Friday, August 26, 2005

[US] Episcopal leader attacks US poverty proposals

From Ekklesia

The Primate of the Episcopal Church has launched a stinging attack on proposed revisions to UN poverty-reduction strategies made by the United States.

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop, issued a statement following reports that more than 500 amendments had been tabled to a draft document diplomats have been negotiating for six months.

The amendments caused some envoys to panic that agreement might not be reached at next month's summit of world leaders at the UN.

The U.S. amendments, obtained by the Reuters news agency would eliminate reference to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)approved by world leaders five years ago.

These set deadlines to reduce extreme poverty, AIDS and raise education levels around the world.

The U.S. amendments also opposed further action on climate change and new pledges for foreign aid.

The Primate of the Episcopal church however said that such amendments undermined the international credibility of the US and would weaken rather than strengthen global security. He also warned that without global partnerships the world would be destined to 'fight a losing battle' against extreme poverty and deadly disease.

In a statement, Griswold said; "I am deeply troubled by reports today that the United States has proposed revisions to UN global-poverty-reduction strategies that would undermine international commitments and partnerships already at work in the developing world. The Administration's sudden opposition to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the international target for rich nations to contribute 0.7% of GNP toward poverty reduction places an unwelcome obstacle in the path toward a more stable and secure world.

"The world religious community -- which has been engaged in the work of international development for decades -- knows firsthand the vital importance of partnership between governments and institutions in the developed world and their counterparts in poor countries" he continued.

"Such partnership is embodied in the MDGs, and without it, the world is destined to fight a losing battle against the extreme poverty and deadly disease that are destabilizing our planet.

"It had been my hope that next month's summit of world leaders at the UN would not only recommit to this sort of partnership by reaffirming the MDGs, but also take additional steps to work toward their fulfilment. I am deeply mindful of the need to use government resources to combat terrorism, but one of the most stinging lessons of our time is that the roots of terrorism and conflict most often can be found in those places where poverty and sickness abound and hope is lost.

"Out of our deep commitment to the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us by God in Christ, the Episcopal Church has endorsed the ethic of 0.7% giving to fighting global poverty, and a great number of our dioceses have already taken this step, as have many of the world's nations. For the U.S. to now oppose that long-held target further undermines our nation's international credibility, weakens rather than strengthens global security, and does violence to all of our efforts to respond to God's passionate desire for reconciliation and the well-being of all people."

[US] ...works to derail world pact on poverty

From Sydney Morning Herald

New York: Less than a month before world leaders arrive in New York for a summit on poverty and United Nations reform, the Bush Administration has thrown the proceedings into turmoil with a call for drastic renegotiation of a draft agreement to be signed by presidents and prime ministers attending the event.

The US has only recently introduced more than 750 amendments that would eliminate new pledges of foreign aid to impoverished nations, scrap provisions that call for action to halt climate change and urge nuclear powers to make greater progress in dismantling their nuclear arms. At the same time, the Administration is urging UN members to strengthen language in the 29-page document that calls for tougher action to combat terrorism, promote human rights and democracy and halt the spread of the world's deadliest weapons.

The summit, an unusual meeting at the UN of heads of state from around the globe, was called by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to reinvigorate efforts to fight poverty and take stronger steps in the battles against terrorism and genocide. The leaders of 175 nations are expected to attend and sign the agreement, which has been under negotiation for six months.

But Mr Annan's effort to press for changes has been hampered by investigations into fraud in the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq and revelations of sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers around the world.

The proposed US amendments, submitted by the UN ambassador, John Bolton, have been presented this week to select envoys.

The US proposals face strong resistance from poorer countries, which want the UN to focus on alleviating poverty, criticising US and Israeli policies in the Middle East and scaling back UN intervention in small countries that abuse human rights.

"We are looking at very, very difficult negotiations in the days ahead," said Pakistan's UN envoy, Munir Akram. The US has "strong positions and many of us do have very strongly held positions. That's the nature of the game. My only regret is we didn't get into the negotiations early enough."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

[Ireland] Highest levels of poverty in border counties and west

From Ireland On Line

People living in local authority housing are five times more likely to face poverty than any other group and their situation is worsening, a survey by the Combat Poverty agency revealed today.

The agency called on the Government to provide more integrated social housing and described its failure to date to reserve 20% of new developments for social and affordable housing as very disappointing.

Combat Poverty made the call as it launched the report – Mapping Poverty: National, Regional and County Patterns – carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The survey, which looked at the regional and county breakdown of poverty, found the highest levels of deprivation were in the border counties and the west.

Donegal had the highest rate of poverty, at almost twice the national average, measured on a series of criteria including incomes, housing, local environment, the ability to pay bills and afford various household items.

The survey also found the countryside and villages had slightly higher poverty than other areas, particularly Dublin and Ireland’s larger cities, but that the capital scored badly in terms of housing and environmental deprivation.

In addition to the poverty faced by local authority tenants, people living in private rented accommodation were at an above average risk of deprivation, the report said.

Helen Johnston, director of Combat Poverty, said the factors which dictated whether people were at risk of poverty were largely socio-economic.

“Where there’s high unemployment, low pay, low participation in the labour force, low levels of education, that’s what is driving the distribution of poverty throughout the state,” she said.

“Border and western areas include counties with the highest percentages of elderly residents, the lowest levels of educational attainment, the highest incidence of small farming activity and high levels of economic dependency,” she said.

“The peace programme also operates in the Border regions and has made a difference at a local level, but at the macro level more investment and resources in this area is required,” she added.

She said there was a need to address the structural causes of poverty, with policy on health, education and housing all being driven on a national level.

Targets set by the Government to combat poverty were robust, but the policies to achieve the targets needed to be strengthened, she said.

She said it was also important to tackle deprivation on a local level, with integration of services and outreach work.

“We’re talking particularly of local authority estates, where we need to look at estate management, community development and community participation, to support communities, to improve neighbourhoods and lift people out of poverty.”

She called on the Government to increase the supply of social housing and to look at how it was provided, to ensure it was more integrated and supported by public and community services to combat poverty.

“We would be very disappointed that they haven’t implemented the 20% and that hasn’t come to fruition in the way we wanted,” she said.

Jim Walsh, head of research with Combat Poverty, said more social housing was only part of the solution to the problem of deprivation.

“If you’re building more social housing, you’ve got to do something for people’s prospects,” he said.

Asked he if thought people would be open to the prospect of greater integration, he said: “We can keep our divides but what will the costs be?

“There’s a leadership challenge to foster integration, because it’s a form of social apartheid.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

[China] strives to eliminate poverty among women

From China View

BEIJING, Aug. 24 (Xinhuanet) -- China will adjust or tailor more policies to eliminate poverty among women, according to a white paper titled Gender Equality and Women's Development in China issued by the Information Office of China's State Council on Wednesday.

The Outline for the Development of Chinese Women puts forth the main goals of reducing the extent of poverty among and the number of poor women, and calls for more support for poverty-stricken women in the country's western development strategy, it says.

Meanwhile, the state poverty-reduction program has made it clear that the government strives to further motivate the women in the poverty-stricken areas to engage in household sideline production, launch labor-intensive and other poverty-reduction projects that are particularly suitable for women, and organize women to learn practical skills and enhance their ability to shake off poverty and become well-off.

At the Global Conference on Speeding Up Poverty Reduction, held in Shanghai in 2004, the Chinese government made a statement on its policy concerning the alleviation and elimination of poverty, which stressed the principle that, all factors being equal, preference will be given to poor women, and encouraged poor women to take part in poverty-reduction programs, and promised that the ratio of women participants would be no less than 40 percent of the total, the white paper says.

Besides, the government has increased its financial input into poverty-reduction work in recent years, says the paper.

In 2004 alone, 12.2 billion yuan (1.49 billion US dollars) was allocated by the central treasury revenue for poverty reduction projects, and local governments also increased their inputs into this field.

During the period from 2001 to 2004, a total of 13.52 billion yuan (1.65 billion US dollars) in small-sum credit loans for rural households were granted from the state poverty-reduction discount loans, and more than half of the money went to women.

With the implementation of large-scale and effective special poverty-reduction development programs, the government has succeeded in reducing the poverty-stricken rural population, mainly women, by 53.9 million, from 80 million in 1994 to 26.1 million in 2004, the white paper says.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

[Pennsylvania] Face of poverty more likely to be young

From The Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

By MARK GUYDISH

Around here, you’re more likely to be poor when you’re young and can do little about it.

In Luzerne County, the 2000 census found that 11.5 percent of the total population lived in poverty. But when you look only at those under 18 years of age, the rate climbs to 14.5 percent. The poverty rates for Wyoming County are similar: 10.2 percent among all ages, 13.5 percent among those under 18.

The trend holds true in most rural municipalities. One example: In Fairmont Township, 10 percent of all people are in poverty, but 18 percent of the kids are.

And it’s been getting worse. The number of children living in poverty nationwide climbed by 800,000 in just one year, from 2002 to 2003. In Pennsylvania, the number increased by 115,000 in the three years from 2000 to 2003. The state figures are bleakest when you look at children ages 6 to 18, where the poverty rate soared by 53 percent.

The good news, if you can put a positive spin on such a negative trend, is that youngsters potentially get the most help most easily through one common denominator: school. Children from low-income families have long benefited from free or reduced lunches at school, with some districts offering breakfasts and even after-school meals.

Many schools have switched to a lunch card system used by all kids to pay for meals, which, local educators happily point out, prevents potential embarrassment to those receiving government assistance.

Another trend – staunchly supported by Gov. Ed Rendell – has increased emphasis on early-childhood programs, including a push for statewide full-time kindergarten and improvement in the quality of preschools.

All of which is a good thing, considering the evidence of how poverty in childhood causes a lifetime of struggle. Recently, the Economic Policy Institute did a study showing the link between childhood poverty and many costly social problems in adulthood. The solution, according to the institute, is to start helping when the kids are very young.

Impoverished children in high-quality early-development programs are less likely to fail grades, drop out of school, need extra help while in school, become teen parents, use drugs, end up on welfare or commit crimes. Of course, that also means they are more likely to do well in school, graduate, attend college, get jobs, earn higher pay, eat better and stay healthier.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children Vice President of Communications Diane McCormick, summed it up this way: “A child living in poverty is more likely to suffer in school, to have a harder time later in life, and a harder time educating their own children. So the cycle of poverty continues.”

Children in rural areas face additional challenges. They travel longer to school, and their schools are typically struggling with small tax bases that create tighter budgets than in urban areas.

“In terms of both money and resources available, the poorest districts are almost all rural districts,” said Rachel Tompkins, president of the Rural School and Community Trust.

There are, ironically, two trends designed to help disadvantaged kids that may actually hurt rural children. Tompkins’ organization has become sharply critical of school consolidations, arguing that struggling rural children get lost in the cracks of bigger schools.

And while the federal government has increased the money available to help low-income students, it has also shifted more of the resources to urban poverty. “There are 20 states with substantial rural populations that are going to lose federal dollars for the education of disadvantaged children,” Tompkins said.

“Rural kids just tend to get more of the short end of the stick.”

[Zimbabwe] Economy Spawns Rising Poverty - World Bank

From All Africa

THE World Bank, which is owed more than US$350 million by the government has equated the country's economic crisis to a tragedy, The Standard can reveal.

The Bank says what is happening is a tragedy and that it is concerned about the rising poverty in a country that was once the engine of growth in the sub-region.

The international financial institution says that it is worried about the deteriorating economic climate and rising poverty in the country.

Zimbabwe owes the World Bank more than US$350 million, the International Monetary Fund more than US$300 million and the African Development Bank more than US$280 million.

But the World Bank, in an interview with The Standard, said the real issues of concern at the moment were the increasing poverty levels in the country, the suffering of Zimbabweans and the lack of decisive policy action - both on the economic and political front - to stop the economic decline and achieve a normalisation in the relationship with the international community.

It said unfortunately there was little or no positive progress in the area of economic policy as evidenced by the continuing recent economic decline.

The World Bank's comments coincided with a report released by the Centre for Global Development, which says: "Zimbabwe has experienced a precipitous collapse in its economy over the past five years. The purchasing power of an average Zimbabwean in 2005 has fallen back to the same level as in 1953.

"For people in extreme poverty, a collapse like this translates directly into sickness and death. We conservatively estimate that persistence in the economic shock will cost the lives of at least 3 900 Zimbabwean children per year - about half the infant death toll from HIV and AIDS "

The international financial institution said: "The World Bank is continuing to stay abreast of economic and social developments by carrying out analytical work, for instance in the area of poverty monitoring and stock taking exercises in the agricultural and infrastructure sector, as well as assessing how the population is coping with the worsening economic situation.

"Through this analytical work, the World Bank remains prepared to support the people of Zimbabwe once a significantly improved economic and political situation warrants a more active presence by the Bank."

It said that at present its assistance to Zimbabwe is limited to priority and urgent analytical work in the areas of measuring poverty, assessing coping mechanisms, and exploring more effective and efficient responses to HIV and AIDS.

"In all these analytical exercises the World Bank is partnering with other stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations and the United Nations family. There is no active lending programme and the last project in the World Bank's portfolio was cancelled in December 2002," it said.

While the World Bank has not lent anything to Zimbabwe for nearly three years, unlike the International Monetary Fund, it however maintains an official presence in Harare through its country office as well as appropriate dialogue with the government, so that "we are prepared to be effective if and when the situation allows".

The IMF closed its office in Zimbabwe in September last year.

The comments on Zimbabwe come in the wake of a visit to Africa by World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz in June, which took him to South Africa. It was a significant visit because it is his first since his recent appointment as president of the World Bank. Wolfowitz says he has made Africa a priority during his term.

The World Bank president met President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa but says there was no discussion on South Africa extending a loan to Zimbabwe.

"Mr Wolfowitz and President Mbeki had a productive meeting during the brief visit to South Africa in June. They discussed a number of issues of mutual interest, including the situation in Zimbabwe. Following their meeting, Mr Wolfowitz commented to the Press on his concern over policy decisions and the deteriorating economic climate in Zimbabwe - concerns which have also been formally conveyed to the government separately," said the Bank in response to questions from The Standard.

[Comment] Let's increase poverty

From The Businees Standard India

Business Standard / New Delhi

The 55th Round of the National Sample Survey (1999-2000) led to a lot of debate on poverty levels, mostly centred on the method of collecting data compared to earlier rounds. Poverty has many dimensions and income poverty is only one indicator.

However, it is the indicator commonly used, even though poverty ratios really capture expenditure or consumption poverty rather than income poverty.

Yet another the NSS large sample has collected data for 2004-05 and the results are expected in 2006. Many of these issues will be revisited then.

Three propositions should be evident. First, the growth rate has increased in post-reform India, with variations among states.

Second, since there is no evidence of expenditure distribution worsening, the trickle down effect should lead to poverty reduction.

Third, since income distributions are log normal, as the thick part of the distribution passes above the poverty line, decreases in head count ratios can be sharp.

Hence, no one should be surprised if NSS throws up a poverty ratio of around no more 20 per cent in 2006; extrapolated, India could have a poverty ratio of around 12 per cent in 2015.

However, poverty numbers are also a function of the level of development. As average income rises, so should the measurement bar. The US poverty line is not the same as the Indian.

In 1993, an expert group examined issues related to the poverty line, but did not question the core thrust of the Indian poverty line, enunciated by a study group in 1962.

The 1962 group had argued that the poverty line should be primarily based on food, and health and education should be excluded because these two would be provided by the state and were irrelevant for purposes of private consumption.

At its core, the Indian poverty line is still based on food for 80 per cent of the basket, with another 20 per cent thrown in for clothing and housing. But the proposition that health and education will be state-provided is now questionable.

Beginning especially with the 55th Round of the NSS, there is evidence of expenditure switching from food to non-food items, even for the poor.

In part, this may be the effect of a shift consequent to income growth. But it may also be due to increased recourse to private provisioning for both health and education.

Whatever the reason, the 1962 premise should now be discarded and food should account for a diminished share in the poverty line. Reflecting India’s economic growth, there should be a new poverty line.

Calorie norms are used for food items, but their non-applicability is not a serious problem for non-food items. For instance, in the US, food costs are multiplied by a factor to obtain the poverty line, this factor is a function of the importance of food expenditure in the poor’s consumption basket.

Nor should the construction of a time-series that goes back and permits inter-temporal comparisons be that much of a problem. In 1993, poverty ratios were recomputed backwards till 1983.

There is of course a political problem, because raising the poverty bar will mean that poverty ratios will immediately increase and everyone will not scrutinise differences in definitions. But any increase in poverty should gladden the hearts of the Left, which has a vested interest in high numbers.

That apart, there will be greater consistency with the 81.3 million ration cards issued by states for people allegedly below the poverty line!

[New Zealand] Child poverty is the price for National's tax cuts

Press Release: New Zealand Government

Child poverty is the price for National's tax cuts

National's tax package would lead to an 18 percent increase in child poverty by 2007, Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said today.

"In its most cynical and mean-spirited policy to date National has announced it will help pay for its tax cuts by cancelling the $10 a week per child Family Support increase scheduled for April 2007," Steve Maharey said.

"The impact of this change would cut deep into the pockets of low income families. The incomes of 125,000 beneficiary families would be reduced by an average of $20 a week, pushing thousands of children below the poverty line. A family with three children would get $30 less every week.

"As the incomes of New Zealand's poorest families were reduced, the top 3 percent of earners – includng Don Brash and John Key – would enjoy an increase of $92 more a week.

"National is pulling the rug out from under the poorest families to feather the nests of the most wealthy New Zealanders."

Steve Maharey said working families on low incomes would also be worse off from this policy.

"A two-child family on $25,000 would lose $20 a week in family tax relief and gain only $8 a week in tax reductions. The bottom two-thirds of taxpayers would get less than $10 a week.

"It is now clear why Don Brash and his welfare spokeswoman Judith Collins have both refused to guarantee that child poverty levels would not rise under National."

