The number of Jamaicans living in poverty climbed to a shade below 20 per cent in 2017, a document released by the Government has revealed. Ministry Paper 51, which was tabled in the Senate yesterday, indicated that 19.3 per cent of the majority black Jamaican population was living below the poverty line. This is 2.2 percentage points higher than the 17.1 per cent recorded for 2016. The figures were included in a report drafted by the finance ministry using data from the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions. According to the document, the increase was fuelled by a 5.2 percentage point spike in poverty in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA). “The report also informed that the KMA, after recording declines for four consecutive years, registered the largest increase in poverty, reflecting a decline in mean per capita consumption in real terms by 30 per cent,” the ministry paper said. Poverty in other towns climbed by 4.1 percentage point, the second straight year it went up, “which worsened the standard of living in that region”. Government Senator Aubyn Hill quickly fired back, saying that the administration had “nothing to be ashamed about”. He said that not only was Jamaica’s unemployment rate at historic lows, but that billions of dollars had been pumped into the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education for the current fiscal year “to take care of those persons who might be having a little difficulty”.