Indonesia | Economics

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Data or devolution?

Peter Gardiner in yesterday's Jakarta Post:
[In] looking at poverty we need to move beyond simply looking at income or expenditure to ask just "why" poor people are poor. Like a doctor, we need to be able to "diagnose" poverty to look at its underlying causes and consequences and to use this to design appropriate interventions. Solutions will vary by region, and even within regions among different communities...

We should also ask "where are they located" geographically, defined either in terms of administrative areas (important for different levels of program administration) or in terms of ecological or cultural zones that help link people to the physical and social environment within which they live. Together these provide a framework for mapping poverty and for analyzing the constructs of poverty within particular areas or locations.

Pro-poor budgeting and program design should be a cornerstone of poverty policy at all levels.

This will all be extremely data dependent and, as many have already noted, will require regular production of credible and reliable statistics at increasing levels of detail.

I wholly agree with the diagnosis. However, I'm not sure who Gardiner meant by this "we" (as in "we need to be able to 'diagnose' poverty "). If he believes that "[solutions] will vary by region, and even within regions among different communities", then the "we" should mostly refer to local communities -- not some analysts examining household data in Jakarta.

If this is so, then, instead of the "regular production of credible and reliable statistics", the emphasis should be in more devolution of power (e.g., via the community-driven development approach) backed by central funding to allow communities to diagnose and solve their own poverty problems.

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