When asked by Sean Plunket to guarantee his tax cuts would not increase poverty levels, Don Brash said 'look there's a cycle of these things, they go up and down. I can't promise anything in that area.'

Judith Collins later told the same programme 'we can't guarantee anything in terms of getting kids out of poverty'.

"They weren't willing to promise anything because they knew that their tax policy would have a direct negative impact on children in the lowest income families.

"And to top it off they want to scrap the government's annual Social Report because they know it is the only way to measure the negative impacts of their policies."

Steve Maharey said Labour was committed to eliminating child poverty in New Zealand.

"This government has made major investments to rebuild social services and reduce poverty rates. In just 3 years to 2004, 61,000 children were lifted above the poverty line. We are committed to ensuring these rates continue to fall.

"By 2007 Working for Families is set to reduce child poverty by 30 percent. By 2007 National would be well on the way towards reversing that progress."

[Kuwait] Set up anti-poverty fund to help poor Asian countries:'Use AAPP forum to resolve regional conflicts in Asia'

ISLAMABAD (KUNA): Kuwait Monday stressed on establishing a fund to help poor countries in offloading debts based on the initiative of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah made earlier before the Security Council.Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, head of the Kuwaiti parliamentary delegation, in his speech at the Executive Council meeting of Association of Asian Parliament for Peace (AAPP), underlined the importance of AAPP in achieving prosperity and progress for Asian people as well as eradication of poverty. He said all is done on the establishment of a fund for supporting the poor. "In this context I would like to recall the initiative of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait before the Security Council calling for relieving poor and developing countries of the debts and their profits."

He underscored the contribution of Kuwait Red Crescent Society, especially to countries that were victims of the tsunami that struck several Indian Ocean littoral countries, displacing thousands of people, nearly a year ago. He also recalled the role played by Kuwait in providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqi people. Strengthening the solid basics that affect decision makers in the Asian countries is considered one of the vital topics that need to be addressed by the Asian parliaments in order to achieve peace and prosperity, he said.Therefore, to achieve all our noble goals and objectives "we must confirm the resolution of the fifth conference held in Islamabad and make sure to set a suitable agenda that achieve the goals and purposes of the coming sixth conference in Thailand, he concluded."Chauhdary Amir Hussain, incumbent president of the AAPP, in his opening address, said peace and stability are not a self-evolving phenomenon and the weak shall be protected against the strong and people living in bondage shall be freed.

He said the AAPP forum should be used to resolve regional conflicts in Asia to make it prosperous and peaceful.He said the creation of an Asian Assembly will be a historic step and will change the entire political spectrum of the world and give the people of Asia an opportunity to be heard.He recommended war poverty to be given top priority on the agenda of the AAPP. "This is not a utopian dream", he said, adding, "All we have to do is to show dedication, commitment, devotion and political will in order to translate this dream into reality".He also stressed on the need of establishing the Asian Anti-Poverty Fund, which will play its due role in collaboration with the United Nations to eliminate poverty from the face of Asia.The AAPP president also touched on other global issues such as globalization, women and children trafficking, terrorism, and underlined the need of the concept of "enlightened moderation".

In his concluding remarks, he said, "Our paramount and primary consideration is to give a better life to people". He also hoped to materialize the dream of a marvelous future for Asia and build a road that leads to a wonderful Asia of tomorrow. The AAPP meeting in its day-long deliberation will focus over the agenda of the forthcoming meeting of the general assembly of AAPP that will be held in Thailand and also review the report on the activities of the Association since the last general assembly meeting and consider the budget of the association for the next financial year. The AAPP was established during a meeting for the parliamentarians of Asian countries held at Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1999. Around 100 parliamentarians from 38 countries from all over Asia are participating in this international event.

[White Band Day 2] Wake-Up to Poverty

From One World Net

Five years on from the Millennium Summit world leaders are meeting, from 14 –16 September, to discuss progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the United Nations World Summit (MDG +5 Summit).

Thus far, efforts to reach the MDGs have fallen woefully short of what is needed to achieve them. Which is why, just ahead of this Summit on 10 September, the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) is organizing White Band Day 2 – the second in a series of massive international mobilizations from GCAP.

GCAP will send a clear message to governments across the world that politicians must keep their promises to achieve the MDGs. Together, we will show the breadth and depth of support for action now to end poverty.

The activities in Bosnia will be coordinated by ALDI Gorazde NGO, through its dedicated Zajedno web-page. ALDI called all youth organizations to come up with initiatives, ideas for the White Band Day 2.

For more information on the global campaign, visit the Whiteband.org web site.

Monday, August 22, 2005

[Jeffrey Sachs] Can Extreme Poverty Be Eliminated?

Market economics and globalization are lifting the bulk of humanity out of extreme poverty, but special measures are needed to help the poorest of the poor
By Jeffrey D. Sachs

Almost everyone who ever lived was wretchedly poor. Famine, death from childbirth, infectious disease and countless other hazards were the norm for most of history. Humanity's sad plight started to change with the Industrial Revolution, beginning around 1750. New scientific insights and technological innovations enabled a growing proportion of the global population to break free of extreme poverty.

Two and a half centuries later more than five billion of the world's 6.5 billion people can reliably meet their basic living needs and thus can be said to have escaped from the precarious conditions that once governed everyday life. One out of six inhabitants of this planet, however, still struggles daily to meet some or all of such critical requirements as adequate nutrition, uncontaminated drinking water, safe shelter and sanitation as well as access to basic health care. These people get by on $1 a day or less and are overlooked by public services for health, education and infrastructure. Every day more than 20,000 die of dire poverty, for want of food, safe drinking water, medicine or other essential needs.

For the first time in history, global economic prosperity, brought on by continuing scientific and technological progress and the self-reinforcing accumulation of wealth, has placed the world within reach of eliminating extreme poverty altogether. This prospect will seem fanciful to some, but the dramatic economic progress made by China, India and other low-income parts of Asia over the past 25 years demonstrates that it is realistic. Moreover, the predicted stabilization of the world's population toward the middle of this century will help by easing pressures on Earth's climate, ecosystems and natural resources--pressures that might otherwise undo economic gains.

Although economic growth has shown a remarkable capacity to lift vast numbers of people out of extreme poverty, progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Market forces and free trade are not enough. Many of the poorest regions are ensnared in a poverty trap: they lack the financial means to make the necessary investments in infrastructure, education, health care systems and other vital needs. Yet the end of such poverty is feasible if a concerted global effort is undertaken, as the nations of the world promised when they adopted the Millennium Development Goals at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. A dedicated cadre of development agencies, international financial institutions, nongovernmental organizations and communities throughout the developing world already constitute a global network of expertise and goodwill to help achieve this objective.

This past January my colleagues and I on the U.N. Millennium Project published a plan to halve the rate of extreme poverty by 2015 (compared with 1990) and to achieve other quantitative targets for reducing hunger, disease and environmental degradation. In my recent book, The End of Poverty, I argue that a large-scale and targeted public investment effort could in fact eliminate this problem by 2025, much as smallpox was eradicated globally. This hypothesis is controversial, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to clarify its main arguments and to respond to various concerns that have been raised about it.

Beyond Business as Usual

Economists have learned a great deal during the past few years about how countries develop and what roadblocks can stand in their way. A new kind of development economics needs to emerge, one that is better grounded in science--a "clinical economics" akin to modern medicine. Today's medical professionals understand that disease results from a vast array of interacting factors and conditions: pathogens, nutrition, environment, aging, individual and population genetics, lifestyle. They also know that one key to proper treatment is the ability to make an individualized diagnosis of the source of illness. Likewise, development economists need better diagnostic skills to recognize that economic pathologies have a wide variety of causes, including many outside the traditional ken of economic practice.

Public opinion in affluent countries often attributes extreme poverty to faults with the poor themselves--or at least with their governments. Race was once thought the deciding factor. Then it was culture: religious divisions and taboos, caste systems, a lack of entrepreneurship, gender inequities. Such theories have waned as societies of an ever widening range of religions and cultures have achieved relative prosperity. Moreover, certain supposedly immutable aspects of culture (such as fertility choices and gender and caste roles) in fact change, often dramatically, as societies become urban and develop economically.

Most recently, commentators have zeroed in on "poor governance," often code words for corruption. They argue that extreme poverty persists because governments fail to open up their markets, provide public services and clamp down on bribe taking. It is said that if these regimes cleaned up their acts, they, too, would flourish. Development assistance efforts have become largely a series of good governance lectures.

The availability of cross-country and time-series data now allows experts to make much more systematic analyses. Although debate continues, the weight of the evidence indicates that governance makes a difference but is not the sole determinant of economic growth. According to surveys conducted by Transparency International, business leaders actually perceive many fast-growing Asian countries to be more corrupt than some slow-growing African ones.

Geography--including natural resources, climate, topography, and proximity to trade routes and major markets--is at least as important as good governance. As early as 1776, Adam Smith argued that high transport costs inhibited development in the inland areas of Africa and Asia. Other geographic features, such as the heavy disease burden of the tropics, also interfere. One recent study by my Columbia University colleague Xavier Sala-i-Martin demonstrated once again that tropical countries saddled with malaria have experienced slower growth than those free from the disease. The good news is that geographic factors shape, but do not decide, a country's economic fate. Technology can offset them: drought can be fought with irrigation systems, isolation with roads and mobile telephones, diseases with preventive and therapeutic measures.

