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Monday, September 28, 2009

And They Say The Best Things In Life Are Free?

 Poverty Perspective

Poverty means hunger, lack of shelter, and being sick. and . Poverty is not being able to see a doctor, not being able to go to school, not knowing how to read, and not having a job. Poverty is fear for the future and living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness with lack of representation and lack of freedom. 

According to Anthony Faiola, Washington Post staff writer, far more people around the world live in severe poverty than previously thought, with the global underclass now numbering an estimated 1.4 billion, up from around 1 billion, according to a landmark World Bank Report. (August 27, 2008) The report found that roughly 26 percent of the world's population is now living in extreme poverty. 17.2% had been previously estimated. 

How Many People Live In Poverty?

Believe it or not, the world's richest 225 people have combined assets equal to the combined annual income of the world's 2.5 billion poorest people. (Forbes Magazine

Of the world’s 6 billion people, more than 1.2 billion live on less than $1 a day. Two billion more people are only marginally better off. About 60 percent of the people living on less than $1 a day live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. (2007)

 A new poverty line of $1.25 a day was just recently announced in 2008 by the World Bank. For many years before that it had been $1 a day. But the $1 a day used then would be $1.45 a day now if just inflation was taken into account. Here is a list of familiar countries and the percentage of their inhabitants that live on income below $1.00 a day. (2007 standards)

Nigeria               70.8
Rwanda             60.3

Haiti                   53.9
Bangladesh      41.3
Cambodia         34.1
El Salvador      19.0
Pakistan           17.0

China                 9.9  

Source: CIA World Factbook, 18 October, 2007, World Bank World Development Indicators 2007   

Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion (World Bank, 2008) report at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. The $10 dollar a day figure is close to poverty levels in the U.S., so it is provided to give a more global perspective to these numbers, although the World Bank has felt it is not a meaningful number for the poorest because they are unfortunately unlikely to reach that level any time soon.

Children In Poverty

According to UNICEF, 25,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death." 

According to UNICEF Worldwide (2005) "State of the World's Children," 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized and 15 million children are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom)

Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. (2007 Human Development Report, United Nations Development Program, November 2007)     

Main Causes of Poverty

Causes of poverty mainly concern reasons behind the low wealth and productivity of the poor or, conversely, the shortage and inflation of the goods they consume. Rises in the costs of living make poor people poorer. Poor people spend a greater portion of their budgets on food than richer people. As a result poor households, and those near the poverty threshold can be particularly vulnerable to increases in shocks in food prices.

Obstacles to Productivity

1. The unwillingness of governments and feudal elites to give full-fledged property rights of land to their tenants is cited as the chief obstacle to development. (, "How to Spread Democracy") This lack of economic freedom inhibits entrepreneurship among the poor. (Ending Mass Poverty, Ian Vásquez)  

2. War and political instability also discourage investment.

3. Lack of opportunities can further be caused by the failure of governments to provide essential infrastructure such as roads, water supply, sewers, power grids, etc. (Global Competitiveness Report 2006, World Economic Forum Website and Infrastructure and Poverty Reduction: Cross-country Evidence, Hossein Jalilian and John Weiss, 2004)

4. Opportunities in richer countries drives talent away, leading to brain drains. For example, $4 billion in Africa annually (expatriate professionals) and $8 billion annually in India (students going abroad for higher studies) are lost to brain drain.  

5. Inadequate nutrition in childhood undermines the ability of individuals to develop their full capabilities. Lack of essential minerals such as iodine and iron can impair brain development. 

6. Similarly substance abuse, including for example alcoholism  and drug abuse can consign people to vicious poverty cycles. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce Fact Sheet, 2007)

7. Infectious diseases such as Malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS can perpetuate poverty by diverting health and economic resources from investment and productivity.

8. As a result of the business cycle, poverty rates can increase in recessions and decline in booms.

9. Cultural factors, such as discrimination of various kinds, can negatively affect productivity such as age discrimination, stereotyping, gender discrimination, racial discrimination, and caste discrimination. ("Ending Poverty in Community," EPIC and "UN Report Slams India for Caste Discrimination," CBC News)

Charles Dickens in Chapter 5, A Tale of Two Cities describe people who had undergone a terrible "grinding and regrinding in the mill" of poverty and hunger in a suburb of Paris in 1775.

"The mill which had worked them down, was the mill that grinds young people old; the children had ancient faces and grave voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sigh, Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal (entrails and internal organs of a butchered animal), among its refuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker's shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil."

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