Monday, October 31, 2005

[Israel] Sharon: Plans for war on poverty must be completed in two weeks

From Haaretz Ireal News

By Zvi Zarahiya, Haaretz Correspondent

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday told the Finance Ministry it has two weeks to complete its plans to launch a war on poverty in cooperation with the office of Vice Premier Shimon Peres.

Sharon made his demand Sunday morning in a meeting with Peres, acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, Housing and Construction Minister Isaac Herzog, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and senior officials in the Finance Ministry.

Professional Finance Ministry teams will hold meetings over the next few days to put the finishing touches on its plan to reduce poverty. Budgetary modifications will be made after the first Knesset reading of the budget and before the second and third.

Funding for the program will come from the state budget.

In the meeting on Sunday, Peres said, "We cannot accept a situation in which 500,000 people are going to soup kitchens. We must examine first and foremost the humanitarian deficit and not just the financial deficit."

Peres called on the government to make substantial changes to the budget to reduce poverty in Israel.

Peres told Finance Ministry officials, "Stop saying that you are responsible for economic growth. You are also responsible for poverty. You brought us more poverty in the last two years than growth. If there is anything that caused economic growth, it is the disengagement plan."

Sharon said that changes to the budget are to be based on a plan drawn up by Peres and Herzog to fight poverty. Portions of Olmert's plan will also be included.

"We must begin to treat poverty and I expect actual results in the short-term. I ask that sources close to Peres be partners in preparing an operative plan, and I expect that by the middle of November, the plans be completed and budgeted," said the prime minister.

At the meeting, Herzog proposed a Labor Party program to fight poverty that is expected to cost NIS 4.5 billion. The principles of the plan include incentives for employers to hire new workers, increased pensions for the elderly and handicapped, aid to low wage-earners, increased spending on job training, aid for higher education and housing solutions for poor families.

Herzog said that the price of the program is half the cost of the disengagement, and that existing sources from the government must be taken and redistributed over a few years.

Friday, October 28, 2005

[US] Poll results: Eliminating poverty should be No. 1 U.S. priority

From The San Jose Mercury Times


Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Eliminating poverty in America is more important than fighting terrorism, especially to blacks, U.S. troops should be pulled out of Iraq, and money saved on war should be used to rebuild hurricane-scarred New Orleans, according to a national poll released Thursday.

When asked, "What do you think should be the most important priority for the U.S.?" a majority of blacks, 58 percent, chose "eliminating poverty" over other answer choices "rebuilding our own cities," "fighting terrorism," and "establishing democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Pluralities of other ethnic groups - 43 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of Asians and 36 percent of whites - also chose eliminating poverty as their top priority.

"I don't remember poverty ever finishing as the No. 1 priority on any kind of list," said Sergio Bendixen, whose firm Bendixen & Associates conducted the poll. "The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the images of poverty have clearly made a large impact on many Americans."

Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast in September, killing more than 1,000 people and devastating New Orleans. President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were sharply criticized for sluggish response efforts as millions of television viewers watched thousands of New Orleans residents - many black_ struggling to survive amid abject poverty.

The survey was conducted by telephone Oct. 14-21 among 1,035 adults nationwide - 258 whites, 268 Hispanics, 259 blacks and 250 Asians.

Most were sampled using the "random digit dial" technique, to reach people with unlisted and listed phone numbers. Japanese, Asian-Indians and Filipinos - half the Asian subgroup - were sampled based on first and last names from phone listings and other public databases.

Interviews were conducted in six languages. The sampling error for each subgroup was plus or minus 6 percentage points except sampling error cannot be calculated for Asians not sampled using random digit dial.

The poll found that a majority of blacks, Asians and Hispanics, and a plurality of whites believed U.S. troops should be pulled from Iraq to pay for rebuilding in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

When asked "How should the government finance its share of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort?" 77 percent of blacks, 69 percent of Hispanics, 60 percent of Asians and 46 percent of whites chose "By getting our troops out of Iraq as soon as possible."

The findings were similar to an AP-Ipsos poll last month that found 42 percent favored cutting spending on Iraq to pay for relief efforts in the Gulf Coast.

Thursday's poll found a majority in all four ethnic groups would first look to nongovernment groups for help during a future natural disaster.

Interviewees were asked, "If your community was impacted by a natural disaster similar to Hurricane Katrina, whom do you think you could count on the most to help your family?"

