Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh has lashed out at the Opposition over the state of poverty in Guyana, pointing out that a World Bank fact sheet which stated that 48% of the country’s population is in poverty was using figures from 2019, when the APNU+AFC was in power.
“The first point that I want to make is that the statistics that Mr. Norton is citing and the state and the state of affairs that he is interpreting and deriving from those statistics in fact refer to a 2019 state of affairs”, the Finance Minister said.
In its original report, the World Bank stated that poverty rates are highest in the sparsely populated interior or hinterland where communities have limited access economic opportunities, health care and public services. The country experiences high emigration and brain drain, with 39% of all Guyanese currently residing abroad and roughly half of all Guyanese with a tertiary education having emigrated to the United States.
That information which was contained in the report since early October was updated last evening by the World Bank, reportedly after the Government of Guyana expressed some concern about the report.
The World Bank’s website now shows that its Fact Sheet on Guyana was updated yesterday, the 2nd November, almost two days after the Opposition Leader used figures and information from the original report that was on the site since October.
The updated report now states that “poverty in Guyana, measured using the upper-middle income poverty line (US$5.50 per day in 2011 PPP) has dropped from close to 61 percent in 2006 to around 48 percent in 2019, but was still among the highest in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region.”
The Bank in a note stated that the 2019 figures represent the most recent available data.
The Minister of Finance while attacking the Opposition Leader for his use of the original data from the World Bank report, admitted that the World Bank has since updated its fact sheet on Guyana.
“The World Bank has since updated that Fact Sheet to reflect that the statistics relate to 2019. And in light of the World Bank updating its Fact Sheet to reflect that the statistics relate to 2019, Mr. Norton might wish to reconsider his comments”, Singh said.
The Opposition has said the Government needs to do more to tackle the rising cost of living and the low wages being paid to public servants, noting that public servants have only gotten a 7% salary increase covering the past two years that the PPP has been in office.