Uploaded by Shivani saroj

World Poverty (1)

‘Is Not an Act of Charity, It Is an Act of Justice’- Nelson Mandela
World Poverty
A Presentation by Shivani Saroj
Every year, 9 million children die before their fifth
birthday. 1 A woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a
one-in-thirty chance of dying while giving birth—in
the developed world, the chance is one in 5,600.
There are at least twenty-five countries, most of
them in sub-Saharan Africa, where the average
person is expected to live no more than fifty-five
years. In India alone, more than 50 million
school-going children cannot read a very simple
A recent experiment at the University of Pennsylvania
illustrates well how easily we can feel overwhelmed by the
magnitude of the problem. 3 Researchers gave students $5 to
fill out a short survey. They then showed them a flyer and asked
them to make a donation to Save the Children, one of the
world’s leading charities. There were two different flyers. Some
(randomly selected) students were shown this: Food shortages
in Malawi are affecting more than 3 million children; In Zambia,
severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42% drop in maize
production from 2000. As a result, an estimated 3 million
Zambians face hunger; Four million Angolans—one third of the
population—have been forced to flee their homes; More than 11
million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.
Other students were shown a flyer featuring a picture of a
young girl and these words: Rokia, a 7-year-old girl from Mali,
Africa, is desperately poor and faces a threat of severe hunger
or even starvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a
result of your financial gift. With your support, and the support
of other caring sponsors, Save the Children will work with
Rokia’s family and other members of the community to help
feed her, provide her with education, as well as basic medical
care and hygiene education.
The students’ reaction is typical of how most of us feel when we are confronted with problems like poverty. Our
first instinct is to be generous, especially when facing an imperiled seven-year-old girl. But, like the Penn students,
our second thought is often that there is really no point: Our contribution would be a drop in the bucket, and the
bucket probably leaks.
Unfortunately, this is not how the debates on poverty are usually framed. Instead of discussing how best to fight diarrhea or dengue, many
of the most vocal experts tend to be fixated on the “big questions”: What is the ultimate cause of poverty? How much faith should we place
in free markets? Is democracy good for the poor? Does foreign aid have a role to play? And so on.
Jeffrey Sachs
Jeffrey Sachs, adviser to the United Nations, director of the Earth Institute at
Columbia University in New York City, and one such expert, has an answer to all
these questions: Poor countries are poor because they are hot, infertile, malaria
infested, often landlocked; this makes it hard for them to be productive without an
initial large investment to help them deal with these endemic problems. But they
cannot pay for the investments precisely because they are poor—they are in what
economists call a “poverty trap”..
Until something is done about these problems, neither free markets nor democracy will do very
much for them. This is why foreign aid is key: It can kick-start a virtuous cycle by helping poor
countries invest in these critical areas and make them more productive. The resulting higher
incomes will generate further investments; the beneficial spiral will continue. Sachs argues that if
the rich world had committed $195 billion in foreign aid per year between 2005 and 2025, poverty
could have been entirely eliminated by the end of this period.But in truth, aid is only a very small part
of the money that is spent on the poor every year. Most programs targeted at the world’s poor are
funded out of their country’s own resources. India, for example, receives essentially no aid. In
2004–2005, it spent half a trillion rupees ($31 billion USD) just on primary-education programs for
the poor. Even in Africa, where foreign aid has a much more important role, it represented only 5.7
percent of total government budgets in 2003 (12 percent if we exclude Nigeria and South Africa,
two big countries that receive very little aid)
Many people would also agree with Amartya Sen, the
economist-philosopher and Nobel Prize Laureate, that
poverty leads to an intolerable waste of talent. As he puts
it, poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the
capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.
10 A poor girl from Africa will probably go to school for at
most a few years even if she is brilliant, and most likely
won’t get the nutrition to be the world-class athlete she
might have been, or the funds to start a business if she
has a great idea. It is true that this wasted life probably
does not directly affect people in the developed world, but
it is not impossible that it might: She might end up as an
HIV-positive prostitute who infects a traveling American
who then brings the disease home, or she might develop a
strain of antibiotic-resistant TB that will eventually find its
way to Europe. Had she gone to school, she might have
turned out to be the person who invented the cure for
Alzheimer’s. Or perhaps, like Dai Manju, a Chinese
teenager who got to go to school because of a clerical
error at a bank, she would end up as a business tycoon
employing thousands of others.
For many in the West, poverty is almost synonymous with hunger
More recently, the announcement by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in June 2009 that
more than a billion people are suffering from hunger 1 grabbed the headlines, in a way that the World Bank’s
estimates of the number of people living under a dollar a day never did. This association of poverty and
hunger is institutionalized in the UN’s first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which is “to reduce poverty
and hunger.”
A “poor” person was essentially defined as someone
without enough to eat. It is no surprise, therefore, that a
large part of governments’ effort to help the poor is
posited on the idea that the poor desperately need food,
and that quantity is what matters. Food subsidies are
ubiquitous in the Middle East: Egypt spent $3.8 billion in
food subsidies in 2008–2009 (2 percent of the GDP). 2
Indonesia has the Rakshin Program, which distributes
subsidized rice. Many states in India have a similar
program: In Orissa, for example, the poor are entitled to
55 pounds of rice a month at about 4 rupees per pound,
less than 20 percent of the market price. Currently, the
Indian parliament is debating instituting a Right to Food
Act, which would allow people to sue the government if
they are starving.
Most people living with less than 99 cents a day do not seem to act as if they are starving. If they
were, surely they would put every available penny into buying more calories. But they do not
COVID-19 drove an additions 97 million people into extreme poverty by 2020
A study of 13 developing countries found that government spending on education and
health accounted for 69% of the total reduction of economic inequality.
Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names
Every second child is under poverty
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.
If current trends continue, the Millennium Development Goals target of halving the proportion of underweight children
will be missed by 30 million children, largely because of slow progress in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa
the end of poverty will require a global network
of cooperation among people who have never
met and who do not necessarily trust each other.
One part of the puzzle is relatively easy. Most
people in the world, with a little bit of prodding,
would accept the fact that schools, clinics, roads,
electricity, ports, soil nutrients, clean drinking
water, and the like are the basic necessities not
only for a life of dignity and health, but also for
economic productivity. They would also accept
the fact that the poor may need help to meet
their basic needs, but they might be skeptical
that the world could pull off any effective way to
give that help.
The starting points of that chain are the poor
themselves. They are ready to act, both individually
and collectively. They are already hard working,
prepared to struggle to stay afloat and to get ahead.
They have a very realistic idea about their conditions
and how to improve them, not a mystical acceptance
of their fate. They are also ready to govern themselves
responsibly, ensuring that any help that they receive is
used for the benefits of the group rather than
pocketed by powerful individuals. But they are too
poor to solve their problems on their own. So, too, are
their own governments. The rich world, which could
readily provide the missing finances, wonders how to
ensure that money made available would actually
reach the poor and be an investment in ending poverty
rather than an endless provision of emergency
rations. This question can be answered by showing
how networks of mutual accountability can run
alongside the networks of financing. In short, we need
a strategy for scaling up the investments that will end
poverty, including a system of governance that
empowers the poor while holding them accountable.
In each low-income country, it is time to design a
poverty reduction strategy that can meet this