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Number of poor declines by 60 million in seven years: survey

The number of poor came down by 60 million to 260 million in the last seven years ending 2000-01 and the trend is likely to continue due to slowing down of population growth coupled with improving prosperity, The Economic Survey 2001-02 said on Tuesday.

It, however, said reduction in poverty would further accelerate with the implementation of second generation economic reforms that would promote employment growth in agriculture and industrial sectors and help in achieving 10th Five Year Plan (2002-07) target of five per cent decline in poverty ratio.

Pointing to the drop in the number of poor, the survey said the substantial improvement suggests that income growth was taking place on a relatively well distributed basis.

This process is expected to continue, reflecting a combination of slowing population growth and improving prosperity, the survey said adding "an improvement in the annual GDP growth rate to levels higher than those already achieved would significantly affect the level, quality and growth of wages, and of incomes and employment in economy."

The survey observed that policies and programmes undertaken in recent years with a special focus on various components of the social sectors have yielded positive results in terms of improvement in basic, socio-demographic indicators, quality of life, reduction of overall poverty levels and increased access to basic necessities of life.

However, sustained efforts were still needed to reduce the visible disparities among states, between rural and urban areas and between males and females. The survey said achievement of goals of education for all and health for all not only involves a mix of public-private partnership in the provision of services but also a scaling down of the existing levels of subsidy to higher education and non-basic health facilities, and cost recovery in these public services from those in a position to pay.

User charges would give a sound financial foundation to the production of health and education services and reduce the vulnerability of service delivery to public finances, it said adding the delivery of health and education services must be ensured for those who cannot pay such charges.

However, the survey pointed out that the problems of poverty in old age were likely to crop up, owing to the lack of financial savings and support systems.

Hence, the development of formal pension system is of critical importance in dealing with problems of poverty in the coming years, the survey said adding, "in near future, we may expect a review of food policy to help transfering government resources towards more efficient poverty alleviation mechanisms such as employment guarantee schemes."

The survey also said that rural poverty ratios were still high in Orissa, Bihar and the north-eastern states. For Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, the combined poverty ratios in 1999-2000 were in the range of 33.47 per cent to 37.43 per cent.

Significant poverty reduction was noted in Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, Lakshdweep, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

PTI

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