The other major insight is that although the most powerful mechanism for reducing extreme poverty is to encourage overall economic growth, a rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats. Average income can rise, but if the income is distributed unevenly the poor may benefit little, and pockets of extreme poverty may persist (especially in geographically disadvantaged regions). Moreover, growth is not simply a free-market phenomenon. It requires basic government services: infrastructure, health, education, and scientific and technological innovation. Thus, many of the recommendations of the past two decades emanating from Washington--that governments in low-income countries should cut back on their spending to make room for the private sector--miss the point. Government spending, directed at investment in critical areas, is itself a vital spur to growth, especially if its effects are to reach the poorest of the poor.

The Poverty Trap

So what do these insights tell us about the region most afflicted by poverty today, Africa? Fifty years ago tropical Africa was roughly as rich as subtropical and tropical Asia. As Asia boomed, Africa stagnated. Special geographic factors have played a crucial role.

Foremost among these is the existence of the Himalaya Mountains, which produce southern Asia's monsoon climate and vast river systems. Well-watered farmlands served as the starting points for Asia's rapid escape from extreme poverty during the past five decades. The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s introduced high-yield grains, irrigation and fertilizers, which ended the cycle of famine, disease and despair.

It also freed a significant proportion of the labor force to seek manufacturing jobs in the cities. Urbanization, in turn, spurred growth, not only by providing a home for industry and innovation but also by prompting greater investment in a healthy and skilled labor force. Urban residents cut their fertility rates and thus were able to spend more for the health, nutrition and education of each child. City kids went to school at a higher rate than their rural cousins. And with the emergence of urban infrastructure and public health systems, city populations became less disease-prone than their counterparts in the countryside, where people typically lack safe drinking water, modern sanitation, professional health care and protection from vector-borne ailments such as malaria.

Africa did not experience a green revolution. Tropical Africa lacks the massive floodplains that facilitate the large-scale and low-cost irrigation found in Asia. Also, its rainfall is highly variable, and impoverished farmers have been unable to purchase fertilizer. The initial Green Revolution research featured crops, especially paddy rice and wheat, not widely grown in Africa (high-yield varieties suitable for it have been developed in recent years, but they have not yet been disseminated sufficiently). The continent's food production per person has actually been falling, and Africans' caloric intake is the lowest in the world; food insecurity is rampant. Its labor force has remained tethered to subsistence agriculture.

Compounding its agricultural woes, Africa bears an overwhelming burden of tropical diseases. Because of climate and the endemic mosquito species, malaria is more intensively transmitted in Africa than anywhere else. And high transport costs isolate Africa economically. In East Africa, for example, the rainfall is greatest in the interior of the continent, so most people live there, far from ports and international trade routes.

Much the same situation applies to other impoverished parts of the world, notably the Andean and Central American highlands and the landlocked countries of Central Asia. Being economically isolated, they are unable to attract much foreign investment (other than for the extraction of oil, gas and precious minerals). Investors tend to be dissuaded by the high transport costs associated with the interior regions. Rural areas therefore remain stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty, hunger, illness and illiteracy. Impoverished areas lack adequate internal savings to make the needed investments because most households live hand to mouth. The few high-income families, who do accumulate savings, park them overseas rather than at home. This capital flight includes not only financial capital but also the human variety, in the form of skilled workers--doctors, nurses, scientists and engineers, who frequently leave in search of improved economic opportunities abroad. The poorest countries are often, perversely, net exporters of capital.

Put Money Where Mouths Are

The technology to overcome these handicaps and jump-start economic development exists. Malaria can be controlled using bed nets, indoor pesticide spraying and improved medicines. Drought-prone countries in Africa with nutrient-depleted soils can benefit enormously from drip irrigation and greater use of fertilizers. Landlocked countries can be connected by paved highway networks, airports and fiber-optic cables. All these projects cost money, of course.

Many larger countries, such as China, have prosperous regions that can help support their own lagging areas. Coastal eastern China, for instance, is now financing massive public investments in western China. Most of today's successfully developing countries, especially smaller ones, received at least some backing from external donors at crucial times. The critical scientific innovations that formed the underpinnings of the Green Revolution were bankrolled by the Rockefeller Foundation, and the spread of these technologies in India and elsewhere in Asia was funded by the U.S. and other donor governments and international development institutions.

We in the U.N. Millennium Project have listed the investments required to help today's impoverished regions cover basic needs in health, education, water, sanitation, food production, roads and other key areas. We have put an approximate price tag on that assistance and estimated how much could be financed by poor households themselves and by domestic institutions. The remaining cost is the "financing gap" that international donors need to make up.

For tropical Africa, the total investment comes to $110 per person a year. To place this into context, the average income in this part of the world is $350 per annum, most or all of which is required just to stay alive. The full cost of the total investment is clearly beyond the funding reach of these countries. Of the $110, perhaps $40 could be financed domestically, so that $70 per capita would be required in the form of international aid.

Adding it all up, the total requirement for assistance across the globe is around $160 billion a year, double the current rich-country aid budget of $80 billion. This figure amounts to approximately 0.5 percent of the combined gross national product (GNP) of the affluent donor nations. It does not include other humanitarian projects such as postwar Iraqi reconstruction or Indian Ocean tsunami relief. To meet these needs as well, a reasonable figure would be 0.7 percent of GNP, which is what all donor countries have long promised but few have fulfilled. Other organizations, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the British government, have reached much the same conclusion.

We believe these investments would enable the poorest countries to cut poverty by half by 2015 and, if continued, to eliminate it altogether by 2025. They would not be "welfare payments" from rich to poor but instead something far more important and durable. People living above mere subsistence levels would be able to save for their futures; they could join the virtuous cycle of rising incomes, savings and technological inflows. We would be giving a billion people a hand up instead of a handout.

If rich nations fail to make these investments, they will be called on to provide emergency assistance more or less indefinitely. They will face famine, epidemics, regional conflicts and the spread of terrorist havens. And they will condemn not only the impoverished countries but themselves as well to chronic political instability, humanitarian emergencies and security risks.

The debate is now shifting from the basic diagnosis of extreme poverty and the calculations of financing needs to the practical matter of how assistance can best be delivered. Many people believe that aid efforts failed in the past and that care is needed to avoid the repetition of failure. Some of these concerns are well grounded, but others are fueled by misunderstandings.

When pollsters ask Americans how much foreign aid they think the U.S. gives, they greatly overestimate the amount--by as much as 30 times. Believing that so much money has been donated and so little has been done with it, the public concludes that these programs have "failed." The reality is rather different. U.S. official assistance to sub-Saharan Africa has been running at $2 billion to $4 billion a year, or roughly $3 to $6 for every African. Most of this aid has come in the form of "technical cooperation" (which goes into the pockets of consultants), food contributions for famine victims and the cancellation of unpaid debts. Little of this support has come in a form that can be invested in systems that improve health, nutrition, food production and transport. We should give foreign aid a fair chance before deciding whether it works or not.

A second common misunderstanding concerns the extent to which corruption is likely to eat up the donated money. Some foreign aid in the past has indeed ended up in the equivalent of Swiss bank accounts. That happened when the funds were provided for geopolitical reasons rather than development; a good example was U.S. support for the corrupt regime of Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) during part of the cold war. When assistance has been targeted at development rather than political goals, the outcomes have been favorable, ranging from the Green Revolution to the eradication of smallpox and the recent near-eradication of polio.

The aid package we advocate would be directed toward those countries with a reasonable degree of good governance and operational transparency. In Africa, these countries include Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal and Tanzania. The money would not be merely thrown at them. It would be provided according to a detailed and monitored plan, and new rounds of financing would be delivered only as the work actually got done. Much of the funds would be given directly to villages and towns to minimize the chances of their getting diverted by central governments. All these programs should be closely audited.

Western society tends to think of foreign aid as money lost. B ut if supplied properly, it is an investment that will one day yield huge returns, much as U.S. assistance to western Europe and East Asia after World War II did. By prospering, today's impoverished countries will wean themselves from endless charity. They will contribute to the international advance of science, technology and trade. They will escape political instability, which leaves many of them vulnerable to violence, narcotics trafficking, civil war and even terrorist takeover. Our own security will be bolstered as well. As U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote earlier this year: "There will be no development without security, and no security without development."

[World Development Movement] 'Developing country demands ignored' in UN poverty action plan'

One World UK

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release: 22 August 2005

Research released today by the World Development Movement (WDM) shows that the anti-poverty demands of developing countries have either been ignored or significantly watered down in the draft declaration of the UN Millennium Development Goals summit (to be held from 14 to 16 September in New York).

Anti-poverty campaigners today expressed shock at the lack of strong development policies in the document. Peter Hardstaff, WDM's Head of Policy said today: "The policies being pursued by rich countries are failing to tackle poverty, especially in Africa. In fact in many cases they are contributing to it. This summit should be an opportunity to push well beyond the existing settlements on aid and debt and set clear criteria for a real development round in trade negotiations. Instead it looks set to rubber stamp the failing policies of the G8. Many of the key demands of developing countries, representing three quarters of the world's population, have been ignored or watered down."

