from the Independent On Line
Addressing delegates at the ANC's 52nd national conference in Polokwane, Mbeki said statistics showed that poverty levels dropped sharply since 1994.
"Part of the improvement of the condition of the poor is due to rising employment wages and tax relief for lower income earners.
"As significant part is attributed to the importance of social grants, the increase is also the result of major efforts on (the) part of government to cover the many people that are eligible for this social assistance," he said.
Mbeki cited the number of people who have access to electricity and formal housing, as evidence that the government was making strides in its fight against poverty.
"The proportion of households who use electricity increased from 56 percent in 1996 to 80 percent in 2007.
"More than R50-billion of assets, in the form of subsidised housing and land, were transferred to poor households in the period between 1994 and 2003," he said.
However, Mbeki conceded that government programmes had, thus far, failed to narrow the increasing gap between the rich and the poor.
"While we have made significant progress in poverty reduction, the growth of incomes of the rich has also been rapid. The result is that, although poverty is significantly down, inequality remains very high," he said.
Another challenge the government was struggling to address, Mbeki said, was youth unemployment.
"The challenge of youth unemployment is daunting," he said.
To deal with the problem, Mbeki said more than 10 government departments had been tasked with the responsibility to come up with solutions.
Other measures intended to address youth unemployment included the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, "which has increased its reach among young people", said Mbeki
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