Government plans more extensive use of statistics to fight poverty

Together with Oxford University, the Costa Rican government is installing a tool designed to help politicians grapple with inequality and extreme poverty.

Oxford researchers developed a multidimensional index that proposes to improve ways in which states and institutions measure their poverty rates, according to a press statement from Casa Presidencial. The index takes into account people’s access to public services and basic necessities like education, housing, employment and health.

This new measurement is expected to help focus resources and give more efficient aid to the 6 percent of Costa Ricans living in extreme poverty, the statement said. The president’s office is working in conjunction with the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, and the Asociación Horizonte Positivo on mining and analyzing the data they retrieve.

“It’s important to note that this effort isn’t a diagnosis or a map where we have to start from scratch,” said President Luis Guillermo Solís. “This is an index that takes the information that has been catalogued by IMAS and INEC for many years, but from here on it’s utilized in order to better focus the government’s actions in the fight against extreme poverty.”

Solís added that this instrument will prevent abusive practices by some public welfare programs in the country. This improved focus and avoidance of mismanagement allows them to better serve those most in need, he said.

“We will focus on the development of policies that get to those most desperate for support and guidance from the state,” the president said. “Welfare programs are important, but we need them to be more effective in their application and scope. This is something we are reviewing in full detail.”

Second Vice President Ana Helena Chacón is in charge of the president’s social advisory council. She said the rate of poor people in Costa Rica has raised and that a third of the country’s households are either considered to be in poverty or at risk of poverty. The social advisory council has joined with the Instituto Nacional de Estadística to create a map that points out places of high social interest.

Chile and Uruguay are two other countries that have already implemented the Oxford index.

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