ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Interpreting Poverty Reduction in Context

The recent Bhutan Poverty Analysis Report (PAR) 2012, published by the National Statistics Bureau (together with the World Bank), states that poverty in Bhutan was reduced by half compared to 2008. This statement has caused quite a stir in the media. Articles with technical economics jargon such as "the growth elasticity of poverty", "purchasing power", and "correlation between inflation and poverty" started to appear all over the place. Economists and other experts referred to numbers, theories, and formulas in order to explain — or refute — claims for the poverty reduction. In the plethora of explanations, one critical poverty-reducing factor was strangely absent: the Royal Kidu Program. The report's Foreword by the NSB director explains:
... One of the reasons for poverty reduction can be attributed to the noble Royal Kidu Program. Through the program, many landless households were able to get land permanently registered in their names which changed their lives forever. Generally, landless households are more vulnerable to poverty. The Kidu program also extends the education of the poor children and the support for elderly and needy citizens of the country. These initiatives could have direct impact in improving the living standard of the poor... 
This brings us to the issue of interpreting numbers within context. While theories about the effect of economic growth on poverty reduction might be valid in other countries, when considering Bhutan one must take into account the current poverty-reducing policies and actions. I couldn't find exact numbers, but the Kidu program helped thousands of household between 2008 and 2012. Claims such as  "poverty reduction could be due to robust economic growth"  (BBS 1/5/2013), which are based on economic theories, are speculative at best, since they do not take into account the local context.