World Bank says govt anti-poverty efforts not enough

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Anna Chibamu

THE World Bank says Zimbabwe’s efforts to address its current economic challenges are not enough to bring permanent solutions to the country’s crisis.

Addressing delegates at a Harare workshop on dissemination of Mini Poverty, Income, Consumption and Expenditure (PICES) 2019 and 2017 top line reports by Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTATS) on Tuesday, World Bank Senior Economist on Poverty and Equity Global Practice Rob Swinkels challenged the administration to do more to salvage the country’s ever increasing poverty levels.

“As World Bank, we are worried about the current situation, maintaining social services; how do we keep children in school, how do we make teachers come to teach. Also making sure doctors and nurses in hospitals are there. Those are absolute priorities at the moment.

“We are worried about the current situation, electricity shortages, water unavailability are all priorities that should be looked at now. The government’s responsibility and the development partners as much as we can to make sure the social services are stabilised,” said Swinkels.

In October last year, the financial institution reported that extreme poverty is estimated to have risen from 29 percent in 2018 to 34% in 2019, an increase from 4.7 to 5.7 million people due to economic contraction and the sharp rise in prices of food and basic commodities.

However, Swinkels commended government for some work being done in trying to rescue the country’s desperate situation.

“The government is doing a lot enough in terms of the BEAM and STEM programmes. It is quite substantial in covering 20 % of the poor benefiting from such programmes but it is not enough. We think there is need to expand these programmes making them accessible to the people. That is hard to prevent entirely though. There is an opportunity for government to do more on what is already on the ground.”

The greatest challenge according the Economist was that “government is constrained to provide social services but as WB it cannot fund the government due to issues that need to be resolved.

“We acknowledge the situation is dire but from the World Bank side we are constrained and cannot lend money to government unfortunately and hope issues at stake can be resolved as soon as possible. We are going to present the data to convince the World Bank to do something for the country. We cannot just watch and standby idle,” added Swinkels.

The 2019 Mini PICES report has shown extreme poverty further increasing with rural poverty increasing whilst urban poverty is increasing relatively faster.

Swinkels said this is a new development that needs to be responded to as urban poverty was low in Zimbabwe but now it has been increasing so fast.