In this segment of Economic Indicators, the Great Belize Research Center, looks at specific factors relating to the southernmost district which is not only delineated by its geographical distance, but is defined by grave economic indicators. Unofficial figures put the poverty level of the country at a rate between forty to forty-nine percent. Toledo has the highest poverty rate, the highest unemployment, the highest illiteracy rate, and the lowest average income. From the census figures in 2000, the population of Toledo increased by thirty-one percent or seven thousand, two hundred and eighty-nine new residents to a total of thirty thousand, five hundred and thirty-eight. In recent years, millions of dollars have been pumped in poverty alleviation, including in the Toledo District. If we look at the budget for the fiscal year 2011/2012; at least two point five million dollars was allocated for food and cost of living expenses; four million was used for the Conditional Cash Transfer initiative, five million to support Child Care initiatives; and four point four million dollars for home improvements and home repairs for low income families. That’s fifteen million dollars set aside for programs providing direct assistance to the poor and the socially marginalized.
In this year’s fiscal budget we found that some thirty-three point one million dollars has been allocated for poverty alleviation programs. The question therefore is why, after all these millions of dollars, is there still a staggering forty to forty-nine percent or close to half of the population living in poverty? And importantly, why is it that Toledo yet remains the district with the highest poverty rate and the most depressing economic indicators? In Part Two, we will look at some of these economic indicators; which show that from having a toilet, to having a kitchen or drinking water are challenges in the south.