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The office of the Caribbean Development Bank in St Michaels, Barbados. (Photo: caribank.org)

CDB: Eastern Caribbean countries using poverty assessment toolkit

The office of the Caribbean Development Bank in St Michaels, Barbados. (Photo: caribank.org)

The Caribbean Development Bank is reporting that governments in the Eastern Caribbean have been using its Enhanced Country Poverty Assessment (eCPA) toolkit, with one using it to help guide their response to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to Tommy Descartes, chief economist in the Department of Economic Planning, the eCPA Toolkit “improves efficiency, ensuring that the right persons get the help”.

By using the toolkit, governments in the Eastern Caribbean will reduce errors of inclusion and errors of exclusion, in which individuals who are not poor are accessing cash transfers and those who are genuinely poor are excluded from it, Descartes pointed out further.

St Lucia: A case study

In Saint Lucia, for example, the Government has used the toolkit to design a Survey of Living Conditions-Household Budget Survey (SLC-HBS) from which data was extrapolated to inform a national eligibility test, making the identification of vulnerable communities and individuals more scientific.

An aerial view of Castries, the capital of St Lucia (Photo: LinkedIn: Invest St Lucia)

“Previous data-sets looked at income poverty, but now you’re looking at deprivation in terms of education, health, employment, which will help Saint Lucia provide better interventions to poor households,” Descartes explained.

He further pointed out that, based on the data, Saint Lucia will be “expanding the number of households [assessed] by 1,000 to respond to COVID-19 over the next two to three months as part of an economic resilience and recovery strategy. We will be using the instrument to ensure that the right households are getting public assistance”.

In addition to designing its SLC-HBS, Saint Lucia has used the eCPA Toolkit to prepare the Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA), the Institution Assessment, and Macro Socio-Economic Analysis.

Descartes also stated that Saint Lucia’s focus will be building on the toolkit, using it as the basis for a larger reform of the country’s social safety net system.

Development, roll-out, results

For the roll-out of the toolkit, the CDB received the assistance of the Country Poverty Assessment Unit of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, which offered support in research and training at the development stage. After completing the development of the eCPA Toolkit, the CDB implemented the mechanism through its Caribbean Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF) — a multi-donor trust fund supported by the Government of Canada and the European Union.

Coming into effect in 2018, the toolkit incorporates climate change, disaster risk management and geographic information systems considerations into the existing Country Poverty Assessment with the incorporation of. 

Officials at an Enhanced Country PovertyAssessment training workshop share lens time. (Photo courtesy of CDRRF/Caribbean Development Bank)

Government officials in the subregion have, therefore, reported that the toolkit helps take the guesswork out of determining which families require social protection programme benefits.

Results from other countries

“While Saint Lucia is the only country so far to have used data derived from the eCPA toolkit for its COVID-19 stimulus package, other countries in the Eastern Caribbean have been using it to varying degrees but all with the same goal — boosting social registration systems to improve social protection programmes,” a release from the CDB explained.

Among the other countries that have used the toolkit are the Virgin Islands (BVI), Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. 

“The BVI has used the Toolkit to design its Survey of Living Conditions-Household Budget Survey (SLC-HBS), the PPA, and the Institution Assessment and Macro Socio-Economic Analysis, both of which are in progress,” the CDB disclosed.

An aerial view of Tortola, British Virgin islands (Photo: BVI Consortium)

It added: “Both St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines have used the toolkit to conduct all of the components of the enhanced country poverty assessment. Meanwhile, Grenada has used it to conduct the SLC-HBS and to start preparatory activities for conducting the PPA.”

For Geraldine St Croix, project coordinator of the ECPA in the Statistical Unit of the OECS, the toolkit helps to build the capacity of governments, allowing them to engage in the assessment process, as opposed to relying on external actors. 

“For the prior rounds of the eCPA, we hired a team of consultants to do it. This time, we decided to empower member states for the sustainable future of poverty assessments,” she explained.

Gathering information, building capacity

While noting that the OECS hires consultants once it identifies talent gaps, St Croix also shared that, “in terms of in-country implementation of field exercises, the member states carry it out themselves.”

The flag of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (File photo)

The project coordinator emphasised, too, that the data collected then informs evidence-based decisions affecting people’s lives.   

“A wealth of information is collected from targeted poor and vulnerable communities and focus group discussions provide opportunities to hear their voices first hand. So, in terms of disaster risk reduction, the vulnerable sub-population and the data can assist in identifying measures to improve their resilience. In addition, the inclusion of poverty and vulnerability mapping in the Enhanced CPA has proved useful in pictorially displaying areas of vulnerability across [CDB’s Borrowing Member Countries] and encouraging Government to take appropriate action,” she said.