‘Bahrain has no absolute poverty’


Dr Belushi told the Council that fighting poverty would also involve uplift of the educational standards and most other ministries in the Kingdom would have to be a part of it, including the Ministry of Works and Housing and the Ministry of Health.


During question time in the Shura Council , Shura member Faisal Fulad said that there was no contemporary study on the level of poverty in Bahrain. “The government and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should join hands for a concerted effort in identifying the poor in Bahrain.”
“It is time the government gave the people the fish line and not the fish, because the fish quantity is falling,” he said.


Prices of commodities in Bahrain are expected to have galloped by 70 per cent to 80 per cent by 2008, however, the income levels in much of the society have not kept pace. One of the reasons was the fall in the dinar value.


The dinar, pegged to the dollar, was experiencing a fluctuation and often a devaluation leading to the eroding of the purchasing power of the currency. He said that the government ought to intervene in the currency market and ensure that the value is maintained.


Fulad said that the power of the dinar has to be supported by the government.


He added that the government has to ensure it has the statistics of the population in Bahrain living below the poverty line.


The number of people living on government welfare is increasing, said Fulad. “This is not a healthy sign for any economy.”


“The Middle class Bahrainis are gently disappearing,” he said.


Fulad said that the welfare and other doles being granted by the government were of little significance, because galloping inflation is eating into the funds received by the poor in society.
“A part of the excess funds from petrol prices has to be set apart for the poor,” said Fulad. “It is time the charities of the rich is channelled towards the needs of the Bahrainis.”


He told the Tribune that the Sunni pays zakaat and the Shia pays Qoms. “These funds can be used to lift the standards of those living below the poverty level.”


He said that the issue was now being viewed seriously.


“During the 70s, 80s and 90s, it was taboo to talk about poverty in Bahrain. The gates opened and the visible changes occurred in Bahrain, on September 24, 2004, when the Crown Prince, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, at a meeting of the representatives and elders screened a film on the poverty in the country,” he said.


Dr Atef Al Shabrawy, an advisor to Dr Al Belushi told the Tribune that a study was being undertaken with the World Bank to highlight the factors that will determine the number of the population below the poverty line (BPL).


“We did not have an international study ,” said Dr Atef .


“Bahrain has no absolute poverty. It has only relative poverty. Bahrian has no real hunger or people without shelter,” Dr Atef said.


The ministry is cooperating with the World Bank and the Central Informatics Organisation (CIO) to prepare this study. The indicator will determine the income needed to meet a day’s expenses. The study will be completed either by the end of the year or by early next year.


Earlier, studies indicated BD337 as the threshold for the BPL.


BPL here is the money needed for an average family to survive for a month.




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