MEXICO CITY – The proportion of Mexico’s 106 million people living in poverty rose from 47 percent to 48 percent – representing an additional 1.5 million individuals – in the first half of 2009, the country’s new social development secretary said Thursday.
But in an interview with Televisa television, Heriberto Felix Guerra said this increase in the poor population – based on preliminary data – is slowing.
The minister said poverty shot up during the first two quarters of 2009 but the numbers of people falling below the poverty line began to slow in the third quarter and expectations are for that trend to continue in the year’s last three months.
Felix Guerra, named by President Felipe Calderon on Wednesday to replace Ernesto Cordero, also said the 2010 budget for fighting poverty – roughly 80 billion pesos ($6.15 billion), or 20 percent higher than this year’s total – will help more people climb out of the ranks of the poor.
“A crisis like the one we’ve been experiencing, primarily a food and economic crisis, what it does is erode earnings, above all among the country’s poorest families,” he added.
Felix Guerra said fighting the advance of poverty in Mexico is a priority under the current economic scenario.
Poverty in Mexico is divided into three categories. The first, labeled “extreme,” comprises those who cannot pay for the basic food basket; a second level encompasses those unable to afford basic health and education costs; while the third level includes those incapable of covering the costs of housing, clothing, footwear and transport for household members.
The number of people living in extreme poverty rose by 6 million last year as Mexico was battered by the global financial crisis, with the country especially hard hit late last year and early this year by a drop in exports to the United States.
At present, 19.4 million people are extremely poor, or unable to afford adequate nutrition, out of a total of roughly 50 million who suffer from some form of poverty, the Social Development department said. EFE