SA ‘making progress’ on poverty

25 June 2007

The income of South Africa’s poorer citizens has generally increased over the past few years, boding well for the government’s plan to halve poverty by 2014, a report by the Presidency finds.

The report, “Development Indicators Mid-Term Review”, issued last week by the Presidency’s policy coordination and advisory service (PCAS) unit, indicates that SA’s war against poverty has gathered pace, especially since 2000.

Since 2002, overall income growth in the country – including the expansion of social grants to almost 12-million recipients by April 2007 – has seen the income of the poorest 10% to 20% of the population rise.

At the same time, the report finds, the number of South Africans surviving on less than R3 000 a year has also decreased, from 50% to 43% of the population.

Rich, poor gap expands
PCAS head Joel Netshitenzhe notes, however, that the rate of income improvement among poor South Africans has not kept up with that of the rich. As a result, while income poverty is declining, inequality has grown.

“While in real and absolute terms, the income of the poor is improving, this hasn’t been at the pace of the richest of the population,” Netshitenzhe said. “Inequality has worsened as a result.”

According to the report, South Africa’s economy created a million new jobs between September 2004 and September 2006.

“The drivers of this need to be researched further, but in the past we found that the performance of the economy was the reason,” Netshitenzhe said.

Economic growth
The economy has grown for eight consecutive years – faster than South Africa’s population – positioning the country well to meet the targets set by the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for SA, including annual economic growth of 6% by 2014.

Capital investment in South Africa is also increasing, Netshitenzhe said. “Our target is 25% of gross domestic product (GDP), and we are now at 19% compared to 15% in 2000.”

Growing optimism, especially among people in South Africa’s rural areas, could be explained in part by increased provision of government services.

Living conditions
“To the poor, a small change in living conditions means a lot,” Netshitenzhe said. “Compared to 1994, the mere fact that they now have water and electricity means there are improvements in terms of their conditions of life.”

At least 71% of South African households have access to sanitation, as opposed to 50% in 1994, while 80% of households now have access to electricity – meaning that 4.2-million households have received electricity connections since 1994.

The report points out that poverty should also be measured in terms of assets, and notes that, since 1994, about 2.3-million housing subsidies have been completed, with more nearing completion.

Progress on land restitution has been slower, however, even though some 73 000 land claims are nearing completion.

Education, health
According to the report, while South Africa’s matric pass rate has risen since 2000, along with an increasing number of students taking higher-grade mathematics and passing, the number of those students is still relatively low.

The balance of boys and girls among the 12.3-million scholars attending schools across the country is also reaching parity, while adult literacy has also increased since 1994.

The report also points to a decrease in HIV prevalence in the country following a rapid spread of the disease in the 1990s. There has, however, been an increase in tuberculosis since 2001.

Crime remains at high levels in SA despite the fact that criminal activities are decreasing overall, Netshitenzhe said.

“Trends in contact crime – interpersonal violence – have been slowly decreasing, in some instances marginally and others more substantially, but are still cause for concern.”

South Africa’s prison population is also on the increase again, following a reduction through a remission programme in 2005.

The report notes that South Africans’ membership of voluntary civil society organisations is also high compared to other developing countries, while voter participation remains high despite declining slightly over the past three general elections.

The proportion of South Africans who feel that race relations are improving has also increased, from around 40% in 2000 to 60% in 2006.

Source: BuaNews