San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Poverty, purchasing power down in Panama

PANAMA CITY – The number of this nation´s poor declined between 2001 and 2007 thanks to economic growth, but so has the average Panamanian´s purchasing power, a regional economic group has reported.

The number of people unable to fulfill their bare necessities dropped from 19.2 percent of the population in 2001 to 11.7 in 2007, according to the report released Monday by the Latin American Economic Commission (CEPAL).

Some 385,000 Panamanians live in extreme poverty, the report said, while 941,000 live in poverty. The latter group saw a decline from 36.7 percent to 28.6 percent of the population.

Being poor in Panama means earning less than $95 a month in the city and $64.40 in the countryside, while extreme poverty happens when one´s income is below $47.50 a month in the city and $36.80 in the country, according to CEPAL.

“Panama is on a path toward meeting the first objective of the Millennium Goals, which is reduce extreme poverty by half by 2015,” Torrijos said after receiving the study Monday.

Luis Beccaria, director of CEPAL´s division of statistics and economic projections, remarked on Panama´s progress.

“It isn´t always that an advance in the economy of a country represents a reflection of social factors, but, in the case of Panama, this growth has been proportional to the decrease in poverty,” Beccaria said.

However, he underscored the need to confront the challenge of salaries. “Purchasing power has not evolved proportionally to the country´s economic development,” he said.

And wages have actually dropped.

The average salary decreased 13 percent, from $548 a month in 2001 to $477 last year.

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