"The draft declaration represents business as usual; free markets, deregulation and so-called 'free trade'. There is no mention of the need to abolish the unsuccessful, undemocratic and unfair economic policy conditions foisted upon poor countries in return for aid, loans and debt relief. Also there is no mention of the need to regulate multinational companies. It is particularly telling that the draft declaration makes no reference at all to the UN's own World Summit on Sustainable Development that agreed to develop rules on corporate accountability."

The G77 group of developing countries along with China submitted proposed changes to an early draft declaration for the UN Millennium Development Goals summit in June 2005. WDM has compared the G77's proposals on key development issues of debt, trade and aid, with the draft declaration released on 5 August. Negotiations on the text restart in New York today.

In their June submission the G77 and China want the declaration:

* To reject any conditions attached to the provision of development assistance (aid). The 5 August draft declaration contains no reference to removing any of the conditions that are currently attached to aid, loans and debt relief.

* To state that the focus of the WTO Doha Round of negotiations should be on ensuring that the interests of developing countries are fully reflected. The G77 and China specifically note reaching the 2006 deadline for negotiations should not take precedence over an outcome which reflects the interests of developing countries. In contrast the subsequent draft declaration prioritises hitting the 2006 deadline, and makes no reference to it reflecting the interests of developing countries.

* To reaffirm the commitment of developed countries to provide 0.7 per cent of their national incomes in aid. The draft declaration only "invites" developed countries "to establish timetables in order to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent".

* To specify that developing countries should have the policy space to formulate development strategies. The draft declaration makes no reference to protecting policy space.

* To emphasize the need to provide an immediate solution to the question of commodities and stress the need for more effective international action to address the problems of weak and volatile commodity prices. In reference to Africa, the draft declaration focuses on 'market-based' arrangements with the private sector for addressing the problem of commodity prices, rather than the intergovernmental arrangement called for by the G77 and China.

* To make a reference to commitments made at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. The draft declaration makes no reference to the summit at all.

Peter Hardstaff said: "The draft Millennium Review Summit declaration does not constitute a challenge or a change to the disastrous free market agenda imposed on poor countries over the past 20 years.

"The draft offers a few crumbs to poor countries on aid although there is little new of any significance - except endorsing a plan to borrow money to fund aid increases because rich countries are too stingy to meet the targets which they committed themselves to 35 years ago.

"This plan has some soft edges, but at its heart lies the cold hard reality that benefiting multinational companies is seen by rich countries as being more important than providing a route out of poverty for the poorest people in the world."

[Plan International] Almost Half of Asian Children Live in Poverty

From Voice Of America

By Scott Bobb
Bangkok

An international children's charity says more than one-fourth of the children in Asia are living in absolute poverty and almost half of them are seriously deprived. In a report issued in Thailand, the group says that many Asian families are not benefiting from the region's booming economy and it has pledged $1 billion in aid over the next decade.

The charity group Plan International says 600 million Asian children are deprived of one of the seven basic needs used to define poverty, including food, safe water, shelter, health and education. And it says 350 million children, equivalent to the population of the European Union, are deprived of two or more basic needs, classifying them as absolutely poor.

The group's executive director, Tom Miller, compares these figures to those of the victims from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of southern Asia eight months ago. "Those (poverty) numbers are absolutely staggering," he said. "The world has focused very much on Asia through the tsunami. But in many ways, what we're talking about is, this is a silent tsunami that is happening every single day."

The group, basing its figures on United Nations statistics, says some Asian countries, like China and parts of Southeast Asia, have considerably reduced their numbers of poor children. But it says significant populations of poor people remain in isolated rural areas and among ethnic minorities.

Plan International says the alarming situation is due to population growth amidst scarce resources, lack of access to social services, discrimination, corruption and poor governance.

Director Tom Miller says a rapidly changing world is producing new groups of vulnerable people, like abandoned and trafficked children, victims of the AIDS virus and rural poor who migrate to the cities. "There's a lot of talk particularly in this region of the benefits of globalization," he said, "but there are some real drawbacks and there are some real losers, and these are the people we are trying to work with most."

The group notes that it is often wrongly assumed that what is best for adults is also best for children. Plan International is advocating new approaches, such as consultations with the children on community projects and collaboration with governments to change policies and social attitudes toward children.

The group has pledged $1 billion for poverty reduction in 12 Asian countries over the next 10 years.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

[Wisconsin] Seniors find more to financial struggles than an arbitrary poverty line

From The La Cross Tribune

By KATE SCHOTT / La Crosse Tribune

No one would say Reenie makes a lot of money.

But her annual income is more than $9,570. That's the line for single people 65 and older. If her income were less, the federal government says she would be in poverty.

But she owns her own house and gets a $960 Social Security check every month. For emergencies or large expenses, she has a savings account, built up from 48 years of work. She had her employers take a couple dollars off every paycheck, with the idea that she "couldn't spend it if I couldn't see it. Every time I got a raise, I put a little more in there."

She knows plenty of people who have it worse than her, who get less from Social Security or who didn't save enough for retirement.

But Reenie, 81, had little more than $4 left from her Social Security check last month.

Her expenses aren't many. She has utility and telephone bills. Then there are the doctor's visits and the medicine to treat her emphysema, arthritis and Crohn's disease.

She spends about $40 a month for a nutrition program that brings her lunch four days a week. She goes to the grocery for breakfast and dinner supplies.

And every other week she spends $10 to have her hair done. Occasionally she splurges, spending $20 for a cut.

In July, she also had a $600 property tax bill and $320 in home insurance. Unexpected or big expenses like that often come out of her savings.

"You keep taking it out and taking it out. There's no way I can put it back in there once it's gone," she said. "If the roof blows off, there goes my savings."

So Reenie looks for sales and clips coupons. She recently waited until sugar went on sale before buying a four-pound bag. She didn't spend the $4 from last month. This month is looking tight too.

Reenie is not among the 936 people older than 65 in La Crosse County living under the federal poverty threshold, according to 2003 Census Bureau figures. But those who work with the elderly say there are many seniors like Reenie who live just above line, who may be worse off than those below it.

Getting by

Tina Johnson, benefits specialist at the La Crosse County Aging Unit, said her contact with struggling seniors typically starts with a phone call.

"They all start with ‘I can't afford...," she said. They end with things like medicine, property taxes or a utility bill.

Her job, like her counterparts in other counties, is to find programs each caller qualifies for. Sometimes it's not quite what they're looking for: Maybe they're looking for help with their prescriptions but only qualify for fuel help. Johnson will get that set up, freeing up dollars for other expenses.

"We don't go out and say, we want to help you," Johnson said. "They initiate contact. At that point, they're ready for help."

The number of people older than 65 living in poverty has dropped dramatically since the mid-1960s, when nearly 30 percent of seniors were considered poor. Only 10.2 percent were in poverty in 2003, the Census Bureau reported.

Karen Holden, professor of public affairs and consumer science at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said programs like Social Security have decreased the number of elderly living in poverty. But Holden, who is affiliated with the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW-Madison, said some of those same programs hinder the nation's oldest citizens by placing them just above the poverty threshold and disqualifying them for other programs.

Multitude of factors

It's more than just benefits checks putting seniors in a pinch. Fixed incomes play a part but there's many more factors contributing to seniors having fewer dollars.

While each case is different, those who work at Senior Services or county Aging Units in the Coulee Region say many of their cases have similarities. At the simplest levels, costs have increased while income has remained static or decreases for seniors.

Social Security benefits increased by 2.7 percent last year; the year before that, it went up 2.1 percent. The U.S. consumer price index, which measures the average changes in prices of goods and services, rose by 3.2 percent in the past year.

Leon Burzynski, president of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, said he knows of a number of seniors who have had to return to work because they either didn't save enough to cover their costs or are set to outlive the amount they saved. The Social Security Administration estimates that the average life expectancy of a 65-year-old today is 17.5 years. In 1935, the year the Social Security Act was signed into law, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was 12.5 years.

"Inflation has done cruel things to the elderly," Burzynski said.

Health in particular can take a bite out of limited incomes. Prescriptions, medical costs and health insurance can quickly add up if someone is diagnosed with a health problem.

"Even people who have put aside a fair amount of money for retirement, they are finding that if they have a health issue, that can change considerably," said Pat Peterson, director of the Unit on Aging in Vernon County.

Sister Kathy Stuttgen, of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, believes the loneliness many seniors feel contributes to health problems. As they get out less they become lonely and need more companionship — at a time when fewer people are stopping by. That can lead to depression, which can contribute to aches and pains, which can contribute to doctors visits, she said. Some go to the doctor because it's someone who will pay attention.

Property taxes are another issue. People who paid off their houses years ago find themselves paying thousands more just to stay in their home. Reenie, for instance, bought her four-room house in 1970 for $14,000 and had it paid off in 10 years. Her property taxes in 1970 were $350. This year, she's paying $2,150.61.

