Addressing Multidimensional Poverty Issues to Achieving the SDGs in Samoa

June 30, 2023

SDGs localization in Samoa

Photo: UNDP

The poor is narrowly defined as someone who lacks money or who does have a certain level of income to meet their daily basic needs. However, people face poverty in many ways – this could be food, education, health, or livelihood poverty. Therefore, focusing on income only to determine someone’s poverty status may be misleading and can eventually hide key factors contributing to people’s poverty status and their impact on the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Multidimensional poverty provides a comprehensive picture of the poverty situation – it reveals who is poor, how poor (different deprivations experienced), and the depth of poverty experienced by each individual or household.

Achieving SDG 1 through to SDG 6 has a catalytic effect on the attainment of other SDGs through the building of synergies, policy coherence and catering for trade-offs. These SDGs seek to project people for human development and incapsulate UNDP’s signature solutions (poverty and inequality; governance; resilience; environment; energy; and gender equality) built to achieve three outcomes – eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions; accelerating structural transformations for sustainable development; and building resilience to crises and shocks. By adopting the MPI, Samoa creates the precondition for being able to report on SDG indicator 1.2.2 (Indicator 1.2.2: Proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions), and measure progress on SDG target 1.2 (Target 1.2: By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions). Therefore, a conscious pursuit of lowering poverty in its many forms and dimensions leads to achieving the SDGs.

Samoa’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) and Pathway for the Development of Samoa (PDS)

Samoa’s MPI is built on three dimensions (health, education and living standards) and 12 indicators. These indicators can be matched or aligned to the Pathway for the Development of Samoa (PDS) to show the MPI can be used to advance the cause of the implementation of the PDS, and for that matter, the SDGs. The MPI for Samoa is 0.109, indicating that multidimensionally poor people experience 10.9% of the total deprivations that would be experienced if all people were deprived in all indicators. The incidence or headcount of multidimensional poverty is 24.9%, whilst on average, multidimensionally poor individuals are deprived in 43.9% of the weighted sum of indicators.

From the 2022 SDGs Report, apart from two SDGs that are achieved (SDGs 12 and 13), and one (SDG 16) on track to be achieved in Samoa, there remains data paucity to measure some progress on some of the indicators for these three SDGs. Data scarcity exists for most of the SDG indicators across the board. In all, seven of the SDGs (2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 15 and 16) have shown that major challenges remain to attain them, five of the SDGs (4, 6, 8, 10 and 14) show on the dashboard that significant challenges remain to attain the SDGs goals. SDGs 1, 11 and 17 show that some challenges remain to the attainment of the goals.

The MPI indicators show relationships to SDGs, and the contribution of each of the indicators to multidimensional poverty reflects the performance of some of the SDG indicators. For example, 19.8% of the population is multidimensionally poor and deprived with no internet connection, and 18.1% of people live in households that are food insecure and are also multidimensionally poor. Also, 16.0% of people in households that are multidimensionally poor do not own a car and do not own more than one of the following assets: TV, refrigerator or washing machine (asset ownership indicator). Access to safe water (15.9%), housing (14.9%), sanitation (9.8%), years in school (9.1%), and cooking fuel (7.8%). 

For those who are multidimensionally poor, 8.7% of them live in urban areas whilst 91.3% live in rural areas. The dependent age groups (0-14 and 65+ years) represent the multidimensionally poorest age groups, having an MPI of 0.138 and 0.115 respectively, which are above the national average. The working age groups (15-24, 25-55, and 56-64) have an MPI lower than the national average, recording an MPI of 0.092, 0.087 and 0.095 respectively. The MPI for male and female-headed households do not show a marked difference. Male MPI is 0.099, inching a little over female MPI of 0.090. Therefore, working to drive down multidimensional poverty will accelerate progress on some related SDGs like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc.  

Though the MPI alone cannot measure all indicators of a development plan or the SDGs, Samoa’s maiden MPI has brought to the fore the depth of poverty, deprivations people are suffering from, where their locations are, and the gender of the affected persons and households. With this analytical tool in hand, government will not only be able to monitor progress over time, but also address the issue of “leaving no one behind”. The MPI can be used to identify interlinkages in policies to coordinate and ensure coherence across government and understand the impact of the policies on the poor.  Samoa can further expand the dimensions and indicators to capture more of the SDG indicators and national PDS to unearth further deprivations, their depth, and locations.

Not having adequate data for monitoring the SDGs can also impact the MPI when it is decided that the MPI should be expanded to include other dimensions and indicators. The generation of both administrative and survey data must be enhanced to ensure provision of current data for the monitoring of the PDS and SDGs in the country.

Way Forward

Deploying the MPI alongside other diagnostic tools and analysis will guide the implementation of the SDGs and national plans. Apart from aligning development plans to the SDGs for compatibility and coherence, there is the need to cost the PDS and the SDGs in Samoa to determine how much it will cost to attain the goals. Secondly, it will help to identify financing gaps and where resources could be found to fill those gaps. As it stands, we cannot tell how much it will cost Samoa to implement either the SDGs or PDS. We still have about seven years to complete the implementation of the SDGs, and if we want to accelerate the attainment of the SDGs, it would be prudent to know how much it would cost to do so. 

The MPI can be constructed to reflect other related SDG indicators, and this can further help in monitoring the progress of some indicators of the SDG and call for supplementary action as appropriate. The MPI should be used by policy makers in budget allocation and project implementation to facilitate gender-responsive budgeting given that the MPI provides analysis on multi-deprivations of the people and their locations. Applying an overall policy coherence environment to ensure whole-of-government approaches will further enhance the appreciation of the complexity of the deprivations. Therefore, a general development model combined with a macroeconomic model can be adopted to address the attainment of the PDS and the SDGs.