By Shane D. Williams
Since the last poverty assessment was conducted in Belize in 2009, several items and services (like smartphones and the internet) once considered luxurious have become essential. Many of these features of a progressing society have influenced modern assessments of poverty; therefore, it should not be surprising that the poverty line has expanded by more than 100 percent in Belize since 2009.
The Statistical Institute of Belize findings in its Belize Poverty Analysis (2018) revealed that while poverty has increased from 41 percent in 2009 to 52 percent in 2018, indigence, or extreme poverty, has decreased from 16 percent of the population to 9 percent. Indigence is more aligned with measurements used to assess the state of hunger in a community. While the poverty line is set at the total cost of meeting the physical requirements for survival; including food and non-food items, one is considered indigent if they cannot afford even the minimum food basket.
The cost of the daily minimum food basket at the time of this survey was $7.35 nationally. The minimum food basket was cheapest in Corozal and Stann Creek at $6.94 and $7.19 and most expensive in Belize City and Cayo at $7.50 and $7.49 respectively. The daily cost of non-food items for survival nationally is $14.46. Therefore, if an individual does not have access to $21.81 daily ($7,961 annually) they are considered poor in Belize.
The statisticians did not reveal the goods selected for the minimum food basket in this survey so for comparison purposes it is important to point out that the daily cost for such basket in 2009, time of the last poverty assessment survey, was $5.50 nationally. Since 2009, numerous food items the government deemed essential to the Belizean diet were declared zero-rated goods. It was not disclosed if these items were a part of the examined basket. Since 2009, the government introduced a food subsidy program that provides an opportunity for the poor to purchase a food basket weekly at less than half the shelf price. This program, also known as the food pantry program, did not factor into the $7.35 minimum food basket cost.
In 2009, the poverty line was $3,429. Items considered physical requirements for survival has changed significantly since that last assessment.
Extreme Poverty Decreased by 44%
By Shane D. Williams