In addition to the rising taxes, Robert Dean, dean of the School of Business at Viterbo University, said many older people plan to sell their houses and use the profit as part of their retirement savings. With houses appreciating between 6 and 12 percent annually, that seems like a good plan, he said. But he and other economists are afraid the demand for housing will drop and homes will be worth less than many assume — leaving people with less money than anticipated for retirement.

Peterson said the elderly in rural communities face additional hardships. Many were farmers and did not contribute much to Social Security, intending their farms to be their retirement income. And while transportation is a roadblock for many seniors, those in rural areas can't rely on public transportation.

But perhaps the biggest barrier is pride. These are people who grew up during an era where you picked yourself up by your bootstraps, said Vicki Vieth, nutrition program coordinator for Monroe County Senior Services. They turned to family or friends for assistance, but didn't look for handouts. Admitting they need assistance is a hurdle.

Stuttgen sees this when she visits the elderly in their homes. She takes food to one woman who lives on a shoestring budget who always asks if anyone else is getting the same meals.

"They grew up with the mentality that they don't want to owe anything," Stuttgen said. "You didn't buy it unless you had the money for it. They would rather go without or scrimp."

Peterson said her staff points out their services are open to anyone 60 and older, not just for people who are income eligible. They point out that meal sites, operated by most county Aging Units or Senior Services agencies, are a great place to socialize and get a nutritious meal.

"We talk about, how if they were cooking at home, it would be hard to have the supplies on hand for these meals," Peterson said. "If we can help them out with four meals a week, they can save on money and on waste. They couldn't possibly have those supplies on hand for the same price at what they get the meal."

Looking for answers

Despite their own struggles, area seniors said they are a generous group, say people who work with them. Seniors often say there must be someone who's need is greater than theirs or insist on paying for things that are free.

At Causeway Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, one woman sends in a monthly check — usually no more than $20 — as a donation. Other times volunteers find a couple dollars tucked into a purse after driving someone to the doctor or grocery store.

But there are still frustrations. Reenie doesn't understand why services cost so much. When her washing machine was on the fritz, a local appliance store told her it would cost $70 just to look at it, not repair it. She needs a new muffler on her 1989 Chevy but can't afford that right now.

She isn't sure what the answer is for seniors toeing the line, but would like to see more women in public office. She thinks they would understand the burdens of the aged better, be more conservative spenders then men.

"I get so frustrated because everything costs so much," she said. "I'll go back to the old days any day. I really would. Years ago, everyone was willing to help others for almost nothing."

[India] Poverty will be eradicated in next five years: PM

From Express India

Medak, August 21: Eradication of rural poverty is priority of the UPA government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Sunday asserting that the scourge would be eliminated within five to ten years through the implementation of various beneficial schemes.

Complimenting the Andhra Pradesh government's initiative on land redistribution, he said this would help in bringing people above the poverty line.

Addressing a function in which he distributed the land 'pattas' (lease documents) among the landless poor, Dr Singh said Bharat Nirman Programme in the country was aimed at providing relief to the underprivileged classes.

He said the Centre is concerned about the road map to uplift the economy and in this direction several plans have been drawn including improving infrastructure like power, road connectivity. Banks have also been advised to extend loans to rural people, he said.

The Prime Minister said the Union Government will support the state government in grounding the irrigation projects and also help in tackling drought conditions.

Medak district which was once represented in Lok Sabha by late Indira Gandhi would be a model district in all aspects with the joint efforts of Centre and state government, Dr Singh said adding, that the issue of fluoride contaminated water will be tackled and safe drinking water would be provided in all rural areas of the country.

Friday, August 19, 2005

[Ghana] Lecturer urges more education on poverty reduction strategies

From Ghana Web

Cape Coast, Aug. 19, GNA - A lecturer at the University of Cape Coast, Mr Godwin Egbenya, on Friday called for more education on poverty reduction programmes being initiated by the government and some NGOs to raise the socio-economic status of women in particular, to enable them to avail themselves of such opportunities.

He observed that some women, especially those within the rural areas, were not aware of such programmes and that those who were aware had no knowledge as to how such assistance could be accessed.

Mr Egbenya made the call, when he spoke on "What is poverty- are women poor?" at the on-going 30th annual inter-church women's conference in Cape Coast.

The four-day conference, which is on the theme: "Women arise and fight", is being organised by the Christian Council of Ghana and has 150 delegates from various churches in the country attending.

Touching on the causes of poverty, Mr Egbenya said poverty had been attributed to several factors such as population explosion, insufficient food production and unemployment.

He said in many developing countries like Ghana, women had low social status and were restricted in their access to education and income generating activities, thereby making them dependent on men for support, which was hardly offered.

Mr Egbenya said other conditions, which had contributed to this plight of women were the prevalence of women-headed households and lower earning capacities.

[California] Watts plus 40: 'We want to see solutions to poverty'

From The Tidings

By R. W. Dellinger

Four decades ago, the arrest of a black drunk driver in South-Central Los Angeles sparked the Watts Riots, which claimed 34 lives, destroyed or damaged more than 600 buildings and resulted in 3,438 arrests. Some 35,000 African Americans participated in the six nights of burning and looting, while 16,000 National Guardsmen, county sheriff deputies and LAPD officers tried to halt the urban revolt.

Last week, on the August 11 anniversary of the Watts Riots --- and at the site of the arrest that sparked the violence --- civic, religious, business and community leaders came together at 116th Street and Avalon Boulevard, hoping to spark interest and widespread community participation in a grassroots effort to develop and execute "sustainable solutions to poverty."

At the morning outdoor press conference, the Watts Renaissance Committee launched an initiative targeting education, employment, policing, crime, healthcare, transportation and business development in Watts --- a two-mile-square area bordered by 92nd Street on the north and Imperial Highway on the south, Central Avenue on the west and Alameda Street on the east.

"Here we are 40 years later and there is still so much work to do," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "Forty years later the schools in this part of town are among the lowest achieving anywhere in the city. Forty years later the unemployment rate is among the highest of anywhere in the city."

The mayor reported that he was appointing Denise Fairchild as his special advisor for South Los Angeles Investment Initiatives. The businesswoman and community activist's job will be to speed up and increase the number of inner-city development projects.

Chris Jordan, co-chair of the Watts Renaissance Committee, praised Villaraigosa's action. "There is 40 years of frustration here, and part of the reason for a riot or a revolt is the inability to be heard," he told The Tidings. "But I think with a program like we're kicking off, with a system in place where the people are actually heard and can plug into the city, it greatly lessens the possibility of this happening again.

"Our mayor has committed resources to this group to actually plug right into the city. So he will be hearing what it is we think can be done. All we're doing as the Renaissance Planning Committee is giving people the opportunity and platform to be heard, and then to take on some sustainable solutions to the problems which we face here."

Jordan, executive director of the Grant Housing and Economic Development Corporation, said there have been many reports from outside sources about Watts. The difference this time is the study will be an "internal look" at what the impoverished community needs to improve.

'Internal' initiative

The yearlong initiative, which started immediately with the annual Watts Summer Festival, will bring together neighborhood forums to develop a strategy for revitalizing the community. One area that will get special attention is education. This year, he pointed out, only 300 seniors out of 900 former freshmen enrolled at nearby Locke High School graduated.

"We here in Watts have shown how to burn and how to revolt," Jordan said, "but we can show how to build a community also. We're all working for a common goal --- and that's the betterment of life in Watts."

The renaissance project was an expression of unity, according to Timothy Watkins, president and CEO of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, bringing together the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary, churches and other nonprofits to work as a team. "We can treat the problem forever, but we'll never solve it until we cure what causes it," Watkins said. "Poverty is caused by poor policies, bad policies.

"And we don't have to only look for the city government to change its policies," he pointed out. "We as people can also change our policies: the way we do business, the way we buy tennis shoes, how we treat our neighbors."

The community organizer said Watts had changed, but economically had basically remained the same. In 1965, it was almost entirely black, while today Hispanics make up a significant segment of the population. But Latino children suffer the same abject poverty as their African American counterparts, with single mothers often working two or three jobs to make ends meet.

"The fa├žade has been improved," Watkins noted. "The buildings look a little bit better. You can see new housing in the community. And some organizations like WLCAC offer more social services today. We do everything from childcare for single parents to providing meals for senior citizens, and everything in between.

"But the problem is that we have treated the symptoms of poverty for 40 years, and I'm damn sick and tired of it. We need to fix something. We should be nurturing health and wealth. We shouldn't be constantly trying to give someone a Tylenol for the pain.

"It might be ironic to hear me say that we would prefer to be being put out of business by our successes," he added. "We want to see solutions to poverty and get away from simply treating the symptoms."

Smoldering causes

In August 1965, Tommy Jacquette was 21 and full of rage --- especially at the predominantly white Los Angeles Police force patrolling his neighborhood like some occupying army. He and his friend Marquette Frye were used to being stopped and padded down by cops as they drove home from dates or were just hanging around outside their homes.

