The World Bank Group (WBG) has clear goals to end poverty by 2030 and to promote shared prosperity in every country, both of which guide our operations, analysis, and policy advice. In setting these ambitious goals, it is not surprising to note that the WBG has made the measurement of extreme poverty an explicit corporate goal and has taken up a commitment to undertake a close and reliable monitoring. However, we face a seemingly simple, yet important barrier when it comes to measuring the world’s progress on these efforts, - and that is a broad availability of comparable estimates. Far from just a counting exercise, having quality, frequent and comparable poverty estimates across the world is a crucial underpinning to targeting programs, spending, and advice to the right people and the right places for maximum impact.
This issue is particularly evident in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, whose data have been mostly absent from the World Bank Group’s global reporting due to low survey availability and issues with the latest round of purchasing power parity data in selected countries. This meant that, for example, in 2013, the amount of data available in MENA would have only covered 34% of the region’s population, making its release more misleading than informative. Because of that low coverage, we could not release a regional estimate for MENA for that year as we did for every other region. Given that MENA is currently undergoing major political, social, and economic changes, it is ever important to push for an improved understanding of people’s living standards.