No value in global poverty guesswork


Publication of the progress report on the UN Millennium Development Goals is the time of year to ask whether the glass is half full or empty. You study the familiar format and decide whether momentum for the 2015 targets is really there.

I confess that I find the contents so murky that the glass is better set aside without interpretation. The graphic for progress on the headline goal of poverty reduction has now featured without material change for three successive reports.

It offers the state of play for 2005 whilst the accompanying text mentions the World Bank’s latest stab at projecting poverty in 2015, based on recent titbits of data.

The report does concede that meaningful post-2005 statistics for sub-Saharan Africa “represent only 20% of the region’s population.” But media reports will pick up the Bank’s view that the glass is half full, with insufficient understanding of the dodgy database, the inconsistent choice of poverty lines between countries and the huge distortion of China’s contribution to the figures.

Let’s stick to analysis of one country at a time.

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this post was first published by OneWorld UK

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