So it was no big deal for Frye to be pulled over by a Highway Patrol motorcycle officer named Lee Minikus on that late hot afternoon. In fact, he and the officer were getting along OK until his mother showed up at the scene and started scolding her son for being drunk. That's when the embarrassed young man lost it and became belligerent. After Minikus handcuffed him, the mother jumped on the officer's back and Frye's brother hit him. That got them all arrested.

"Marquette was in jail when the revolt actually started," explained Jacquette, now 61, after the press conference. "They had taken him away. The bricks and bottles did not start while he was here. So he was as surprised as anybody about what had happened as a result of it."

The community activist who helped found the Watts Summer Festival stressed that this incident that sparked the nation's first major race riot of the '60s was often referred to as "routine" in reports by various commissions. But he said what was beneath the spark had been smoldering for years.

"Police abuse and brutality in our community had existed for decades," Jacquette explained. "It was not just the arrest of one black man that set off the powder keg. The cops were so used to us people not reacting to the mistreatment. So the conditions already existed. It was just the straw that broke the camel's back in 1965.

"To call it a riot delegitimizes the moral right we had to defend ourselves, and it also gives some legitimacy to the exploitation and abuse that was going on here in the community," he added. "A riot is a fight between UCLA and USC when one loses a football game."

Could a racial revolt flare up in Los Angeles again?

Jacquette nodded. "Absolutely," he said. "The conditions still exist, the frustrations still exist, and the possibility of continued violent revolt still exists. Yes, it's still a powder keg without a doubt.

"But I think people are aware of the danger that now exists," he went on. "And, hopefully, through honest effort and sincere concern people will do enough of the right things to defuse the powder keg."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

[UN Development] Global Anti-Poverty Campaign Hangs in the Balance

From the Inter Press Service News Agency

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 (IPS) - An overemphasis on Security Council reform is undermining efforts to help the world's one billion people escape poverty, disease and illiteracy, warns the top official of the U.N.'s development agency.

”I know the Security Council reforms issues are very tough,” Kemal Dervis, the newly-appointed administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), told reporters Tuesday. ”But we shouldn't get all the attention hijacked only by that.”

His cautionary remarks came just a few weeks ahead of the World Summit, which is expected to be attended by more than 170 heads of state. The Sep. 14-16 gathering is intended to take stock of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

These goals include a 50 percent reduction in hunger and poverty; universal primary education; reduction in child mortality by two-thirds, cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters, the promotion of gender equality; and the reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases, all by 2015.

But since the release of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report on the need for United Nations reforms in March this year, titled ”In Larger Freedom”, the 191-member world body has been deadlocked over the question of how to expand the 15 seats on the Security Council and bring about management changes. Annan wanted member nations to resolve this issue before the Summit, but so far they have failed to reach a consensus.

Dervis, a former finance minister of Turkey and senior World Bank official, is the first UNDP chief from a developing country. His nomination was unanimously endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly last month.

”I hope the participants (of the Summit) will reaffirm their commitment to focus on development policy by not letting the policy agenda to be sidelined,” Dervis said a day after taking charge of the UNDP, which assists more than 160 countries in executing development programmes.

Like Dervis, many diplomats representing developing nations are equally concerned about the outcome of the Summit with regard to addressing critical economic and social issues.

”Trade, debt, science and technology, market access and aid should take priority over reform,” said Ambassador Stafford Neil of Jamaica, who is also chairman of the 132- member Group of 77, a political bloc in the world body that represents the interests of the developing nations.

Neil criticised the draft outcome document for the Summit, saying that the proposed declaration focuses more on the creation of new institutional and management reforms than addressing economic and trade issues.

Noting that many rich nations have failed to fulfill their pledges of financial assistance to poor countries for development, Dervis expressed his disappointment with the role of the ”the most fortunate countries.”

”Development needs resources. If the financial resources are not made available for the pursuit of the MDGs, the poverty reduction would not happen,” he said. ”The amount needed for development assistance is so small. Most rich countries can afford it.”

Despite repeated pledges by rich nations, currently only five countries have managed to reach the target of 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for development assistance. They are Denmark, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Five others -- Britain, Belgium, Finland, France and Spain -- have pledged to do so by 2015.

The United States, which is pressing hard for management reforms, spends only 0.16 percent of its GDP on international development aid.

In a letter to his UNDP colleagues, Dervis said he would use his new position to urge donors to keep their promises, and that he would advocate for greater funding for development to the help the poorest countries in Africa and elsewhere.

”It is a moral duty to help the one billion human beings who are in danger of being left behind,” he said, ”and the failed and falling states where many of these people live pose a serious challenge to the entire international system, since borders cannot contain the instability, chaos and violence they engender.”

Recently, Annan, who chose Dervis to lead the world body's development programme, warned the international community against the failure to achieve the MDGs.

”We have a once-in-a-generation chance to bring about historic fundamental change,” he said. ”But it will depend on the will of governments.”

[John Edwards] Says Poverty a Key Democrat Issue

From The Washington Post
By CURT WOODWARD
The Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Democrats can build the party's national strength by pushing their policies in statehouses around the country, 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards told a group of legislators Tuesday.

Edwards, speaking at a luncheon for a new liberal policy group, said voters will reward lawmakers who advocate a cornerstone of Democratic ideology: fighting poverty and standing up for the poor.

"We know what we believe. We know what we stand for. But the American people need to hear it from us," the former U.S. senator told a group of about 300 at a waterfront convention center.

Edwards' speech highlighted a program put on by the Progressive Leadership Action Network, a group that aims to rival the clout of established right-leaning think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Exchange Council officials did not immediately return a request for comment. Chris Vance, the Washington state Republican Party chairman, said Democrats' late attempt to counter ALEC's influence reveals their weakness.

"As usual, they are two steps behind. This whole situation is a perfect metaphor for what has happened in American politics _ conservatives have become the party of ideas, the party on offense," Vance said.

Action Network organizers hope the new Helena, Mont.-based nonprofit will become a clearinghouse of ideas, support and research for left-leaning state lawmakers, but acknowledge they have a lot of work to do.

The group is hoping to raise $1.5 million in the next year, and is planning to target its work in a select group of states with legislative sessions in 2006.

"You all of a sudden just can't have a 30-member staff and a $30 million budget," PLAN co-chairman Steve Doherty said.

Tuesday's meeting attracted legislators from around the country, who are attending the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures annual convention in Seattle.

Democratic Missouri state Sen. Patrick Dougherty said the new policy group's focus would help legislators feel they aren't alone in critical policy battles at the statehouse.

"It helps us to reach a lot of Americans who, I think, feel forgotten by a lot of politicians," he said.

The Action Network is made up of a research organization and a lobbying group. Officials said they also plan to develop networks of state legislators to exchange ideas and a roster of experts to help further left-leaning policies. The group hopes to expand into all 50 states by 2015.

Edwards praised the new group's focus on growth from the state level and deemed it a worthy effort for Democrats even if it takes time to yield major results.

"I think it can have an immediate impact, but we should view it as a long-term effort," he said.

[Nigeria] Emir Asks Obasanjo to Fight Poverty, Hunger

From All Africa

Emeka Mamah
Kaduna

Chairman of the Kaduna State Council of Traditional Rulers, and Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris has urged President Olusegun Obasanjo to address the twin problems of poverty and hunger in the country as food prices soar beyond the reach of the masses.

He gave this advice in his palace yesterday in Zaria, Kaduna State while welcoming President Obasanjo to a reception by the people of the Emirate.

A grand Durbar was held for President Obasanjo during the reception. The Emir spoke against the backdrop of a promise by the Federal Government to construct a gas pipeline from the Niger-Delta region to Kaduna State and also facilitate the establishment of a private fertilizer company for the people of the area.

Idris said: "I wish to appeal to Mr. President to address the continuing problem of poverty and the exorbitant prices of food grains and other essential commodities which are not affordable by many people in Nigeria.

"The position of the economy now in spite of the federal and state government's effort deserves to be given more attention and consideration to encourage Agriculture and Agro-Allied industries to enable Nigerians produce enough foods and to avoid unnecessary importation of food from abroad.

"There is need to provide more fertilizer and vital inputs to boost Agriculture in the whole country, with the introduction of tractors hiring units and fadama or irrigation scheme in the states. We hope the Federal Government will supplement the efforts of the state governments through the Poverty Eradication Programme and commercial banks to provide specialagricultural loans at lower interest rates to farmers and other handcrafts workers which will also go a long way to reduce the problem of unemployment in Nigeria.

"Mr. President, during your last working visit to Kaduna State, we complained about the persistent water shortage in Zaria and environs which you acted promptly by awarding a contract for the rehabilitation of the existing Zaria Water Supply.

"Unfortunately, the problem still remains. We hope theGALMA Dam Construction contract will soon be awarded in order to resolve the perennial water shortage permanently. Here I want to thank the Kaduna State government and members of the state and national Assemblies for the good role they have played in reminding Mr. President to assist in resolving the problems once and for all."

President Obasanjo in his response said the Federal Government would construct a gas pipeline from the gas centre in the Niger-Delta region adding that the project would ensure the adequate supply of gas and electricity, "along the road up to and including Kaduna State.

"The aim is that we will be able to have power generation of about 1,500 MegaWatts along the roads and at the same time we have another fertilizer plant which will be private.

