The Household Budget Survey (HBS) report for 2019/2020 was released by the office of the chief government statistician (OCGS) in May painting the poverty reduction agenda on different levels, as the tool collected information pertaining to private households’ economic activities, household income and expenditure, housing characteristics and expenditure.
The HBS report argued that the 2019/20 HBS helped in evaluating Zanzibar’s performance concerning the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as regional development strategies.
Zanzibar is the semi-autonomous region of the United Republic of Tanzania, made up of two isles, Pemba
and Unguja, inhabited by more than 1.7 million people. The archipelago is dominated by two main economic operations, agriculture and services, particularly the tourism service industry.
According to the OCGS, this report presents a detailed analysis of poverty and non-poverty indicators at the national, rural-urban and district levels of Zanzibar.
The HBS is an important tool as it aims to collect and consolidate information required for monitoring the progress towards national poverty reduction strategies that include understanding the efficiency of development policies, programs and projects geared towards improving households’ living standards. A good example of this is the Zanzibar Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty 2010-2015 (ZSGRP II), and 2016-2020 (ZSGRP III).
The report pointed out several important issues about the HBS results pegged on poverty using a welfare measure, over almost 10 years.
What the HBS says
Basic needs poverty and extreme poverty have declined since 2009/10. According to the report, basic needs poverty declined from 34.9 per cent to 25.7 per cent between 2009/10 and 2019/20, and food poverty (extreme poverty) declined from 11.7 per cent to 9.3 per cent within the same period.
These interesting figures are extracted from the HBS consumption-based headcount index, which measures the proportion of Zanzibar’s population with a consumption level below the poverty line that could not meet their basic consumption needs.
“About 9.3 per cent of the population is extremely poor and cannot afford to buy basic foodstuffs to meet their minimum nutritional requirements of 2,200 kilocalories (Kcal) per day. These poverty figures are estimated using respectively, the national basic needs poverty line of $28.60 per adult per month and the national food poverty line of $20.50 per adult per month,” according to the HBS report.
Zanzibar has been battling poverty for years, hence the HBS also pointed out that the depth of poverty had also declined. Taking the World Bank’s (WB) assessment in 2015, it depicted basic poverty was trimmed to 30.4 per cent in 2015, compared to 34.9 per cent in 2010.
However, the report said that the depth mentioned captures the gap between the households’ consumption level and the poverty line where the non-poor households’ depth is zero. The survey pointed out that the depth dropped by 2.4 percentage points between 2009/10 and 2019/2020.
“Within the same period, both, the rural and the urban basic needs poverty gap declined by over 2.0 percentage points. Additionally, there was a decline in the share of the population living in poverty in Zanzibar over the last decade, relative to the growth in the total population,” HBS said in part.
The report argued that these households were able to trim down their consumption shortfall by a notable margin relative to the poverty line. Hence, the observed consumption gap of the poor implies that the decline in the poverty index is explained by an increase in the number of non-poor people.
Further, WB’s 2017 publication on poverty noted that the archipelago saw a modest reduction of 4.5 per cent in its basic needs poverty rate and a one per cent decrease in extreme poverty between 2010 and 2015, but it is more in urban levels, and Unguja Island is the key driver.
However, the HBS report said that majority of the poor and non-poor are still clustered around the poverty line. The survey argued that more than 400,000 Zanzibaris are still below the basic need’s poverty line – classified along the lines of basic needs poor and below basic needs poor.
Hence, the basic needs poverty headcount declined by 9.2 percentage points over the past decade, “the absolute number of poor people only declined by about 27,000 people due to population growth. The proportion of people along the food poverty line saw some notable reduction within the last five years (from 157,133 in 2014/15 to 150,840 in 2019/20) but remained virtually the same over the last ten years. The food poverty headcount rate fell by 2.4 percentage points from 11.7 per cent in 2009/10 to 9.3 per cent in 2019/20,” the report noted.
According to the 2012 census, the Zanzibar archipelago population is segregated into two isles, Unguja, the largest, has a population of about 900,000, followed by Pemba with over 400,00 people. The HBS argued that a large share of the population hovers around the poverty line, likely to escape poverty but also prone to fall into it.
“Small changes in the national poverty line yield significant differences in estimated poverty levels, indicating a high concentration of individuals around the threshold of the basic need. For example, an increase of the basic needs poverty line by 20 per cent ($5.72 per adult per month) leads to a change of poverty rate by 53.0 per cent (the headcount rate increased from 25.7 per cent to 39.3 per cent),” the report argued.
The report further argued that the significant number of people clustering around the poverty line suggests that an important proportion of moderately poor people are positioned to move out of poverty, thus—another critical aspect of the matter is, an important proportion of non-poor people are vulnerable to falling into poverty. More importantly and worth noting is that the archipelago is putting in efforts to develop itself with several development projects that impact the quality of life and improves communities, such as the Zanzibar Education Development Plan 2017-2018, 2021/2022 and United Nations Development Programme sanitation projects in Zanzibar in Unguja and Pemba isles to support water access.
The survey exposed several other issues including the existing similarities between the HBS 2019/2020 with the previous HBS 2014/2015, with fewer exceptions, increment of the working-age population in the labour market, while full-time-students are the most inactive.