This paper compares the recent use of poverty measurement in three disparate places, the Republic of Maldives, the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. Despite the prospect of solutions to measurement questions, the study shows that poverty reducing policy ultimately rests upon the political-economic context and on political discourse, whether between governments and donors, within government, at the level of parliament, between state and civil society, or within civil society. In the case of PRSP, research findings must eventually confront the task of talking about poverty with the Finance Minister if public resources are to be appropriately gathered and deployed. This poses the question that forms the core for this paper: as with the Tin Man, should a Finance Ministry gain a heart and become the agency within which budget prioritisation takes place?
Talking to the finance minister about poverty: pro-poor policy and the political economy of information, presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 24 pp.