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Tunisia: Those who spend $40 per month aren’t ‘poor’

Tunisians protest against the high living cost in Tunis, Tunisia on 26 January 2018 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Tunisians protest against the high living cost in Tunis, Tunisia on 26 January 2018 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisian citizens who spend more than $450 a year or nearly $40 a month are not “poor” according to a statement by the Director General of the National Institute of Statistics (INS) Hedi Abidi.

Speaking to Shems FM, Abidi explained how the number of people living under the poverty line in Tunisia has reached one million with expenditures differing depending on region. According to Abidi there isn’t a real methodology for defining different social classes as it is specific to each country according to what it considers to be the middle class and what it constitutes as wealthy or poor.

“In Tunisia, since we began to calculate the poverty line, we have adopted the estimate of pecuniary poverty, as in all similar countries, which is the same methodology used by the World Bank.”

The poverty rate in Tunisia has however decreased since 2010 with consumer spending per person per year amounting to over $1,600 in 2015 compared with $1,087 in 2010.

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Contrary to Abidi’s assertion, the World Bank and many other institutions adopt a different method of calculation based on income and not expenditure. According to the World Bank’s latest study in 2015 the world’s threshold of extreme poverty stood at $1.9 per person per day.

According to the UN, 800 million people in the world live below the extreme poverty line; the poorest European country according to Eurostat is Romania with an expenditure of €396 per person per month, about 13 times the threshold in Tunisia.

A study conducted by the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) in 2016 observed 4,500 households to determine the percentage of Algerians living below the poverty line. The study showed that one in three Algerians lives below the poverty line on less than $1.25 per day.

This is the case for Morocco with one out of every ten Moroccans living on less than $2 a day according to a 2015 report by the UN.

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