Egypt is moving towards leaving no one behind, guaranteeing a decent life for everyone across all its governorates and villages and targeting multidimensional poverty in the midst of an accelerated rate of population growth.
Multidimensional poverty is a way of measuring poverty that seeks to capture its complexity and persistence beyond monetary deprivation by considering the additional deprivations experienced by the poor, including access to education and basic infrastructure along with incomes or consumption below the $1.90 a day international poverty line.
The importance of measuring multidimensional poverty stems from the need to provide a more accurate and more complete picture of poverty by measuring the multiple dimensions of the deprivations of the poor, where, for instance, markets for basic needs and public goods may not exist. Complementing monetary with non-monetary information is necessary in order to eradicate poverty at its roots. Measuring poverty with a single income or expenditure measure is necessary but not sufficient as a way of ascertaining its nature and extent.
Monetary poverty also does not include all forms of deprivation, as it is only one of the dimensions of poverty, measured by daily consumption rates and per capita income on the basis of purchasing power parity. It measures the ability to meet basic needs for food, shelter, clothing and other goods, whereas the non-monetary dimensions of poverty include deprivation in the areas of education and basic infrastructure like water, sanitation and electricity, along with deprivation in the areas of health, nutrition and spatial security.
Given that public spending plays a major role in providing these services, it is difficult to measure them by a monetary poverty approach alone. Additionally, monetary poverty may give outward indicators of narrow scope and not capture the full picture.
Egypt is targeting the elimination of multidimensional poverty using a broader and more comprehensive concept to ensure the elimination of poverty in all its aspects and to provide a decent quality of life for every Egyptian citizen. A reduction in monetary poverty rates does not necessarily mean the elimination of non-monetary poverty, and this means that steps have been taken to eradicate poverty using a multidimensional approach at all levels. Among these has been the launch of the presidential Decent Life Initiative that is a pioneer internationally in targeting multidimensional poverty and measures poverty rates in the governorates at micro levels covering villages and marginalised areas.
This approach helps to target the most vulnerable households and individuals better, ensuring the availability and efficiency, as well as the sustainability, of public services provided by the government such as healthcare, education, infrastructure and other basic needs.
Moreover, the government is also targeting the provision of decent and sustainable job opportunities that can guarantee job stability and ensure the continuity of incomes and their gradual increase to meet increases in inflation. It is also targeting the expansion of sustainable green infrastructure and the establishment of new cities and neighbourhoods with high-quality buildings for individuals and households currently residing in often dilapidated housing that negatively affects the quality of their lives and the environment. These efforts are in line with increasing demand accompanied by high rates of population growth.
The Decent Life Initiative promotes human rights and aims to eradicate multidimensional poverty by targeting 4,658 villages with a total investment estimated at LE700 billion. It will contribute to improving the lives of more than half the Egyptian population by setting an integrated developmental roadmap whose goals and pillars are consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It emphasises human rights and has been formulated in accordance with Egypt’s National Strategy for Sustainable Development and the 17 UN SDGs. It has been recognised by the UN as containing some of the best practices for achieving the SDGs worldwide. The main goals of the initiative are advancing the economic, social and environmental conditions of some of the neediest families in poor villages, empowering them to obtain public services and secure job opportunities and to maximise their capabilities in such a way as to ensure a decent life for all. The initiative emphasises a comprehensive array of services that include decent housing, healthcare, education, culture, infrastructure, a clean and green environment and productive communities in order to ensure sustainable development in targeted villages across all the governorates.
The Decent Life Initiative is thus a trailblazing initiative in Egyptian economic history, as it aims to eradicate poverty in its monetary and its non-monetary dimensions within the framework of expanding financial inclusion and providing access to finance for small and micro projects characterised by competitive advantages in each of the targeted villages and promoting industrial clusters and supply and value chains. This is in addition to the creation of sustainable job opportunities, ensuring the sustainability of incomes and raising the standard of living for individuals and households.
From the perspective of political economy, Egypt is thus taking decisive steps characterised by accountability and transparency to implement radical economic policies for the benefit of all citizens and to achieve comprehensive sustainable development that will ensure the continuity of the benefits of development for current and future generations by laying sound foundations.
The policies are well-coordinated and consistent with the goals of radical structural reforms having sustainable impacts and are supported by broad social-protection networks that accommodate all households and individuals with significant vulnerabilities to ensure their ability to move from under the umbrella of social protection to that of employment and thus generating value-added for the economy as a whole.
In addition to involving citizens in decision-making and policy-making, something that is widely recognised as leading to the successful implementation of policies and the increase in their effectiveness and positive returns politically, socially, environmentally and economically, the Decent Life Initiative has seen the country’s political leadership engaged in transparent policy-making and political and social communication accompanied by serious criteria to monitor the performance and evaluation of policies and measure achievement rates over specific periods of time.
This has resulted in the completion of many projects in very short periods, with standards of accountability identifying and countering any sources of corruption.
* The writer is a senior economist at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University and was a candidate in the 2020 parliamentary elections.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 November, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly