A one-day seminar organized by World Bank and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) on December 1st, 2016 under the theme “Poverty Measurement in Uganda: Is it time to update the poverty line?” aroused mixed reactions regarding Uganda’s poverty line, which has remained the same since 1993.

James Muwonge, Director Socioeconomic Surveys at Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBoS) said that Uganda has continued relying on a single food poverty line for the entire country and uses two stages sample design (Enumeration areas and Households Geographical coverage) to adduce poverty measures making it hard to produce poverty estimates at district and lower level.

“While the surveys collect information both on consumption expenditures and income, the latter is not used in income poverty analysis. However, this information has been useful in providing reasons for the observed poverty trends,” he said.

Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana, the Executive Director EPRC hinted that the core set of poverty monitoring indicators mainly focus on income poverty and less on non-income poverty.

She also argued that poverty monitoring remains highly fragmented with institutions such as Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED), UBoS, EPRC, and development partners especially World Bank strictly measuring income poverty, while the non-income poverty is mainly determined by Civil Society Organisations and Non Government Organisations.

This in addition to weak institutional arrangements, funding and capacity flaws She says, raises coordination problems and duplication of efforts. Ssewanyana called for more Efforts to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection, analysis and evaluation to arrive at meaningful poverty indicators.

Simon Appleton, an Associate Economics Professor at the University of Nottingham said that raising the poverty line would increase reported poverty. “The poverty line might have to be raised by 20% due to excess food price inflation and by 5% due to higher non-food spending to abide by the $1.90 international poverty line,” he said.

Joseph Enyimu, a Senior Economist with Ministry of Finance debunked the need to update the poverty line. “From a policy perspective, we believe that the current distinction between the poor (those below the national poverty line) and the floating poor (those who are above the poverty line but at high risk of falling back into poverty) is sufficient to inform policy strategy on reducing poverty or the risk of it,” Enyimu who read a statement by MoFPED held.

He however conceded that updating the poverty line (in such a time where income poverty indicators are highly political, according to Sarah Ssewanyana) is useful since it improves targeting of the poor.

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