New poverty as­sess­ment tool help­ing Caribbean coun­tries COVID re­sponse

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - Christo­pher Serju/Se­nior Gleaner Writer christo­pher.serju@glean­

GOV­ERN­MENTS IN the East­ern Caribbean have been mak­ing use of the En­hanced Coun­try Poverty As­sess­ment (eCPA) tool­kit, with one us­ing it to help guide their re­sponse to the im­pact of the COVID-19 pan­demic. Govern­ment of­fi­cials have noted that the tool­kit helps take the guess­work out of de­ter­min­ing which fam­i­lies re­quire so­cial pro­tec­tion pro­gramme ben­e­fits.

In St Lu­cia, it has been used to de­sign a Sur­vey of Liv­ing Con­di­tions – House­hold Bud­get Sur­vey from which data was ex­trap­o­lated to in­form a na­tional el­i­gi­bil­ity test, mak­ing the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als more sci­en­tific.

“It im­proves ef­fi­ciency, en­sur­ing that the right per­sons get the help, be­cause, in the past, we’ve had er­rors of in­clu­sion and er­rors of ex­clu­sion where per­sons who are not poor are ac­cess­ing cash trans­fers and per­sons who are gen­uinely poor are ex­cluded from it,” ex­plained chief econ­o­mist in the Depart­ment of Eco­nomic Plan­ning, Tommy Descartes.

“Pre­vi­ous datasets looked at in­come poverty, but now you’re look­ing at de­pri­va­tion in terms of ed­u­ca­tion, health, em­ploy­ment, which will help St Lu­cia pro­vide bet­ter in­ter­ven­tions to poor house­holds,” he said.

Based on the data, Descartes said St Lu­cia will be “ex­pand­ing the num­ber of house­holds [assessed] by 1,000 to re­spond to COVID-19 over the next two to three months, as part of an eco­nomic re­silience and re­cov­ery strat­egy. We will be us­ing the in­stru­ment to en­sure that the right house­holds are get­ting pub­lic as­sis­tance”.

Com­ing on stream in 2018, the tool­kit is built on the ex­ist­ing Coun­try Poverty As­sess­ment, with the in­cor­po­ra­tion of cli­mate change, dis­as­ter risk man­age­ment and geo­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tems con­sid­er­a­tions. St Lu­cia has used the tool­kit to pre­pare the Par­tic­i­pa­tory Poverty As­sess­ment, the In­sti­tu­tion As­sess­ment and Macro So­cio Eco­nomic Anal­y­sis.

While St Lu­cia is the only coun­try so far to have used data de­rived from the eCPA tool­kit for its COVID-19 stim­u­lus pack­age, other coun­tries in the East­ern Caribbean have been us­ing it to vary­ing de­grees, but all with the same goal – boost­ing so­cial reg­is­tra­tion sys­tems to im­prove so­cial pro­tec­tion pro­grammes. These in­clude The Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, Gre­nada, St Kitts and Ne­vis, and St Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines.


Descartes stated that St Lu­cia’s fo­cus will be build­ing on the tool­kit, us­ing it as the ba­sis for a larger re­form of the coun­try’s so­cial safety net sys­tem.

Project co­or­di­na­tor of the ECPA in the Sta­tis­ti­cal Unit of the OECS, Geral­dine St Croix, high­lighted that the eCPA helps builds ca­pac­ity within gov­ern­ments, al­low­ing ad­min­is­tra­tions to do the work them­selves, as op­posed to re­ly­ing on ex­ter­nal ac­tors.

“For the prior rounds of the eCPA, we hired a team of con­sul­tants to do it. This time, we de­cided to em­power mem­ber states for the sus­tain­able fu­ture of poverty as­sess­ments,” she said, ex­plain­ing that ta­lent gaps were cre­ated by out­flows of peo­ple from across govern­ment min­istries. “There are con­sul­tants that come in at times where spe­cific skills are re­quired, but in terms of in-coun­try im­ple­men­ta­tion of field ex­er­cises, the mem­ber states carry it out them­selves.”

The project co­or­di­na­tor em­pha­sised that the data de­rived is used to in­form ev­i­dence-based de­ci­sions af­fect­ing peo­ple’s lives.

“A wealth of in­for­ma­tion is col­lected from tar­geted poor and vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, and fo­cus group dis­cus­sions pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to hear their voices first-hand. So, in terms of dis­as­ter risk re­duc­tion, the vul­ner­a­ble sub­pop­u­la­tion and the data can as­sist in iden­ti­fy­ing mea­sures to im­prove their re­silience. In ad­di­tion, the in­clu­sion of poverty and vul­ner­a­bil­ity map­ping in the En­hanced CPA has proved use­ful in pic­to­ri­ally dis­play­ing ar­eas of vul­ner­a­bil­ity across [CDB’s Bor­row­ing Mem­ber Coun­tries] and en­cour­ag­ing gov­ern­ments to take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion,” she said.

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