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Is poverty decreasing in Mozambique?

Joe Hanlon

Open University

Sourced from Joe Hanlon's Newsletter, No 121 18th January 2008.
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"Poverty is said to be falling - but chronic child malnutrition is increasing. This paper (below) was for the 19 Sept 2007 IESE conference in Maputo and argues that the decline in poverty is exaggerated. The gap between rich and poor is widening with most of the growth in GDP going to the top 20% while the poor are becoming steadily poorer and unable to properly feed their children. Most people cannot use the present economic model to pull themselves out of poverty by their own bootstraps.

These views were repeated in a paper presented at a conference at the British Foreign Office’s Wilton Park on "Conflict Prevention and Development Co-operation in Africa" on 10 November 2007. I further argued that "donors are being highly selective in the choice of data, highlighting the most positive figures while ignoring equally valid information that paints a different picture."

Pedro Couto, vice minister of Finance, attended the conference, and asked Channing Arndt of the University of Copenhagen and the Ministry of Planning and Development - and one of the main architects of the poverty decline figures criticised as exaggerated - to respond for the government.

That response is harsh: "Hanlon’s primary assertions do not withstand scrutiny." In my reply to Arndt’s response, I accuse Arndt of wishful thinking, of seeing the main problem (in his own words) of "communicating progress in the fight against poverty" and of ignoring overwhelming evidence that living conditions are becoming worse for the majority of Mozambicans. My two papers, Dr Arndt’s response, and my reply, are all posted below.

This debate goes to the heart of government and donor policy. We both agree the Mozambique remains very poor, but Dr Arndt’s paper says that present policy is working to reduce poverty - indeed, quite rapidly - while I claim to show the policy is failing - poverty is worsening and a change is policy is needed".

Comments on the debate can be sent to:

Is Poverty Decreasing in Mozambique? by Joseph Hanlon

Wilton Park paper. The poverty discussion is in the second half of the paper

Comments of Dr Channing Arndt (9 January 2008 revised version)

Hanlon Response to Dr Arndt (9 December 2007 version)

World Bank warns of increasing inequality

A June 2007 study warns of a slowdown in poverty reduction and an increase in rural income inequality. Infant mortality and nutrition are worsening, says the World Bank study. Although praising Mozambique's 'blistering pace of economic growth' the report also presents data raising a number of worrying questions.

Beating the Odds: Sustaining Inclusion in a Growing Economy - A Mozambique Poverty, Gender and Social Assessment

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