In the past five years, poverty in Panama declined four percentage points, according to a study released Tuesday.
The living standards survey conducted by the Comptroller General and assisted by the World Bank found that poverty level was 32.7% in 2008, while in 2003 poverty was estimated at 36.8%. Extreme poverty levels fell from 16.4% to 14.2%. The figures show that poverty "has been declining gradually in the last period from 2003 to 2008 has fallen 4% which is good," said Panama's comptroller Carlos Vallarino during the presentation of the survey results. The general poverty line in the study was estimated at $3.13 a day to meet basic food consumption, basic goods and services. The comptroller noted that several factors contributed to the decline, including the economic growth of almost 8% and the average drop in unemployment to 5.6%. "Everything is parallel to the issue of reducing unemployment, as people have increased access to food and housing services, clean water, and education," he added. The results indicated that children under six years are most affected by poverty: nearly half are living in poverty and 24% in extreme poverty. It noted that 23% of people aged 70 and older are poor and 9.4% live in extreme poverty. He explained that in urban areas poverty incidence is 17.7%, in rural areas 50% and in the indigenous areas 96.3%. During the presentation Panama's Minister of Finance Alberto Vallarino said the study should be used to generate "a great debate about the efficiency of spending on social investment because they spend millions and millions of dollars and still these regions and provinces remain in a state of great poverty. " He also urged to do more on issues such as economic informality and illegal immigrants. "All this has much to do with the levels of poverty," he said.
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