3.3 million poor people in Gulf countries

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KUWAIT CITY, June 5: Despite the great efforts made by Gulf countries to reduce the poverty rate and strengthen the middle class in the past decades, 3.3 million people still live in poverty, reports Al-Qabas daily.

According to a report titled “3.3 million people from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries live in poverty” issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), one out of every seven citizens in Saudi Arabia, one in ten citizens in Oman, and one in 13 citizens in Bahrain live in poverty. However, the poverty rates in Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar are less than two percent.

The report highlights that poverty in most Gulf countries has actually decreased since 2010, with about 530,000 citizens no longer being considered poor. In Saudi Arabia alone, the rates have fallen from 18.2 percent in 2010 to 13.6 percent in 2021, as 485,000 citizens are no longer considered poor.

However, the report indicated that the economies of prosperous countries have led to the perception that poverty rates are low or non-existent; consequently, little effort has been made to investigate the extent and depth of poverty.

The Executive Secretary of ESCWA Rola Dashti explained that the distribution of income and spending among the population is one of the main factors that contribute to poverty. The spending of the richest ten percent of households in some Gulf countries is 16 times higher than the spending of the poorest ten percent.

The report proposes specific recommendations to address poverty in the Gulf region directed towards ensuring a more diversified and inclusive economy that leaves no one behind and is environmentally sustainable. They include diversifying sources of growth and reforming educational and vocational systems to provide the new skills required for future jobs.

It also stresses the need to strengthen the ecosystem for small and medium enterprises such as by facilitating access to finance and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship programs.

Dashti stressed that fiscal reforms should be implemented to allow a greater proportion of the population to benefit from social and economic opportunities, including:

  1. Adopting a just and equitable tax system.
  2. Reforming land allocation and public procurement policies.
  3. Reforming subsidy policies to target low-income groups.
  4. Ensuring better targeting of social protection systems.
  5. Facilitating access to affordable housing, basic infrastructure, and quality health and education services

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