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Bhutan sets target of reducing Multidimensional Poverty Index to 10% by next year

Bhutan has reduced its poverty rate by 50% within a short period and has set the target of reducing Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) to less than 10% by 2018, said Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay at the 72nd UN General Assembly side event, Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network event, in New York.

“We are obviously happy with this achievement, particularly when the SDGs call on governments to reduce their MPIs in the next 15 years by 50%,” said Lyonchhen.

Further, in the 12th Five Year Development Plan, which starts next year, Bhutan has set the target of reducing MPI rate to below 5%.

“In the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, we have made a firm commitment to eradicate poverty and advance sustainable development,” said Lyonchhen.

Lyonchhen added that using the MPI index to track progress on the SDGs is not just useful but critical.

“Bhutan has always approached development from a holistic perspective based on the development concept of Gross National Happiness. This is consistent with the 2030 Agenda,” he said.

Under that broad development framework, Bhutan has been using the national Multidimensional Poverty Index for the past seven years as an official measure of poverty to assess the needs of people and to formulate appropriate policies and effective interventions.

Bhutan’s MPI considers 13 indicators of poverty in the three dimensions of health, education, and living standards. “If a person is deprived in a third or more of the (weighted) indicators, they are identified as poor, multidimensionally poor,” said Lyonchhen.

Bhutan released its first global MPI in 2010, where it was estimated that 25.8% of the population were multidimensionally poor. In 2012, when the first national MPI report was published, the multidimensional poverty rate was estimated to be 12.7%. According to Lyonchhen, much of the success in the efforts on poverty reduction has been achieved due to strong social development policies.

“Education and healthcare is free and we invest heavily on sustainable rural development. For this, local governments have been strengthened,” he said.

In Bhutan, the national MPI is also used as a policy tool and used as basis to allocate resources across sectors, districts and villages effectively. It was used to identify people’s needs for infrastructure and social services in the remotest areas.

“And we blend the MPI data with photographs, GPS and administrative information, making the best use of technology for poverty eradication,” said Lyonchhen.

Going a step further, just this year, the MPI is included in national census so that actual MPI at the household level can be measured. Again, this was to enable the government to identify the poorest households for targeted poverty interventions.

The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs provide a comprehensive framework and the MPI helps measure and manage efforts to ensure that the government is on the right path toward poverty eradication and sustainable development.

Pema Seldon from Thimphu