While extreme poverty does not exist in Bahrain, the Government has doubled last year's budget for helping needy Bahrainis to 52 million Bahraini Dinars (US$130 million) this current financial year.
Speaking this week to mark the UN Eradication of Poverty Day, the Bahrain Minister of Human Rights and Social Development and Acting Health Minister, Dr Fatima Al Balooshi, said "the national strategies to decrease relative poverty and support needy families are being reviewed regularly."
More than 13,000 families currently receive assistance from the Government. At least 55% of those being assisted are elderly. Needy individuals each receive at least BD75 ($200) per month. Several categories have been changed and even doubled over the past five years in order to guarantee the dignity of the needy.
Financial Assistance is given to widows, to divorced and abandoned women, and as of recently to those women married to needy non-Bahrainis. Families whose breadwinners are in jail for more than a month are also covered by the scheme, as are orphans, the elderly and those who are unfit to work to support themselves. The unemployed aren't included in the scheme, because there is a separate unemployment allowance for them.
In order to decrease relative poverty, Dr Al Balooshi mentioned specific initiatives arranged by her ministry to economically empower needy families throughout Bahrain.
She said these initiatives include a micro-enterprise development program to help needy families and welfare recipients start to generate their own incomes by working from home. By this process, individuals are trained on various home-based projects. One example of this is a Bahraini woman who was taught how to make homemade pickles. The woman now earns an income by selling her tasty pickles to local shops.
Another initiative mentioned by Dr Al Balooshi is the creation of a specialised microfinance bank, which provides guarantees and collateral free microcredit to help needy people start up businesses.
Dr Al Balooshi also spoke of current attempts to draw beggars away from vagrancy by helping them with other specific programmes run by her ministry.