Claim: Liberians should be happy with the standard of living because poverty in Sierra Leone and Guinea is higher, a Liberian based in Paris has said.
Verdict: Misleading! The latest data from the World Bank shows that Guinea has a lower national poverty rate than Liberia and Sierra Leone. However, Liberia’s poverty rate is also lower than Sierra Leone’s.
Frank Gibson, a Liberian based in France on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, phoned in on the ‘OK Morning Rush’ and provided reasons why Liberians should be grateful to the governing party for the country’s standard of living, which he said was slightly better than that of Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Gibson indicated that more Sierra Leoneans and Guineans live below the $1 economic index than Liberians. He said it was unfortunate that people who are critical of President Weah will erroneously use the suffering of the ordinary people as a point to undermine his legacy even when the situation is worse elsewhere.
“Now if you get to Sierra Leone, there are 53.6% living below the $1. I am getting the data from the World Bank,” said Gibson. “What that means is that Liberia is better.”
His statement, made at 1:25 minutes of the programme, has become part of the ongoing debate in the public regarding the standard and economic well-being of the ordinary people ahead of the run-off Presidential and Legislative election in Liberia.
“If we come to Liberia,” he added, “there are better living conditions as opposed to countries like Sierra Leone and Guinea.”
Gibson: “I was in these two countries recently, and I know this for a fact.”
Apart from being a regular caller, Frank Gibson is an influential supporter of the incumbent President with a commanding voice among some of Weah’s support base back home in Liberia.
Amidst his claim, DUBAWA has decided to verify whether 53.6% of Sierra Leoneans are living below $1 and to ascertain whether the situation is worse in Sierra Leone and Guinea in relation to Liberia.
DUBAWA had to access the latest World Bank data on Sierra Leone and Guinea’s living conditions compared to Liberia’s. DUBAWA also had to ascertain the global poverty lines to understand the parameters better.
To start with, DUBAWA found out that the new global poverty line has been revised from $1.9 per person per day to $2.15 per person per day since Sept. 2022. Therefore, any analysis using $1.9 as the benchmark may be misleading.
Poverty data on Sierra Leone
The World Bank report on Sierra Leone mentioned that the country’s path towards poverty reduction was disrupted by factors, including Covid-19, which led to a decline in income.
Consequently, the report said, “Poverty is projected to increase to 44.2% in 2020 from 40.6% in 2019. Poverty in Sierra Leone has a strong spatial component,” the W/B report added. “While 60% of the rural population lives in poverty, 20% of the urban population is poor.”
According to the Bank’s data in 2018, the national poverty rate in Sierra Leone stands at 56.8% at $2.15 per person.
Poverty Data in Liberia
The W/B data for Liberia says that at the National level, the poverty rate is 50.9%, with a poverty line of 2.15 per person per day.
The UN World Food Program on Liberia mentioned: “Poverty and hunger levels are high across the country and are particularly severe in Liberia’s rural areas, where 51% of the population lives. Some 83.8% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day.”
As for Guinea, the W/B pegged the national level poverty rate at 43.70 with a poverty line of $2.15 per person per day. This is shown in the diagram below.
Per the data assessed from the World Bank, it is clear that the poverty line is not $1 ($1.9) per person per day, as the claimant pointed out. While Frank Gibson is right about the fact that national level poverty in Sierra Leone is higher than that in Liberia which is 56.8% and 50.9%, respectively, it is clear from the data that Guinea has a lower national poverty rate, which stands at 43.70% as compared to Liberia.
From the numbers gathered, it is inaccurate for anyone to suggest that the standard of living in Liberia is better than that of Guinea using the national poverty level by the World Bank. However, using the poverty line analysis, the standard of living in Liberia is indeed better than that in Sierra Leone.