…𝑩𝒉𝒖𝒕𝒂𝒏’𝒔 𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒔𝒕 𝒑𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒕𝒚 𝒂𝒏𝒂𝒍𝒚𝒔𝒊𝒔 𝒓𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒔 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔, 𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒏𝒈𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂𝒔𝒔𝒖𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔 𝒐𝒏 𝒑𝒐𝒑𝒖𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒉𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒍𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒏𝒆𝒆𝒅 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒂𝒓𝒈𝒆𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒗𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔 𝒊𝒏 𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒇𝒊𝒄 𝒅𝒛𝒐𝒏𝒈𝒌𝒉𝒂𝒈𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒐𝒘𝒏𝒔 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒂 𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒆𝒒𝒖𝒊𝒕𝒂𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒇𝒖𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒆.
The National Statistics Bureau (NSB) of Bhutan recently published a poverty profile on December 29, 2023, drawing on the Bhutan Living Standards Survey (BLSS) conducted in 2022. The findings, presented in the 2022 Poverty Analysis Report, offer a nuanced understanding of poverty at the national, rural/urban, and district levels, shedding light on significant spatial disparities and a shifting geography of poverty compared to the previous five years.
The report reveals that the highest poverty incidence is concentrated in Zhemgang, Trongsa, Samtse, Trashigang, and Samdrup Jongkhar districts, with Thimphu boasting the lowest poverty headcount rate. Delving deeper into Gewogs, the highest poverty headcount rates are recorded in Bardo, Phangkhar+Goshing, Kengkhar, Shingkhar, and Silambi. In contrast, Punakha Town, Chang, Maedwang+Khasadrapchu Town, Barp+Lobaysa Town, Darkarla+Ge-nyen, and Thimphu Thromde exhibit poverty headcount rates lower than 2 percent, spotlighting the success of anti-poverty measures in these regions.
Monggar, Zhemgang, and Chhukha districts reveal substantial variations in poverty levels within their borders. For instance, Monggar Dzongkhag exhibits a wide range of poverty headcount rates, from 2.9 percent in Monggar Gewog/town and Kilikhar Gewog to a staggering 46.1 percent in Kengkhar Gewog. Similarly, Zhemgang Dzongkhag displays rates ranging from 9.6 percent in Zhemgang Gewog to 50.8 percent in Bardo Gewog. Meanwhile, Chhukha district witnesses rates from 4.5 percent in Gedu Gewog to 43.7 percent in Doongna and Maedtabkha Gewogs combined.
The poverty gap, a crucial indicator, is highest in Zhemgang, Trongsa, and Samdrup Jongkhar, with Thimphu and Punakha showcasing the lowest poverty headcount rate and gap. However, the town-level analysis introduces a twist, revealing that the town with the highest poverty gap doesn’t necessarily belong to Zhemgang district. Samdrup Jongkhar’s Wangphu Gewog takes the lead, while Bardo, Phangkhar+Goshing from Zhemgang district secure the second and third positions. High poverty gap spreads across Monggar, Chhukha, Trashigang, and Trongsa districts, emphasizing the multifaceted nature of poverty dynamics.
Breaking down the poverty gap within districts, disparities within Monggar, Zhemgang, and Chhukha become evident. In Monggar districts, the poverty gap ranges from 0.4 percent in Monggar Gewog/town and Kilikhar Gewog to a staggering 13.5 percent in Kengkhar Gewog. In Zhemgang Dzongkhag, the gap ranges from 1.8 percent in Zhemgang Gewog to 14.3 percent in Bardo. Chhukha Dzongkhag reflects gaps from 0.7 percent in Gedu Gewog to 10.6 percent in Doongna and Maedtabkha Gewogs combined.
A key revelation from the report is the concentration of the poor in Samtse and Chhukha districts, both of which boast large populations. Interestingly, while Samtse exhibits a high poverty headcount rate, Chhukha maintains a more moderate rate, challenging the assumption that larger populations inherently lead to higher poverty rates.
Towns with the highest number of poor citizens are scattered across various districts. In Thimphu district, Phuentshogling, Darla, Darla Town, Phuentshogling Thromde, Bongo+Getana, Geling+Samphelling; in Zhemgang district, Ngangla+ PanbangTown+Bjoka, Phangkhar + Goshing, Bardo, Nangkor Gewogs; and in Samtse district, Dophuchen, Namgyalchhoeling, Norgaygang, Tendruk, Tading, Sang-Ngag-Chhoelin, Phuentshogpelri, Pemaling, Norboogang, Samtse, and Samtse Town. Similarly, Trongsa (Langthil+ Korphu) and Samdrup Jongkhar (Gomdar) also host towns with a substantial percentage of the total number of poor citizens, ranging from 1 to 2.6 percent.
Beyond Samtse and Chhukha, districts such as Pema Gatshel, Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang, Trongsa, and Wangdue Phodrang exhibit poverty headcount rates ranging from 0.8 to 1 percent. Notably, the Gewogs with the lowest number of poor citizens are predominantly located in Paro, Punakha, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Sarpang districts. Chhukha district’s Gedu Town and Thimphu district’s Chang, Darkarla+Ge-nyen are among the towns hosting fewer than 0.1 percent of the total number of poor in Bhutan.
The report presents three key findings that provide crucial insights into Bhutan’s poverty landscape. Firstly, poverty tends to be higher in districts located in mountainous areas bordering India, while lower rates prevail in districts in the central part of the country and those bordering China. Secondly, there exists a large variation in poverty rates across towns within the same district, emphasizing the need for localized strategies. Lastly, towns with the highest number of poor citizens are primarily situated in Thimphu, Chhukha, Zhemgang, and Samtse, underscoring the importance of targeted interventions in these