rose markedly in the 1990s, with chronic poverty an emerging concern.
Even in countries with robust growth there is a growing group of
the chronically poor. Recent poverty assessments by the World Bank
highlight striking levels of poverty among the Roma. In Bulgaria
in 1997 more than 84 percent of the Roma lived below the poverty
line, more than double the national poverty rate of 36 percent.
In Hungary a third of the long-term poor were Roma, though
they made up only 5 percent of the population.
In Russia the breakup of central planning was accompanied
by a steep fall in output and a sharp increase in inflation. Poverty
as measured by the national definition jumped from an estimated
11 percent in the Soviet period to 43% by 1996, and probably increased
further with the 1998 crisis. Inequality widened dramatically during
the transition, with the Gini coefficient of consumption expenditure
doubling an estimated 0.24 in 1988 to about 0.49 in 1998. Rising
disparities in poverty have also surfaced, exacerbated by a inefficient
system of fiscal decentralization, which left the more backward
regions short of resources to assist the poor.
Moldova, one of the countries hardest-hit by the 1998 crisis
and today one of the poorest in Europe, experienced a dramatic worsening
of poverty. The percentage of people living below the national poverty
line increased from 35 percent in May 1997 to 46 percent in the
fourth quarter of 1998. Inequality also increased sharply in the
last decade: the Gini coefficient jumped from 0.24 in 1987/88 to
about 0.40 in 1997.