POVERTY

 

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Those who live in conditions of poverty lack a wide range of economic and other resources and may be described as poor or impoverished. Some see the term as subjective and comparative, others see it as moral and evaluative, while others consider that it is scientifically established. The term "developing countries" is now used to refer to nations that are "poor."  We've all seen it overseas and in a small way at home in our cities and felt ashamed we could not help.  I'm lucky, I live in England. a country where absolute poverty hardly exists, but where poverty levels are reduced and help and advice is reasonably available.

 

 

 

Nelson Kruschandl - on poverty

 

 

It is a little known fact that the human race has expended more money and effort on war and waging war, than on tackling grass-root poverty, famine or natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes.  The reasons for this are many and I will try to highlight a few.  First of all, we are still encumbered by our caveman instinct to protect ourselves against outsiders.  In a modern world in this still necessary? Well, judging from the fact there has never been a time of absolute peace since the turn of the century - it is.  The solution to this one is not NATO or the United Nations, since they are largely ineffective.  One possible solution is a Global Alliance - an effective international peace keeping initiative. Of course as I speak, there is no such thing.

 

However, let us assume for the sake of argument that the Global Alliance was in place and working.  If that is true, we (Planet Earth) just freed up $billions normally spent on each country developing weapons, which can be used to tackle other issues such as the energy crisis - that's the one they don't tell ordinary folk about, but which starts wars and it will become worse as the oil runs out. As an example, the UK (Gordon Brown) is considering spending £25 billion renewing the Trident submarine nuclear missile system, which could go to fighting poverty

 

Next, take away the tempting energy supplies gifted to a few lucky nations in the form of oil supplies.  I don't mean literally.  I mean urgently develop renewable energy as an alternative to provide plentiful energy anywhere in the world.

 

Finally, take a look at the political and geographical issues causing starvation and deprivation.  Could this ever happen?  Who knows. But one thing is for sure, if we don't look at solving these problems on a global scale, we will never conquer poverty. NK

 

 

Poverty is understood in many senses. The main understandings of the term include:

  • Descriptions of material need, typically including the necessities of daily living (food, clothing, shelter, and health care). Poverty in this sense may be understood as the deprivation of essential goods and services.

  • Descriptions of social need, including social exclusion, dependency, and the ability to participate in society. This would include education and information. Social exclusion is usually distinguished from poverty, as it encompasses political and moral issues, and is not restrained to the sphere of economics.

  • Describing a lack of sufficient income and wealth. The meaning of "sufficient" varies widely across the different political and economic parts of the world.

 

 

Poverty-stricken people washing their clothes by 

a road in Mumbai, India.  Photo Antônio Milena/ABr

 

 

Measuring poverty

 

Although the most severe s.t.d.'s are in the developing world, there is evidence of poverty in every region. In developed countries, this condition results in wandering homeless people and poor suburbs and ghettos. Poverty may be seen as the collective condition of poor people, or of poor groups, and in this sense entire nation-states are sometimes regarded as poor. To avoid stigma these nations are usually called developing nations.

 

When measured, poverty may be absolute (also known as objective) or relative poverty. Absolute poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and between countries. An example of an absolute measurement would be the percentage of the population eating less food than is required to sustain the human body (approximately 2000-2500 kilocalories per day). Absolute poverty is a condition that applies to people with the lowest incomes, the least education, the lowest social status, the fewest opportunities, etc.

 

The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$ (PPP) 1 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day. It has been estimated that in 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day. The proportion of the developing world's population living in extreme economic poverty has fallen from 28 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2001. Much of the improvement has occurred in East and South Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa GDP/capita shrank with 14 percent and extreme poverty increased from 41 percent in 1981 to 46 percent in 2001. Other regions have seen little or no change. In the early 1990s the transition economies of Europe and Central Asia experienced a sharp drop in income. Poverty rates rose to 6 percent at the end of the decade before beginning to recede. [1] There are various crticisms of these measurments.[2][3]

 

Other indicators of absolute poverty are also improving. Life expectancy has greatly increased in the developing world since WWII and is starting to close the gap to the developed world where the improvement has been smaller. Even in Sub-Saharan Africa, the least developed region, life expectancy increased from 30 years before World War II to about a peak of about 50 years before the AIDS pandemic and other diseases started to force it down to the current level of 47 years. Child mortality has decreased in every developing region of the world [4]. The proportion of the world's population living in countries where per-capita food supplies are less than 2,200 calories (9,200 kilojoules) per day decreased from 56% in the mid-1960s to below 10% by the 1990s. Between 1950 and 1999, global literacy increased from 52% to 81% of the world. Women made up much of the gap: Female literacy as a percentage of male literacy has increased from 59% in 1970 to 80% in 2000. The percentage of children not in the labor force has also risen to over 90% in 2000 from 76% in 1960. There are similar trends for electric power, cars, radios, and telephones per capita, as well as the proportion of the population with access to clean water.[5]

 

 

 

Map of the world showing poverty as a % of the population

 

 

Relative poverty views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context. In this case, the number of people counted as poor could increase while their income rise. A relative measurement would be to compare the total wealth of the poorest 1/3 of the population with the total wealth of richest 1% of the population. There are several different income inequality metrics, one example is the Gini coefficient. Relative poverty is a condition that is measured by comparing one group’s situation to the situations of those who are more advantaged.