Eighty-one percent of blacks, 74 percent of whites, 69 percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of Asians chose community and religious organizations over government and the U.S. Armed Forces.

A point of divergence between whites and blacks centered on interpretations of television images showing people in New Orleans breaking into supermarkets and other stores in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Respondents were asked, "Do you think they were looters and criminals or do you think they were people trying to take care of their families and their needs?"

Fifty-seven percent of blacks answered "trying to take care of their families." Only 31 percent of whites chose that answer, while 46 percent of whites said the people "were looters and criminals."

Hispanics and Asians were almost evenly split on their interpretations.

[US Budget] Update: Human Needs Still at Risk

From Sojourners

by Yonce Shelton

As Congress aims to finish its work for the year in mid-November, a major goal is approval of the 2006 budget reconciliation bill (H. Con. Res. 95). Despite a victory last week in the Senate, the outlook for millions of low-income families remains dire. And tax cuts for the wealthy are still on the agenda.

The House leadership is still trying to increase from $35 billion to $50 billion the mandatory cuts in the budget. Some House members are also calling for across-the-board cuts to discretionary programs, including energy and nutrition assistance for low-income families. A vote to make these changes was scheduled for last week but was delayed, partly because of strong efforts from the advocacy community. However, efforts to make these cuts continue, and the most vulnerable are being targeted to save money.

Monday, the House Ways and Means Committee announced plans to increase its social cuts from $1 billion to $8 billion. Additional cuts will come from foster care, child support, and aid to disabled people. The House Energy and Commerce Committee still plans to cut $11 billion from Medicaid, despite the fact that the Senate Finance Committee has reduced its Medicaid cuts from $10 billion to $5 billion. Further, the House Agriculture Committee has failed to follow the Senate Agriculture Committee's example last week of deciding, after much pressure from advocates and individuals across the country, not to make any cuts to the Food Stamp Program. It was a positive step forward and a win for low-income people and advocates. But House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is still asking his committee to cut as much as $1.5 billion from the Food Stamp Program.

Another concern is that the House Education and Workforce Committee has passed a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families reauthorization bill (H.R. 240), raising work requirements from 30 to 40 hours per week while only increasing child care funding by $1 billion. This legislation might be included in the final budget bill, meaning easier chances for passage. Again, the Senate's approach is much better. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has said he hopes to address TANF as a separate bill with a child care funding increase of $6 billion. The increase in work hours in the House bill effectively means mothers will work more with little additional support for child care and safety.

As many congressional leaders look for more cuts to critical human needs programs, misguided plans to cut $70 billion in taxes - mostly benefiting the wealthy - have yet to be questioned by those in power. Many in the Senate and House leadership are hoping it goes unnoticed that although the traditional purpose of a budget reconciliation bill is to reduce the deficit, the budget and tax proposals together would increase the national deficit by $35 billion. In effect, cuts to programs for poor people are financing more tax cuts for the rich.

Action Alert:

Several House committees are making key funding decisions this week that could hurt low-income families (see above). Call your member of the House of Representatives at (202) 224-3121 (Capitol switchboard) and ask them to:


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

[John Edwards] Poverty is this generation's civil-rights movement, says ex-Senator

From UC Berkeley News
By Bonnie Azab Powell

BERKELEY – Hurricane Katrina ripped aside the mask of equal opportunity in America and exposed poverty's face as primarily black and deeply disillusioned. Now that almost two months have passed, many have again chosen to avert their eyes. But last night at UC Berkeley, more than 1,500 or so students and others lined up from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union all the way to Sather Gate for the chance to hear a former senator and vice presidential candidate talk about poverty.

"Poverty is the great moral issue of our century," John Edwards told the audience crammed into every square inch of Pauley Ballroom. "Young people on college campuses have sparked movements in the past," he said, invoking Berkeley's Free Speech Movement and other sea changes in civil rights, the Vietnam War, and apartheid brought about by college students. "You can do it again," he challenged them. "People living in poverty need you. And another thing: America needs you."

Edwards was visiting campus as part of a 10-stop college tour to promote Opportunity Rocks, a nascent, student-led effort to motivate young people to fight poverty at the grassroots level through community service and political action. (Berkeley's Opportunity Rocks chapter is headed by student Andy Solari, also president of the Interfraternity Council.) No longer representing North Carolina in the U.S. Senate, Edwards directs the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and chairs the Center for Promise and Opportunity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to studying and alleviating poverty.

