March 23, 2018 / 7:38 AM / 8 months ago

Kenya's poverty rate drops sharply in 10 years -stats office

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The proportion of Kenyans living in poverty has fallen by 10.5 percentage points in a decade, to 36.1 percent, the statistics office said on Thursday.

Children collect water from a communal tap in the Kibera slum of Kenya's capital Nairobi February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) attributed the drop to economic expansion and devolution of resources to local authorities.

The economy of the East African nation grew an average 5.2 percent a year between 2006 and 2016, helping to boost real per capita GDP by 2.3 percent a year, the office said in a report.

This helped lower the proportion of those living below the poverty line, defined as monthly consumption of less than 3,252 shillings ($32.25), to 36.1 percent in 2015/16 from 46.6 percent in 2005/6.

“The significant improvement in the living standards of majority of Kenyans is attributable to government’s investments in infrastructure and social sector,” said Finance Minister Henry Rotich.

There were 16.4 million people below the poverty line at the time of the survey, KNBS said, down from 16.6 million a decade earlier - when the population was 10 million people lower.

In 2010, Kenya created a second layer of government in the shape of 47 counties. The so-called devolution is intended to promote development in rural areas, since the counties are allocated a minimum of 15 percent of the budget every year.

Extreme poverty, defined as monthly household expenditure below 1,954 shillings in rural areas and 2,551 shillings in urban areas, fell from 19.6 percent in 2005/6 to 8.6 percent in 2015/16.

Robert Shaw, a Nairobi-based economist, cautioned that the reduction in absolute poverty “doesn’t mean that the standard of living for the majority of the people has improved significantly”.

He said inequality was rife: “A small number of people control huge swathes of wealth.”

($1 = 100.8500 Kenyan shillings)

Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Kevin Liffey

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