 

In many developed countries, the official definition of poverty used for statistical purposes is based on relative income. As such many critics argue that poverty statistics measure inequality rather than material deprivation or hardship. Furthermore, they are usually based on a person's yearly income and frequently take no account of total wealth. The main poverty line used in the OECD and the European Union is based on "economic distance", a level of income set at 50% of the median household income. The US poverty line is more arbitrary. It was created in 1963-64 and was based on the dollar costs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "economy food plan" multiplied by a factor of three. The multiplier was based on research showing that food costs then accounted for about one third of the total money income. This one-time calculation has since been annually updated for inflation.[6]

 

Income inequality for the world as a whole may be diminishing.[7]

 

Even if poverty may be lessening for the world as a whole, it continues to be an enormous problem:

 

  • One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes. That's 270 million people since 1990, the majority women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US.

  • Every year nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday.

  • 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.

  • The three richest people in the world control more wealth than all 600 million people living in the world's poorest countries.[8]

 

 

 A homeless Frenchman

 

 

Causes of poverty

 

Many different factors have been cited to explain why poverty occurs. However, no single explanation has gained universal acceptance at all. The factors that have been alleged to cause poverty include the following:

 

  • State discrimination and corruption. Abuse of public power.

  • Lack of social integration. Competition instead of cooperation.

  • Crime.

  • Substance abuse

  • Procrastination

  • Natural factors such as climate or environment.

  • Historical factors, for example imperialism and colonialism.

  • Overpopulation. Note that population growth slows or even become negative as poverty is reduced due to the demographic transition.

  • War, including civil war, genocide, bullying, democide, and politicide.

  • Lack of education and skills.

  • Matthew effect— the phenomenon, widely observed across advanced welfare states, that the middle classes tend to be the main beneficiaries of social benefits and services, even if these are primarily targeted at the poor.

  • Cultural causes, which attribute poverty to common patterns of life, learned or shared within a community. For example, some have argued that protestantism contributed to economic growth during the industrial revolution.

  • Individual beliefs, actions and choices.

  • Mental diseases, such as Autism, and Schizophrenia.

  • Excessive materialism

 

ACUTE CAUSES OF POVERTY

 

Warfare 

 

The material and human destruction caused by warfare is a major development problem. For example, from 1990 to 1993, the period encompassing Desert Storm, per capita GDP in Iraq fell from $3500 to $761. The drop in average income, while a striking representation of the drop in the well-being of the average Iraqi citizen in the aftermath of the war, fails to capture the broader affects of damages to the infrastructure and social services, such as health care and access to clean water.

 

 

Agricultural cycles 

 

People who rely on fruits and vegetables that they produce for household food consumption (subsistence farmers) often go through cycles of relative abundance and scarcity. For many families that rely on subsistence production for survival, the period immediately prior to harvest is a 'hungry period.' During these periods of scarcity, many families lack sufficient resources to meet their minimal nutritional needs. Being familiar with these cycles has enabled development practitioners to anticipate and prepare for periods of acute need for assistance.

 

 

Natural disasters 

 

Natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes have devastated communities throughout the world. Developing countries often suffer much more extensive and acute crises at the hands of natural disasters, because limited resources inhibit the construction of adequate housing, infrastructure, and mechanisms for responding to crises.

 

 

Geography and Political

 

Some regions on earth are not conducive to supporting life anymore.  Yet, for political or other reasons, people gather at these locations only to find there is no food or water, or that the land may not support crops or animals, such as to provide a living. These people may be trapped in this location, without the means to support themselves or their families.

 

 

Eliminating poverty

 

In politics, the fight against poverty is usually regarded as a social goal and many governments have — secondarily at least — some dedicated institutions or departments.

 

 

Economic growth

  • The anti-poverty strategy of the World Bank [9] depends heavily on reducing poverty through the promotion of economic growth. However, some consider this approach does not actively or directly work to reduce or eliminate poverty.

  •  

The World Bank argues that an overview of many studies show that:

 

  •  

    • Growth is fundamental for poverty reduction, and in principle growth as such does not seem to affect inequality.

    • Growth accompanied by progressive distributional change is better than growth alone.

    • High initial income inequality is a brake on poverty reduction.

