Addressing Multidimensional Poverty in IsDB Member Countries

12 Sep, 2021

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For the first time in two decades, global extreme poverty is expected to rise, driven by COVID-19 pandemic. In light of this, the Islamic Development Bank Institute (IsDBI) convened a panel of experts to evaluate poverty from both a monetary and multidimensional perspective and stimulate discussions on addressing multi-dimensional poverty in IsDB Member Countries.

The panel session was held on 28 August 2021 as part of the 15th IsDB Global Forum on Islamic Finance, a virtual side event of the Annual Meetings of the IsDB Group.

Before the panel session commenced, H.E. Dr. Muhammad Al Jasser, President of the IsDB, delivered the opening address. Dr. Sami Al-Suwailem, the Acting Director General of the IsDB Institute & Chief Economist, gave the welcoming remarks, followed by the presentation of the 2021 IsDB Prize for Impactful Achievement in Islamic Economics to the winners.

The panel session, entitled ‘Multidimensional Poverty in IsDB Member Countries’, commenced with a keynote speech by Dr. Bambang Susantono, Vice President, Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). This was followed by the launch of the Inaugural IsDBI-OPHI BRIEFS and a discussion by the panel of experts. The main objective of the session was to highlight the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the poverty trends in IsDB Member Countries and stimulate discussions on addressing multi-dimensional poverty.

 

Keynote Speech

In his keynote speech, Dr.  Susantono highlighted the adverse global impacts of COVID-19 and how Islamic finance can help fill the financing gap required to kickstart economic recovery.

Dr. Susantono noted that COVID-19 is one of the greatest challenges in our generation. He recounted the lowest recorded GDP growth rate in six decades as one of the major impacts of COVID-19, followed by declining food security, leading to increased multidimensional poverty & inequality. Health and Education were among the severely disrupted sectors, far beyond the anticipation of any account. Schools were closed to varying degrees across Asia, leading to substantial losses of learning and earning. He cited the example of Bangladesh which closed schools for more than 300 days. He further explained the multiple challenges of recovery and building forward and called for innovative, inclusive, and coordinated solutions.

In concluding his speech, Dr. Susantono set the stage for the coming panel discussion by raising some pertinent questions.

 

IsDBI – OPHI Briefs

Following the keynote speech, there was the launching of the OPHI-IsDB BRIEFS. These Reports aim to assess multidimensional poverty in IsDB Member Countries and highlight the nuances of countries’ multidimensional poverty situations through a systematic analytical framework. The BRIEFS are a collaborative effort by the IsDB Institute and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).

 

Panel Discussion

Dr. Areef Suleman, Director, Economic Research & Statistics (ERS), IsDBI moderated the panel session. The panelists were Mr. Norkulov Ilkhom, First Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, Uzbekistan; Dr. Sabina Alkire, Director, OPHI; Ms. Matilda Dimovska, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan; Mr. El Yass Ould Didi, Director of Demographic and Social Statistics, Office of National Statistics, Mauritania; and Mr. Khemais El-Gazzah, Senior Advisor to the Director-General of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD).

The panel analyzed the challenges and shared their thoughts and experiences of tackling multidimensional poverty and addressed the question of how Islamic finance can help in filling the financial gap required to kick start the economic recovery post-COVID-19.

 

Dr. Sabina Alkire, Director, OPHI

Dr. Sabina highlighted the collaborative work of the IsDB and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in exploring multidimensional poverty across 42 IsDB Member Countries using the Global MPI as a tool to identify policies, interventions and efficient mobilization of resources to have a larger impact on the lives of poor people. Her deliberation was in response to the question on the recent challenges and changes due to COVID-19 and its relevance to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index.

The IsDB and OPHI BRIEFS provide insight and data that are available to track changes and offer tools and methodologies to design IsDB country programs and government policies. The MPI tool is helpful for policy design, targeting, efficient budget allocation for relevant and adaptive interventions. These BRIEFS demonstrate the composition of poverty and where the investment is needed.

The BRIEFS also track and highlight success stories, in countries such as  Bangladesh, Gambia, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone, which made exemplary progress in reducing multidimensional poverty. Doing so serves as a motivation for policymakers and development institutions that reducing poverty remains possible, despite high initial levels of poverty and other challenges.

Sierra Leone's experience stood out as an exemplary model during the Ebola crisis, with the fastest reduction of poverty due to the better coordination of roles of internal and external stakeholders, better targeting dedicated resources such as building education and health system, priority on non-monetary sector.

 

Norkulov Ilkhom, First Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, Uzbekistan

Mr. Norkulov highlighted the measures applied in the Republic of Uzbekistan during the pandemic to cope with the challenges of the highest magnitude.  Following are few highlights of the actions adopted:

  • The Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan steered quick interventions including allocation of budget, adopting flexible monetary policies and fiscal measures, cutting interest rates and creating tax holidays, providing access to financial support to a family entrepreneurship program, in addition to providing microfinance to the cooperatives.
  • The Government and the International actors including International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and other development partners built meaningful partnership to work closely to design appropriate program interventions.
  • The Government prioritized the measurement of poverty, considering the multidimensional nature and trend. The issue of poverty was officially recognized for the first time in history, and the government developed the social inclusion strategy along that line. It is a detailed policy for social protection and assistance including registration, targeting, and designing appropriate programs to safeguard the people reduce the impact of the crisis.
  • The Government prioritized the investment in human capital for demographic dividends and actively mobilized expert knowledge in coordination with external and internal actors.

 

Ms.Matilda Dimovska, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan

Ms. Dimovska complemented the deliberations regarding Uzbekistan and appreciated the Government strategy including the measurement of poverty and the process of mobilizing public and private resources.

As part of diversifying the financial potentials, the Government is creating an enabling environment to establish Green Sukuk Islamic Bond to mobilize financing as well as establishing accountability and transparency in collaboration with the IsDB Group.

The Government strategy has clearly defined objectives to prioritize seven Sustainable Development Goals in the planning and resource allocation.

 

Mr. El Yass Ould Didi, Director of Demographic and Social Statistics, Office of National Statistics, Mauritania

In his comments, Mr. El Yass from Mauritania underscored the importance of accurate data and information and appropriate direction to reduce the poverty. Mauritania has significantly invested in the appropriate tools of usage of data and its interpretation. He also highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the poor and the measures the government has been taken to protect the poor and vulnerable households.

 

Khemais El-Gazzah, Senior Advisor to the Director-General of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD)

Mr. Khemais presented the program of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD), using WAQF resources to fund poverty alleviation interventions. Primarily hard-to-reach beneficiaries are the target of the Fund in supporting innovative education, health and community development interventions. ISFD also emphasized working with the community and NGOs that are close to the people. During the COVID-19 crisis, ISFD provided fast-tracked health intervention support.

In the economic empowerment sector, ISFD has undertaken an innovative WAQF development program to fight poverty focusing on women and youth, as part of the interventions on COVID-19. ISFD always tries to use the Islamic mode of financing as innovative as possible.

 

Conclusion

The panel discussion stressed the critical need for clear measurement of poverty, better data collection, and targeting to address the multidimensional nature of poverty in IsDB Member Countries. Collaboration, coordination, and partnerships with clear strategies between all stakeholders are of paramount importance in the fight against poverty. The speakers suggested looking for innovative and adaptive interventions to build forward better.

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