SAARC: In an effort to narrow down poverty alleviation strategy, the government has identified 3,154 poorest households in the country.

During the fourth SAARC ministers’ meeting on poverty alleviation held yesterday, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who was also the chief guest, said need based interventions would be developed to address their problems.

The 3,154 households were identified based on multidimensional poverty criteria such as level of education attainment, age, income, shelter and so on. Lyonchoen said surveys are underway to re-validate the figures and establish a comprehensive poverty database in the country.

This targeted household poverty programme, the prime minister said, was one of the goals of 11th Plan in addition to the rural economy advancement and national rehabilitation programme, which is still continued from the last Plan. 

The Gross National Happiness Commission secretary, Sonam Wangchuk said poverty is a multidimensional subject matter and has to be addressed in a multidimensional manner. While economic growth is an important aspect in poverty reduction, he said, it is not good enough. “We need to have to have strategies,” he said. “we have narrowed it down to household level.”

He said once the government identify and re-validate the poorest households, the government would have an idea as to what kind of interventions are needed.

The list of poorest households was received from the local government and the central government would now send officials to revalidate the figures.

However, the regional poverty perception index has been overdue since 2003 because some member states did not submit their status on implementation of SAARC Development Goals (SDG).

This has rendered many of the tasks agreed during the last meeting in 2013 as pending.

The SAARC secretary general, Arjun Bdr. Thapa said the member states has now agreed to submit their SDG implementation report till 2014 by November this year.

An inter-government experts group will be formed to review the existing SDG and also the existing plan of action on poverty alleviation in keeping with the post 2015 UN development agenda.

Four new project proposals endorsed

Meanwhile, meeting approved four project proposals developed by the SAARC secretariat to alleviate poverty although project details have to be worked out with experts consultation and individuals state’s proposal.

For instance, on the proposal of SAARC handicraft development centres, member nations have to allocate land and develop a sustainability report, which the secretariat will verify.

The project is aimed to have a common certification standard, market promotion, training and design centres in each member states.

Another proposal was on highland food and nutrition security aimed to develop projects between countries having common watershed, geography and market corridor.

On the renewable energy development, the secretary general said India proposed a concept note to share experience on renewable energy. “This could be a model as SAARC project.”

The last proposal is on the urban poverty alleviation and slum up-gradation.

Poverty reduction decade

The period between 2006 and 2016 has been observed as SAARC decade of poverty alleviation and member nations had agreed to observe it with sense of commitment and urgency.

The finance minister Namgay Dorji who was the chairman of the meeting, said member nations have done a commendable job on poverty reduction. However, he indicated that natural calamities could push people back to poverty citing the recent earthquake in Nepal.

“Such a natural calamity of unbelievable magnitude,  obviously impacts plans, policies and strategies and pushes people back to poverty again and open up new challenges,” he said.

In addition, the SAARC secretary general said glacial lake outburst flood could pose major threat to Bhutan and Nepal. However, he informed that this issue would be put in the SAARC environment ministers’ meet.

Sonam Wangchuk said leaders of SAARC member countries recognising decade of poverty alleviation itself shows political commitment, which had translated into policies and strategies in the respective countries. “This ensures poverty reduction is included in the plan.”

As for Bhutan in both 10th and 11th Plans, he said, poverty reduction strategy was one of the national key result areas.

“More than 10 years ago, heads of states of SAARC countries declared their commitment that even the poorest person in South Asia must have at least a good square dhal baat meal,” said the Prime Minister in his address. “This simple but profound South Asian expression of our true goal must continue to ring through our minds, through our development policy and through SAARC’s journey to improve lives of all South Asians.”

Tshering Dorji