Latin America

Over 784,000 Colombians emerged from poverty last year, says Santos

But nearly four million people in the country still earn less than $36 a month

Of Colombia’s 48 million residents, 13.2 million live in poverty.
Of Colombia’s 48 million residents, 13.2 million live in poverty.REUTERS

More than 784,000 Colombians emerged from poverty last year, helped by the government’s focus on improving health, education, housing and public service programs, the country’s national statistics department (DANE) reported on Wednesday.

Colombia’s poverty index dropped to 28.5 percent from 30.6 percent in 2014, reflecting a steady decline over the past five years. Extreme poverty also went down by one percent over the last year.

Although he applauded the new figures, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said more work needed to be done.

“In Colombia, nearly one in three people is poor. This figure is still too high,” he said.

Colombians have seen their living conditions improve since Santos’s first term in office, from 2010 to 2014

Nevertheless, Colombians have seen their living conditions improve since Santos’s first term (2010-2014). The year before he assumed office, Colombia was suffering from a 40-percent poverty rate but now, according to government statistics, that figure has dropped to 28 percent.

World Bank representative Carlos Rodríguez, who was present when the figures were released, said the decline in poverty levels can be attributed to the healthy Colombian economy and the government’s timing in implementing certain measures.

“Particularly, three quarters of those drops within the last four years are due to economic growth,” Rodríguez said.

The economy in Colombia – South America’s second most populous nation – grew 4.6 percent last year.

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Still, 13.2 million of the country’s 48 million residents continue to live in poverty, while an additional 3.7 million remain in the extreme poverty bracket. According to DANE, a person whose income is lower than $82 a month is considered poor while those who make under $36 a month are said to be living in extreme poverty.

But some analysts quoted in the daily El Espectador warned that poverty rate reductions could be affected by spending adjustments announced by the government to deal with plummeting global oil prices.

Last month, the Santos administration canceled around $2.4 billion in spending – $1.9 billion was allotted for investments and $489 million was destined for public expenditure.

Santos acknowledged that Colombia may not experience the same type of growth it has undergone in the last few years but pledged to keep the government’s poverty reduction programs intact.

“Our priority is to close the social gaps and improve quality of life, above all for the poorest and most vulnerable Colombians,” the president said.