Counting trees, missing woo

By Paul Pereira


Having discovered there was an unprecedented rolling-back of poverty this last decade, Statistics SA couldn’t put two-and-two together…

Don’t go putting the frighteners on the children about the 10-yearly Statistics SA Poverty Report released last week.

The score of progress in this long game of national improvement is good; the direction-of-play even better.

So, Stand Down the Marines, after a false alarm from SA’s normally more-measured Statistician General Pali Lehohla last week. But already a veritable BS Bandwagon is on the go, stocked with “outrage”, “crisis”, dire warnings, in or by, among others, Business Times, Sunday Indy, Business Day, Financial Mail, the Official Opposition, and, bless ‘em, Maritzburg’s ever-grieving Agency for Community Social Action. Next, hashtags, “dialogue”, and things that start with “Towards…”

As is usual from Stats SA, the report itself is a fascinating picture about many things in its broader theme. Its overall big pic reveal? Breathtakingly good.

Sure, the country’s bean-counters seem to try for downbeat – leaving out a correlating trend that strikes me as very important to appreciating longer horizons; or juggling base measures of poverty’s monetary value for a bit of apples and pears; or mysterious overlaps of different poverty’s (poverty vs dire poverty); perhaps an unwise flutter in claims about the still-new recession, and so on.

…but still the quickening tide of progress:

  • The number of people defined broadly as poor has increased (not unusual given our slowly-waning Youth age demographic) – BUT THE PROPORTION OF POOR PEOPLE KEEPS FALLING (and that’s utterly more NB)
  • And then, after 40 years of a gradually decreasing proportion of people in hard-to-escape poverty, we got to ONE-IN-TWO South Africans still in those circumstances 10 years ago.

…but then, in just this last decade’s hop-and-skip… we’ve IMPROVED TO ONE-IN-THREE.

That is surely an unprecedented unshackling of desperate SA – in number, proportion, reach, and speed. That’s First Prize to date, a story of quicker-quicker-much-quicker….

And as for reporters who don’t read reports? Some of them appear to have tried for the simplest of lazy chance – by betting their farm on the Report’s one egregious-sized cock-up – its headline, which is misleading.


Statistics South Africa, Poverty Report, August 2017:

Poverty on the rise in South Africa

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