Edwards is a natural speaker, and his Kennedyesque call for public service appeared to strike a resounding chord with this Berkeley audience. He began his discussion of poverty in America by focusing on those residents of New Orleans who had not fled Hurricane Katrina. "Here's why they didn't leave: because they couldn't," he said, enumerating how they lacked things many in his audience might take for granted, like a car, credit card, and bank account.

What poor residents needed, he emphasized, was not just charity, but opportunity — for example, the opportunity to rebuild their city themselves. "The last thing we ought to be doing [in New Orleans] is giving big contracts to multinational corporations," he said. It was the first of several statements to elicit a standing ovation. (Another was a shout-out to U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland, who is pushing for legislation to address poverty.)

Through Opportunity Rocks, Edwards is asking students to commit to doing 20 hours of community service per semester. Its website promises that students who register will be able to find guidance for what kinds of service are neeed, as well as track their progress in online forums and blogs.

Some students commented afterward that Edwards' speech was a bit skimpy on the details of this service. Alice, a graduate student in political science said, "I believe in what he was talking about, but he didn't give us a lot of concrete action that we on the ground can take. I was hoping for some new insights." (She asked that her last name be withheld because her country of origin frowns on its students making political statements abroad.)

Edwards provided more specifics, however, on how he and the Center for Promise and Opportunity hope to address poverty on a national level. He would like to end the "national disgrace of our minimum wage" with a substantial increase. He proposes to give housing vouchers to poor families that they could use to live anywhere, not just in Section 8 housing, in neighborhoods with good schools if they choose. Iif Hurricane Katrina's devastating effect on New Orleans has taught us one thing, he said, it's that "it is not a good thing to cluster poor people together."

He would also like to issue "work bonds," through which the government would match any savings that low-income families manage to accrue, helping them save to buy homes and send their children to college.

Throughout his speech, Edwards emphasized that America does not have to be a land of haves and have-nots — that "we can do something about that."

He offered his own life as proof. "Some of you might remember that I'm the son of a mill worker — that is, unless you've been asleep for the past few years," he said with a wink and to much laughter. For those few who had been snoozing, he offered a quick recap of his path from a working-class childhood to becoming a successful trial lawyer, state senator, and "what some would consider a serious candidate for the presidential nomination." (Although "that 'some' was mostly me," he confessed self-mockingly.)

Tackling the conservative stance that all such success can be achieved only by pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps, Edwards said emphatically, "I did not get here by myself; I could never have gotten here by myself." He had help from his parents, from "great, heroic public school teachers," and "a great state university system," which helped him get several degrees that he never could have afforded at a private college, he said.

Edwards told the assembled students that it was not enough to ask what they can do for the 37 million Americans who live in poverty in their country; they should ask what they can do for the world, too.

"There's an enormous void in America of moral leadership here and abroad," he chided. The ongoing genocide in the Darfour region of Sudan, the billions of people who live in more abject poverty than Americans can even imagine — these too need our attention, he said, perhaps even more than "that mess in Iraq."

At the end of his speech, Edwards stepped off the stage and around the barriers erected by his campus hosts, the Cal Berkeley Democrats. He was instantly mobbed by hundreds of students wanting to shake his hand and pose for photos with their digital cameras and cell phones, which he good-naturedly did for almost as long as his 40-minute speech.

Third-year chemical biology student Irene Mungo explained why she had lingered after the speech to snap a photo: "I admire him very much — not just because he ran for president but for what he stands for, for standing up for those who can't. I'm pre-med, and I already intended to help people in my country, Kenya, but I'm definitely even more inspired now."

Friday, October 21, 2005

[Alabama] Faith-based focus urged on state poverty


Nov. 1 seminar geared to begin attack strategy

Times Faith & Values Editor,

Christians and politics: It's not just about abortion and gays any more, says Chuck Vedane, chairman of the Church and Society Ministry of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In fact, the Bible has much, much more to say about helping the poor than it does about either of those cultural hot-button issues.

"If you read the Bible," Vedane said recently as he and Doug Seay, chairman of the Church and Society Committee for the Huntsville District, discussed the committee's work, "there is more said about poverty, about helping the widows and orphans, than about any other issue.

"You have to come to the conclusion that poverty's a pretty important issue for God."

And it's time, say Vedane, Seay, and non-Christian believers including Buddhist Linda Haynes, for people of faith to look up from their food pantries, clothes closets and Angel Trees for bigger ways to make poverty more rare in Alabama.

