Bolivia: Extreme poverty more than halved over past decade

El Alto District 5 community representative Fanny Nina.

More than 2 million Bolivians have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the past decade since President Evo Morales's government came to power.

Bolivia's economy is on course to grow by 5% this year, placing it among the top performers in Latin America. It is one sign of Bolivia's rapid economic transformation.

Another indicator is falling poverty rates. When Morales took office in 2006, the rate of extreme poverty was 38.2%. This year, the figure is 16.8%.

A decade ago, Bolivia was considered Latin America's poorest country. “Our economy was compared with African nations and not with those of the region,” said deputy Minister of Budget and Fiscal Accounting Jaime Duran.

A recent World Bank report confirmed that Bolivia is a world leader in terms of revenue growth for the poorest 40% of its population.

Communities such as District 5, in the city of El Alto near La Paz, are slowly starting to reap the benefits of Bolivia's commodities boom. “Twenty-five years ago, when I started working here, there were no paved roads, no sports centres and no parks,” said community representative Fanny Nina.

Poverty and crime are still problems, but “there have also been many improvements that have benefited my friends and neighbours,” Nina said. The residents of this small, remote town have access to better infrastructure, schools and potable water.

“But we still have to fight the council for everything and we always need more.”

Extreme poverty has not been eradicated completely in District 5, but local representatives like Nina are determined to make people's lives better.

The community still has its fair share of social problems, but “every year we see more changes for the better,” one resident said as I accompanied Nina on one of her weekly walkabouts.

Cholitas are still selling on the streets, but now they sell alone while their children attend school. “This used to be the exception, not the rule,” Nina said.

In 2005, the richest 10% of the population had 128 times the wealth of the poorest 10%. Last year, this gap was reduced to 37 times.

Bolivia's socialist government has ambitious plans to bring even more people out of extreme poverty. Low-income residents like those in District 5 are the main targets. “By 2020, we will reduce extreme poverty to 9.5%,” Morales said.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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