Johannesburg – More people may be living in poverty in South Africa.
This follows allegations that the government has fiddled the figures to determine the poverty line.
The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) said Statistics SA, which released a report last month on the rebased poverty lines, was directed by the Health Department not to use figures from its usual source.
The move would reduce the number of people deemed to be living in poverty and may reduce the state’s financial commitment towards the poor, it said.
In the past, Stats SA has used the Medical Research Council’s calculation that an individual needs to consume 2 261 kilocalories a day to lead a healthy life. But for the three new poverty lines, the World Health Organisation’s suggested 2 100 kilocalories is used.
If the MRC’s figures had been used, the percentage of people living in poverty would be more than 55 percent, instead of the 53.8 percent yielded by the WHO calculation.
The AIDC said the Health Department had directed Stats SA to go with the WHO due to budget austerity measures.
“A seemingly political cut in the biological starvation limit set has lowered each of the three new official poverty lines by R25 (a month). This is an unacceptable change of the government’s anti-poverty objectives and of norms that already are very questionable. It is a bad omen before the Budget speech,” the centre said yesterday.
It said that if the MRC’s starvation limit were used to benchmark the food poverty line in monetary terms, the figure would be R360 a month, instead of R335.
The lower bound poverty line, which measures how many people have to sacrifice food for other necessary spending such as soap, would have been R526 instead of R501.
“How many lived below the lower bound poverty line in 2011 if the limit is corrected from R501 to R526? Already moving the old food poverty line by R14 to R335 classified 758 000 more individuals as starving. A further necessary move by R25 would place another 1.3 to 1.4 million South Africans below the boundary of starvation,” the AIDC said.
Through the simple change of using the WHO’s figures, the government was also closer to meeting its goal of ensuring that no South African lived below the lower bound poverty line by 2030.
Health Department spokesman Popo Maja was not able to say why the change had been made.
Group Labour Editor
February 20 2015 at 10:48am
By Amy Musgrave