Sources: Officials delayed survey results showing Egyptians face highest poverty rate since 2000
 
 
A Coptic district in Ezbet al-Forn in Minya - Photograph: Heba Afify
 

The results of the biannual government survey of household income in Egypt announced yesterday show a 4.7% increase in poverty from the previous study, putting 32.5% of Egyptians below the poverty line — the country’s highest poverty rate in nearly two decades.

The statistical study, known as the Income, Expenditure, and Consumption Survey, is conducted every two years across all governorates, collecting data on the living conditions of a sample of nearly 26,000 families over a one-year period. Most importantly, the survey sheds light on poverty in Egypt. The results are used to determine the national poverty line, and the fieldwork assesses the living conditions of people who fall below that line.

An official from the Statistics and Population Censuses Department stated in an interview with Youm7 in February 2017 that given its access to “advanced technology,” the department would be able to announce the results of the 2017/2018 study shortly after the conclusion of the survey, at the beginning of this year. And at the conclusion of the research period in October 2018, the director of the Statistics and Population Censuses Department, Abdel Hamid Sharaf Eddin, announced that a press conference would take place at the end of January 2019 to reveal the results of the 2017 survey. 

However, the announcement was postponed due to the objections of “sovereign entities” to the survey results, according to sources who spoke to Alborsa News. The term refers to state institutions — such as the intelligence agencies and the presidency — that constitute the real centers of power in the state.

Preliminary indicators of the poverty rate had been leaked showing an estimated 30.2% of Egyptians living below the poverty line, compared to 27.8% in the 2015 survey. The discrepancy between the increased poverty rate and the government’s stated achievements in the past two years led the “sovereign entities” to ask the researchers to review the results once more before publication, according to Alborsa’s report.

At yesterday’s press conference, held at the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics office, the chair of CAPMAS, Khairat Barakat, announced a figure even higher than the leaked estimates. Researchers found that 32.5% of Egyptians live below the poverty line –– a 4.7% increase from the previous FY 2015/2016 survey, and the highest poverty rate in Egypt since 2000. The national poverty line was set at LE8,827 per year, compared to LE5,787.90 from the previous report. 

However, the average annual income of the Egyptian families surveyed also rose to nearly LE58,900, up from LE44,200 in the 2015 survey. According to the CAPMAS report, the average annual income of the richest 10% of Egyptian society rose from LE81,000 in 2015 to LE100,300, and it rose from LE22,500 in 2015 to LE30,400 for the poorest 10% of households.   

Sharaf Eddin indicated at Monday’s press conference that Assiut is the poorest governorate in Egypt, with 66.5% of its people living below the new poverty line. Sohag was the second poorest, with 59% of residents living in poverty — 236 of its villages rank among the poorest 1000 villages in Egypt — followed by Minya, with 54%. 

Port Said and Gharbiya have the lowest rates of poverty, Sharaf Eddin said.

Heba El-Laithy, a CAPMAS economist, announced during yesterday’s conference that the net number of villages included in the Poverty Map, a geographical display of the poorest areas in Egypt, had declined by 33. Laithy noted that 420 previously included villages were omitted from the map, while 387 villages were included for the first time this year. She added that 46 villages had experienced poverty rate increases between 80 and 100%, according to the latest report. 

The survey findings are based on a variety of data points, including net household income, family property and assets, food consumption patterns, and money-borrowing habits. The research team visits each family eight times throughout the research period, accounting for variables such as seasonal lifestyle change, to examine household expenses over the course of a year. The results are then aggregated and reviewed for two to three months at the end of the research period. The cost of the 2017/2018 survey hit LE12 million, which includes spending for both the fieldwork and the analysis phases of the project. CAPMAS first began conducting its survey at five-year intervals in FY 1958/1959. The survey became biannual in FY 2008/2009.

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