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  • When President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998, 21 percent of homes were registered as experiencing extreme poverty.

    When President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998, 21 percent of homes were registered as experiencing extreme poverty. | Photo: THKW / Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Venezuela's rate of extreme poverty is nearly half that of neighboring Colombia.

The number of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty has dropped to a historic low of 4.5 percent, according to figures released Monday.

“In the midst of an economic war, extreme poverty has dropped below 5 percent,” Planning vice president Ricardo Menendez said.

He said the continued decline of poverty is vindicating “the model we are building.”

“This figure represents the strengthening of the battle ... from the beginning of the great (social) missions there has been an outright decline in indicators of poverty, (such as) unsatisfied basic needs,” he said.

The figure of 4.5 percent is nearly half that of neighboring Colombia, where over 8 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty according to 2014 statistics. It's also the lowest level in decades for Venezuela. When President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998, 21 percent of homes were registered as experiencing extreme poverty.

Under Chavez, the Venezuelan government created a series of anti-poverty programs called missions. Each mission targets a specific aspect of poverty, such as housing and education. Government funding for social spending including the missions has skyrocketed over the last decade.

By 2014, extreme poverty had dropped to 5.4 percent. The massive reduction in poverty has been praised by international organizations including the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America.

“What you are doing here, the concept going out into the (low-income) neighborhoods, to the places where there is the most poverty, it is an excellent proposal that should be examined by other countries,” the commission's head Alicia Barcena said earlier this year.

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