SA making progress in reducing poverty

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cape Town - The number of people living in poverty has declined between 1999 and 2007, putting the country in good stead to meet its 2014 target of halving poverty.

According to a report titled, "Development Indicators 2009", released by the Policy Co-ordination and Advisory Service (PCAS) unit in the Presidency, incomes of the poorest have increased in recent years from R783 per month to R1041 per month.

The report, which provides information on the impact of government programmes on the lives of ordinary South Africans, also found that more than 13 million people receive social grants, compared to the 7.87 million in the 2004/05 data.

However, the report found that despite the reduction in poverty levels, the rate of eliminating poverty was still slow.

"Although poverty has reduced over time, more worrying is the rate of eliminating poverty is slow. Over this period, there seems to have been significant shifts in the provincial distribution of poverty," the report states.

The report also found that there was a significant decrease in the number of South Africans living in the lower categories of the Living Standards Measure (LSM-3) as well as an increase in the size of the middle bands (LSM 4-6).

"The improvement in people's lives should be attributed to the economic growth and expanding employment as well as government's poverty alleviation initiatives, among others, social assistance and support for better housing," attributes the publication.

Despite the reduction in poverty, the publication found that income inequality seems to have remained the same.

"We are improving people's quality of life, but inequality is worsening," Minister in the Presidency National Planning Commission, Trevor Manuel, said, adding that the government would have to focus on intensifying its current programmes to take the country to a higher development trajectory.

He noted that the distribution of social grants and the improvement of the labour market were not enough to dent income inequality.

The report further noted that income inequality in South Africa was not reduced even during the years of economic growth.

"When the percentage of richest and poorest quintiles is compared, the deep structural nature of poverty in the country is clear. This structural nature of poverty has a racial underpinning," elaborated Manuel, adding that inequality was still a challenge.

Despite recent protests by citizens over alleged lack of service delivery, the report noted that government continued to make massive improvements in terms of service delivery, and the number of subsidised houses continued to increase, as well as access to water, sanitation and electricity.

An area of development that was significantly below target was that of land redistribution. Since 1994 government has delivered about 2.9 million hectares of agricultural land to land reform beneficiaries.

"The goal of distributing 30 percent of the country's agricultural land by 2014 remains a big challenge that will be given impetus by the newly established Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform," reads the report.

It also noted that about 5 percent of the land restitution claims remain unresolved. According to the report, the reason why some of the cases remain unresolved was due to the complex nature of the claims.

"At the current rate, the target [30 percent] by 2014, would not be met," Manuel said.