Regional Inequality Increasing – Report

Northern and eastern Uganda still lag far behind the west and central in the number of people that have moved out of poverty in the last 10 years, a study has found.

The study, which examined Uganda’s decade-long progress in the fight against poverty, shows that regional inequality is actually rising – with northern and eastern Uganda becoming worse off. West and central Uganda are progressing with more people in these regions getting out of poverty, according to the study report by the Makerere University-based Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC).

The report is titled: Uganda’s progress towards poverty reduction during the last decade 20023-201213: is the gap between leading and lagging areas widening or narrowing? It warns: “These unchecked growing regional disparities have implications for Uganda’s desire to transit from low- to middle-income country.”

While poverty in northern Uganda reduced by less than one percentage point in the 200910 financial year, there was a whopping 13.1 percentage point decline in western Uganda over the same period.

“The regional ranking by incidence of poverty remains the same – with the highest incidence in northern region followed by the eastern region,” the report said.

Northern Uganda was ravaged by two decades of brutal insurgency, with civilian population either caught between the Uganda People’s Defence Forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army, or actually targeted by the combatants. The insecurity virtually ended all agricultural activity, with whole populations forced into displacement camps. However, relative calm and, eventually, peace have prevailed over the last six years, even if – the study suggests – the peace dividends have been slow in trickling down.

Meanwhile, the study shows that 20.7 per cent of Ugandans failed to make headway in the last decade and they remained below the poverty line. This figure is slightly above the official government statistic of 19.7 per cent of those below the poverty line, although this may be considered well within the margin of statistical error.

But in an interview published in The Observer last week, Dr Fred Muhumuza, a senior manager at the audit firm KPMG, said while studies showed Ugandans progressing out of poverty, more than 70 per cent of them remained vulnerable – an indication that they are highly likely to fall back below the poverty line. Speaking at the Joseph Mubiru memorial lecture in July, Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka agreed that there was a need to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.

“Individual households must prosper,” Kiwanuka said. “If some don’t, all the numbers [of growth] we count are just that. We must maintain focus on value for money spent.”

In absolute terms, the report said, the number of poor persons reduced from 9.8 million to seven million in the last ten years. This shows Uganda has made impressive progress towards attainment of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1, where the country is expected to halve income poverty by 2015, since 2000.

Urban poverty up

While many Ugandans think going to urban centres guarantees a good life, the report says poverty increased in cities.

“This finding seems to suggest that the poor from rural areas moved with their poverty [to] urban areas,” the report said. “Living standards of the urban population continued to worsen with the poverty headcount ratio rising from 9.1 per cent to 10.1 per cent during 200910 to 201213.”

This is a noticeable reversal in poverty trends in urban areas regardless of poverty measure, the report added. Rural poverty, on the other side, continued to decline since 20023, although at a reducing rate.

Source : The Observer

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