Bhutan had almost eliminated poverty to under two percent by 2012 amounting to ending extreme poverty in 22 years
Bhutan’s poverty reduction has been rapid, broad-based, and inclusive. Between 2007 and 2012, the percentage of consumption poor halved to 12 percent. Bhutan has nearly ended extreme poverty within the living memory of generation; extreme poverty touched a low of two percent in 2012. The broader multidimensional poverty indices, that includes education and health outcomes besides standard of living, also indicate a steep decline in the percentage of deprived population by two third, from about 25 percent to 12.7 percent.
According to the Bhutan poverty assessment report 2014, Bhutan has achieved rapid reduction in poverty in the last decade. By measure of the international norm of US $ 1.25 per day for extreme poverty, Bhutan had almost eliminated poverty to under two percent by 2012 amounting to ending extreme poverty in 22 years. And Bhutan stands out for the pace of its poverty reduction compared to other South Asian countries and the select cohort of countries with similar initial poverty levels in 1990.
Director General of National Statistical Bureau ( NBB) Kuenga Tshering said, this particular report identifies the key drivers of rapid poverty reduction in Bhutan over the recent years, explaining why some Dzongkhags are stuck in poverty or reducing poverty is not significant while others prospered, and he said the main drivers of prosperity in rural Bhutan appear to be increasing commercialization of agriculture, an expanding rural road network and beneficial spillovers from hydroelectric projects.
One of the factors contributing to poverty reduction is due to the noble Royal Kidu program where many landless households were able to get land permanently registered in their names, he added.
However, not all the Dzongkhags are out of the poverty line, the reports states that, the risk of falling back into the poverty is greatest for Bhutanese in rural areas, those holding informal jobs, with low education, and resident especially in Pemagatshel, Trashigang or Dagana.
Moreover, the Dzongkhags that experienced rapid poverty reduction are Zhemgang and Lhuentse while the Dzongkhags like Dagana and Pemagatshel experienced slow poverty reduction, the assessment report states.
While, the poverty reduction has been uneven across the Dzongkhags that poverty rates in Pemagatshel Dzongkhag and Tsirang remain the same in 2012 as of 2007 and Dagana , the growth was slower in Dagana and Lhuentse but initially the very poor Dzongkhags of Mongar, Zhemgang and Samtse has been much faster, states the report.
Thirty percent of Bhu- tanese households are headed by females, but in terms of consumption or multidimensional poverty rates was found to be equal for both male and female headed household, the report states.
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay during the launch of the assessment report said that reducing poverty rates from a high of 25% just six years ago to 12% now is a success by any measure. That success is because of our social development policy. Education is free and widespread, healthcare is free and access in the form of farm roads and communications system.
Lyonchhen added that, in a span of five years, we have reduced poverty from 25% to 12% but the reality is that, 12% is still poor. One out of every eight Bhutanese is still poor; one out of every eight Bhutanese has access to income which is less than Nu.1704 a month and one out of every eight Bhutanese go to bed hungry.
So, today as we launch this very important poverty assessment report, we must commit to fighting this scourge, reducing the numbers and not just seeing them as numbers, as 12% of people who are poor and 12.7% who are subjected multi-dimensionally. We must not just see the numbers, we must go beyond the numbers and see the faces of our brothers, sisters and of our children who have to live with poverty and who have to fight with poverty every day, said the Lyonchhen.
Lyonchhen further said that, the government will be soon sending people to each and every one of those houses to establish what level of poverty that they are experiencing and they need immediate attention. Lyonchhen added, we need to know who among our fellow Bhutanese are experiencing extreme poverty and they need urgent attention. But above and beyond that, we need to know what level and type of poverty each and every one of those households that are identified as poor are experiencing. Then, for each and every one of those households, we need to come up with a special package to remove them from poverty.
Resident Representative World Bank, Genevieve Boyreau said poverty reduction in Bhutan, as the report finds, has been rapid, broad-based and inclusive. Prosperity has been shared well in Bhutan with the bottom 40 percent enjoying faster growth than the rest.
Meanwhile, Lyonchhen has launched the Bhutan Poverty Assessment Report 2014 on 11th September, which was jointly complied by the national statistics bureau (NSB) and World Bank