    • Poverty itself is also likely to be a barrier for poverty reduction; and wealth inequality seems to predict lower future growth rates.[10]

  • Research on the Index of Economic Freedom suggests that a set of economic conditions which have been termed "economic freedom" help increase growth and reduce poverty.

  • Business groups see the reduction of barriers to the creation of new businesses [11], or reducing barriers for existing business, as having the effect of bringing more people into the formal economy.

 

 

A group of impoverished Russians 

butchering a dog for food

 

 

Direct aid

  • The government can directly help those in need. This has been applied in most Western societies during the 20th century in what became known as the welfare state. Especially for those most at risk, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. The help can be for example monetary or food aid.

  • Private charity. This is often formally encouraged within the legal system. For example, charitable trusts and tax deductions for charity.

 

 

Improving the social environment and abilities of the poor

  • Affordable housing development and urban regeneration.

  • Affordable education.

  • Affordable health care.

  • Providing help in finding employment.

  • Subsidizing employment of groups that have difficulty finding work otherwise.

  • Encouraging political participation and community organizing.

 

 

Millennium Development Goals

 

Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 is a Millennium Development Goal. In addition to broader approaches, the Sachs Report (for the UN Millennium Project) [12] proposes a series of "quick wins", approaches identified by development experts which would cost relatively little but could have a major constructive effect on world poverty. The quick wins are:

 

  • Eliminating school fees.

  • Providing soil nutrients to farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Free school meals for schoolchildren.

  • Supporting breast-feeding.

  • Deworming school children in affected areas.

  • Training programmes for community health in rural areas.

  • Providing mosquito nets.

  • Ending user fees for basic health care in developing countries.

  • Access to information on sexual and reproductive health.

  • Drugs for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

  • Upgrading slums, and providing land for public housing.

  • Access to electricity, water and sanitation.

  • Legislation for women’s rights, including rights to property.

  • Action against domestic violence.

  • Appointing government scientific advisors in every country.

  • Planting trees.

 

The Borgen Project points out that while the U.S. government spends over $230 billion dollars a year on military contracts, $40-$60 billion a year is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of ending severe poverty by 2015. [13]

 

 

Other approaches

 

Most developed nations send some aid to developing nations. Polls have shown that, on average, Americans believe that 24% of the federal budget goes to development assistance. In reality, less than 1% of the budget goes to this.[14]

 

Most developing countries have produced Poverty Reduction Strategy papers or PRSPs [15].

 

Inequality can be reduced by progressive taxation, wealth tax, and/or inheritance tax.

 

Some argue for a radical change of the economic system. There are several proposals for a fundamental restructuring of existing economic relations, and many of their supporters argue that their ideas would reduce or even eliminate poverty entirely if they were implemented. Such proposals have been put forward by both left-wing and right-wing groups:socialism, communism, anarchism, libertarianism and participatory economics, among others.

 

In law, there has been a movement to seek to establish the absence of poverty as a human right.

 

In his book "The End of Poverty" [16], world renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs laid out a lucid plan to eradicate global poverty by the year 2025. Following his doctrine, international organizations such as the Global Solidarity Network are helping end poverty working with governments and partners to help eradicate poverty worldwide with known, proven, reliable, and appropriate interventions in the areas of housing, food, education, basic health, agricultural inputs, safe drinking water, transportation and communications.

 

 

 

A boy from an East Cipinang trash dump slum in 

Jakarta, Indonesia shows his find

 

 

Debates about poverty

 

The underlying causes of poverty and the elimination thereof are a controversial, politicized issue. Those with right wing views may consider that poverty results from personal choices or preferences, the breakdown of "traditional values", lack of birth control, and over-interference by government. They may also look to structural factors that prevent economic growth, such as poorly protected property rights, lacking credit system, crime, and corruption.

 

Those with more left wing views typically see poverty as the result of many systemic factors unrelated to personal choices or preferences. For instance, they consider that poverty is caused by lack of opportunity (particularly in education), and that it is often the lack of government intervention which results in more poverty. They tend to believe that alleviating poverty is a matter of social justice and that it is the responsibility of the wealthy to help those in need.

 

The condition in itself is not always considered negatively, even if this is the prevalent interpretation within a given society: some cultural or religious groups consider poverty an ideal condition in which to live, for an example; a condition necessary in order to reach certain spiritual, moral, or intellectual states. Poverty in this sense is understood as the lack of material possessions, and it is regarded in some branches as one of the counsels of perfection. For some orders this is equivalent to voluntary simplicity: Mother Teresa said that a vow of poverty "frees us from all material possessions". However, a vow of poverty traditionally goes beyond that. The Dominicans "lived a life of voluntary poverty, exposing themselves to innumerable dangers and sufferings, for the salvation of others." (Pope Honorius III, 1217).

 

 

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