Bush: Poverty line relative

Responding to what he called a ‘misinterpretation of a scientific study for political motives’ Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said the National Assessment of Living Conditions report was not intended to measure poverty in the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Bush made the statement in press statement issued Monday concerning the recently released NALC report, which found only a 1.9 per cent poverty rate in the Cayman Islands.

‘The NALC report reference to 1.9 per cent as the poverty rate is based on an absolute definition of extreme poverty and is only appropriate to be used for country comparisons,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘The current conceptual interpretation of the meaning of poverty extends far beyond extreme poverty‚Ķ and it is accepted that relative poverty studies rather than absolute studies are more appropriate.’

Mr. Bush pointed out that what is considered poor in the Cayman Islands may not be considered poor elsewhere.

‘Such an understanding of poverty was also articulated by the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee on 29 October, 2007, as they addressed the need to eradicate poverty in the Cayman Islands as a prerequisite to addressing human rights.’

The CIHC stated at the time that poverty was evident ‘when people are not able to achieve the standard of living that is usual for the community in which they live’.

Mr. Bush said the definition of poverty differs between developing countries and developed countries.

‘As suggested by the NALC team, the Cayman Islands’ relatively high per capita gross domestic product makes it appropriate to assess poverty in line with acceptable methods in North America and Europe.’

Mr. Bush said that in the US and Europe, the poverty line is calculated as a percentage of median income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living.

‘Even with the reality that the Government’s permanent financial assistance programme exceeds the absolute poverty used in the NALC, [Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts] still insisted on representing the 1.9 per cent poverty rate as the true picture of poverty in the Cayman Islands in an attempt to improve the standing of his PPM administration,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘Under the UDP administration, the poverty line was established at CI$1,800 per month in 2003. This is a far more realistic poverty line at $21,600 [per annum] as compared to the $3,983 per annum [in the NALC report].’

Mr. Bush said the PPM’s policies to address poverty in the Cayman Islands were ‘distorted by the disconnect between them and the poor people’.

Although the Opposition said its review of the NALC report concluded it provided worthy information and was sound in its methodology, the faulty results of the study were a result of misinterpretation for political motives.

‘Misinterpreted or sinuously used scientific studies are more dangerous than ignorance, as they elevate the position by giving it undeserved credence,’ Mr. Bush said.

Turning to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, Mr. Bush said one of the most significant findings of the NALC report had eluded Mr. Tibbetts, or had been intentionally ignored.

‘This government has frequently been accused of making the rich richer and the poor poorer,’ he said, adding that the NALC report determined that there was significant inequality in the Cayman Islands, especially in the Sister Islands.

‘These important findings were suspiciously omitted from the statement by Mr. Tibbetts, leading to our conclusion that his statement and misinterpretations of the NALC report were all politically motivated.’

Mr. Bush said the Opposition was calling on the Government not to allow ‘the vices of adversarial politics and the nearing election’ to interfere with an opportunity to use the information in the NALC report to help the most vulnerable in the community.

‘As legislators, we commit to assisting the Government in addressing ways of helping the poor,’ he said.

Mr. Bush said his statement was being forwarded to the NALC team because it had requested feedback from the community.