than the minimum.

To resolve this inequity, Corzo brought back a policy providing free gasoline stipends to congressmembers, including himself.

The World Bank pegs Colombia's per-capita GDP at $5,500 per person using the Atlas methodology (whatever that is) or at $9,000 in terms of purchasing power.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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