"We will encourage the private sector to come into it and do it because anything that you put Federal Government hands in, it will be destroyed by our own people, your (Emir's) brothers and my brothers,your sisters and my sisters" he said.

[Africa] SADC marks 25 years, urges action on poverty

From Reuters South Africa

By Alistair Thomson

GABORONE (Reuters) - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) marked its 25th birthday on Wednesday with a call for more action and not just words to tackle chronic problems like poverty and drought.

SADC has adopted a string of agreements on subjects ranging from fighting crime to protecting the environment and plans to create a regional monetary union by 2020, but critics say little action has followed the promises.

Crisis-hit Zimbabwe, which analysts say marks one of the toughest challenges for the regional grouping, remains off the agenda at the two-day summit in Botswana's capital Gaborone.

"A number of protocols have been signed, ratified and come into force but are gathering dust on our shelves," Botswana President Festus Mogae, who assumed the revolving chair of SADC, said in a prepared speech.

"We need to strengthen and revitalise SADC into a strong organisation that can be an instrument of decisively fighting poverty, unemployment and insecurity," he said.

The SADC was first formed in 1980 with nine members in a bid to help newly independent Zimbabwe and nearby countries reduce their economic dependence on apartheid South Africa.

Today democratic South Africa is the economic powerhouse of an organisation grouping 13 countries and numbering more than 200 million people in a region where political stability has largely replaced the armed conflict of the past.

Madagascar is set to be accepted as its 14th member at the summit.

But progress promoting trade between member states to raise economic growth and create jobs has been slow.

SADC's economic growth rate of 4.1 percent in 2004 was an improvement on the previous year's 3.2 percent but falls far short of the expansion needed to tackle sky-high unemployment and the grinding poverty of the vast majority of its citizens.

"SADC ... needs to investigate the root causes of under development and find concrete solutions," said outgoing chairman Navin Ramgoolam, prime minister of Mauritius.

DROUGHT, ZIMBABWE CAST SHADOW

One of the most urgent items on the agenda is tackling chronic drought that this year threatens to leave 10 million people across southern Africa short of food.

"In many of our countries, including my own country Botswana, the frequency of drought far surpasses years of good rainfall," Mogae said.

"This is a harsh reality we have to collectively confront in a decisive and systematic manner. Otherwise we shall be caught in a never-ending cycle."

Analysts say another cloud casting a shadow over the summit is political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe -- though officials say it will not be discussed at the meeting.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe sat at Wednesday's opening ceremony between Mogae and South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose countries bear much of the burden of an influx of Zimbabweans fleeing economic crisis in their homeland.

Mugabe, accused by Zimbabwe's opposition and western countries of rigging elections and political repression, enjoys warmer relations with his southern African counterparts who appear unwilling to put public pressure on him for reform.

South Africa is negotiating a bailout loan to help Zimbabwe pay off arrears to the International Monetary Fund while Harare grows increasingly isolated from Western donors over its razing of shantytowns which the United Nations says has stripped 700,000 Zimbabweans of home or livelihood.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

[Nepal] Boost agriculture to reduce poverty

From The Rising Nepal
KATHMANDU, Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank Bijaya Nath Bhattarai has said the countries of the South-Asia region have no alternative to making their agriculture sector more productive so that it can effectively contribute to alleviate poverty, more precisely to eliminate the menace of extreme poverty of the entire region.

Inaugurating a five-day SAARC-level workshop on “Programme on Development of Rural Financing Institutions and Cooperatives” organised here today, Governor Bhattarai said Nepal Rastra Bank has been continuously working to expand financial services to the rural areas while also enacting appropriate polices and strategies to encourage and promote rural financial institutions in the Kingdom.

He also expressed the confidence that the views and experiences shared among the participants of the programme on various successful rural and micro financing models will be of great help in shaping policies and programmes for the future.

Finance Secretary Bhanu Prasad Acharya said the government has laid stress on human resources and infrastructure development in order to alleviate poverty from the country.

In his welcome address, General Manager of Agriculture Development Bank of Nepal said poverty has been deep-rooted not only in Nepal but also in rural parts of south Asia region and so it is the need of the day to fight against poverty through cooperatives and rural financing institutions.

Deputy General Manager Krishna Bahadur Kunwar and Associate Consultant of Centre for International Cooperation and Training in Agricultural Banking (CICTAB) D. Ravi also shed light on the importance and utility of the workshop.

Altogether 28 representatives from Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and hosts Nepal are taking part in the workshop organised by Nepal Rastra Bank, Agriculture Development Bank, Rastriya Banijya Bank, National Cooperative Development Board, Sana Kisan Bikas Bank Limited, Nepal Federation of Saving and Credit Cooperative Union and the CICTAB.

[New Zealand] Poverty group wants free school breakfasts

From Stuff

By ANNA SAUNDERS

A report that record numbers of people are asking for food parcels has prompted calls for the Government to provide free breakfasts at low-income schools.

The report by Child Poverty Action Group found that, despite the growth of the economy, demand at New Zealand's biggest foodbank, Auckland City Mission, has soared in the past decade. About 300 parcels were given out in the first quarter of 1996, and 1000 in the same period this year.

Demand has increased at other foodbanks, but fallen at some.

"While some families have been able to take advantage of recent improved economic conditions those who have not have further fallen behind," researcher Donna Wynd said.

The report, Hard to Swallow: Foodbank Use in New Zealand, said the number of Auckland foodbanks had mushroomed since the 1991 benefit cuts.

It was commissioned after research suggested demand had fallen. Ms Wynd said that though criteria for receiving parcels had often changed or parcels had become bigger and lasted longer, demand had not dropped overall.

Wellington City Mission community services director Kathy Loveday said demand for food parcels had grown since the mid-nineties, peaking at 250 a month.

Recently, however, demand had fallen slightly. This was probably because of low unemployment and tighter criteria for food parcel claimants to satisfy.

A typical package for a single adult might include tins of spaghetti, baked beans and fruit, as well as cheese, milk powder, pasta and sauce, and meat if available.

Downtown Community Ministry director Stephanie McIntyre said demand for food parcels had been steady at 25 a week.

Gambling and addiction were often behind foodbank use and the ministry had launched a food voucher scheme. Some users' salaries or benefits were paid directly to the ministry, which paid their rent and bills and then issued a voucher for a supermarket instead of cash.

Child Poverty Action Group has called for the Government to provide breakfasts at low-income schools. It estimated that breakfast costs for all decile one and two state schools would be up to $25 million a year.

The group also wants the weekly $15 child tax credit for low-income families to be made available to all.

Rata Street School in Lower Hutt began a breakfast programme six weeks ago. Principal David Appleyard said a supermarket provided food at cost and Hutt Valley district health board had given $7000 toward it. Breakfast packages, including cereals, milk and bread, were sold for $5 to 25 families a week.

Mr Appleyard said it was too soon to tell if the scheme had improved pupils' concentration.

A Health Ministry spokeswoman said there were no plans to fund a breakfast in schools programme.

[Africa] Actress Angelina Jolie takes part in MTV documentary on poverty in Africa

From Indian Television

MUMBAI: US music broadcaster MTV has announced that it will show a documentary The Diary Of Angelina Jolie And Dr. Jeffrey Sachs In Africa next month.

This is a part of the network's new pro-social initiative Think MTV. The half an hour special episode of the Diary series follows UN goodwill ambassador Jolie and UN advisor/economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs as they travel to Sauri, a remote group of villages in Western Kenya, where Sachs' UN Millennium Project team is working to end poverty, hunger and disease afflicting the area.

With cameras in tow, Jolie and Sachs experience first-hand the effects of the devastation unique to Africa -- and provide hope as they highlight hopeful progress in this Millennium village.

MTV states that its initiative Think MTV aims to inform and empower its audience on the issues that matter to them most, including education, sexual health, discrimination, and the environment. It will examine international poverty, Aids, the effects of war, and other issues of global concern to young people.

The story of Sauri will be told through Jolie and Dr. Sachs' personal lens on the poverty crisis, as viewers follow them encountering members of the community (mothers, children, teachers, health workers, and village elders) who have been severely affected by lack of clean water, depleted soil, malnutrition, and poor health care. In addition, we will see the practical approaches currently underway in the villages to address these challenges and the progress that has already been made.

Jolie says, "We are at a unique threshold in human history, where the crisis we face in Africa is matched only by our degree of hope that we can and will be a force for positive change. I am certain that the stories in this special will inspire viewers the same way these experiences have inspired me, and I am hopeful that increased awareness of the issues in Africa will bring about a new wave of progress and activism among young people everywhere."

To support Diary, the think.mtv.com website will offer comprehensive resources on extreme poverty and preventable disease, and tools for viewers to contact elected officials about the issues. In addition, through the think.mtv.com website and the MTV Store in Times Square, audience members will be able to purchase "Quick Wins" -- simple, affordable steps that can have a huge impact on individuals in poor nations, such as spending $10 for a bed net that can protect a child for five years from dying of malaria. From 29 August to 19 September 2005, the MTV Store windows will be dedicated to highlighting the issues of preventable disease and poverty.