A total of 56,865 people live below the poverty line, according to the Bhutan Poverty Analysis Report (PAR) 2017.

This means that one out of 12 people belongs to households whose per capita consumption is below Nu 2,195.95.The country’s poverty rate stands at 8.21 percent, down from 12 percent in 2012.

Chief Statistical Officer with NSB, Cheku Dorji, said: “A person consuming less than the food poverty line of Nu 1,473.45 per month is considered subsistence poor.”

Subsistence poor or extreme poverty rate is found to be 1.5 percent. Of the total surveyed, 10,687 are subsistence poor. In 2012, the subsistence poor rate was 2.8 percent.

The report states that about 26,953 poor individuals, which is 40 percent of the total poor population, are in three dzongkhags of Dagana, Samtse, and Mongar. These dzongkhags also have the highest subsistence poverty rate.

“In fact, half of the subsistence poor live in these three dzongkhags,” states the report.

With less than 1 percent of poverty rate, Haa, Thimphu, and Paro are the dzongkhags with the lowest poverty rate.

In 2012, Lheuntse, Pema gatshel, Zhemgang, Dagana, and Samtse had the highest poverty rate. Poor population distribution was highest in Samtse with 17 percent.

At the launch of the report yesterday, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) has identified households that are considered poor. “They have identified every household, taken photograph of the head of the household and their conditions. This was possible because we are a small country.”

He added that the government has the opportunity to intervene at household level.

According to the report, 11.9 percent of the rural population is poor and 0.8 percent of the urban population is poor.

Cheku Dorji said that like the 2012 analysis, poverty remains a rural phenomenon. “The subsistence poverty rate of 2 percent in rural areas is significantly higher compared with urban areas. Only about 1 out of 10,000 persons in urban areas are subsistence poor.”

The report also measured consumption inequality with the Gini coefficient indicator. Gini coefficient can range between zero to one.

Cheku Dorji said: “Zero meaning perfect equality, where every household has equal wealth. In the perspective of poverty, every household consumes equal amount of food and non-food items. One indicates perfect inequality, where one households has all the wealth of the country.”

The typical value of Gini coefficient ranges between 0.2 and 0.5. The national level Gini coefficient value is 0.38. In 2012, Gini coefficient value was 0.36.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that coefficient rise means the society is becoming unequal.

“The poverty rate is falling. The literacy rate is rising,” he said. “Despite all this, if inequality is on rise, this means something is out of order. It could mean that there are few individuals making a lot of money.”

The PAR 2017 was updated using the data available from Bhutan Living Standards Survey 2017. The report was compiled with financial and technical support from World Bank.

Phurpa Lhamo