"All sacred texts talk about taking care of the poor, but we need systemic change to alleviate the causes of poverty," said Haynes, a leader in Huntsville's Faith Coalition on Poverty and Public Policy. "Charity is nice, but it's like a Band-Aid."

The Faith Coalition, with the Interfaith Mission Service, is organizing a Nov. 1 evening seminar on poverty and justice. Stephen Black, director of the University of Alabama Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility and former candidate for state treasurer, will be the keynote speaker.

The seminar is the start of an effort to design a faith-based strategy to attack poverty.

"A lot of people just don't know what to do beyond just doing good," said Rosemary Urban, also helping to organize the seminar. "We'll give people lesson plans to take back to their adult Sunday schools with information on how people can begin to affect poverty and justice on a deeper level."

Current tax structure, for instance, means that the poor in Alabama pay a much higher real percentage of their income in taxes than do the wealthy. And that's not fair, Vedane says

"We should have a level playing field," Vedane said.

The coalescing of these efforts just as candidates are beginning to announce for next year's elections is no coincidence.

"We think the church's position ought to be a part of the public debate," Doug Seay said.

The goal of both the United Methodist committees on Church and Society, similar committees in other denominations and of the Faith Coalition, is to begin to study what the problems are, collect solid data, and to identify positions that people of faith may want to pressure their leaders to address.

"We're trying to stimulate a dialogue here," Vedane said. "We're not going to be telling anyone what candidate to vote for."

Reliable public transportation, for instance, is one component of ensuring that the working poor can stay self-sufficient.

"Anyone who doesn't understand that public transportation is going to be a major issue in our town hasn't filled up their gas tank lately," Urban said.

Other issues that will be addressed by experts Nov. 1 include making health care affordable and updating the state constitution.

And this is just the beginning, Urban said.

"It's the people who have the power to make changes," Urban said. "And the faith community can do that - at least to open this up for discussion."

[Iowa] Tackling the 'wretched cycle of poverty' is subject of forum

From The Des Moines Register

The meeting will focus on how Iowans can make an impact here and abroad.


Iowans can make a difference for people mired in poverty, both here and globally, said a panelist who will participate in a forum today on poverty.

"If you just work twice a year for Habitat for Humanity, you'd make a difference," said Rebecca Webb , an international financial consultant who helped set up banking systems in Iraq. "Carve out the things that you actually think you can do. Every small task helps."

The public is invited to a free forum "Poverty: What can you do now?" at 7:30 tonight at the Hotel Fort Des Moines.

The Iowa Council for International Understanding has organized the 90-minute forum. The group promotes international understanding between Iowans and others from around the world.

Webb said everyone can help end the "wretched cycle of poverty" by simply writing letters to change laws, volunteering, donating money or food and learning more about the problems.

Hurricane Katrina victims who were predominantly black and too poor to leave ravaged areas of New Orleans emphasized poverty's connection to race. Also, 2004 Census Bureau statistics showed the nation's poverty rate has steadily increased during the past four years to 12.7 percent, said Colin Peterson, one of the council's international program managers.

Three panelists will discuss local and global poverty and the challenges of addressing the complex issues, he said. There will be a question-and-answer session.

The panelists, besides Webb, will include Forrest Harms , executive director of the Des Moines Area Religious Council; and Rohit Ramaswamy , president of Service Design Solutions who has worked for CARE, an international humanitarian group fighting world poverty.

The forum will be moderated by Michelle Parker , a senior reporter for KCCI-TV.

Six percent of Iowa families, or 46,641, live below poverty guidelines, according to the census, which considers a family of four with an annual income of less than $19,307 as living in poverty.

About 9 percent of Iowans live in poverty, according to the most recent statistics.

The council holds about three issues forums yearly. Past discussions have covered HIV/AIDS, immigration and the Sudan crisis.

More than 150 individuals and employees of non-profit groups, businesses and state government have signed up to attend.

The event is sponsored by Townsend Engineering Co.

[UK] Women in retirement poverty warning

From The Scotsman

Millions of women are facing retirement poverty because they are relying on their husbands' pension, a report has warned.

Only three out of 10 women of working age are currently saving towards their retirement, compared with more than half of men, while half of women who were saving stop doing so when they have children.

If women save the same proportion of their full-time income as men, they will end up putting away only 50p for every £1 saved by men because of the lower salaries they earn and the career breaks they take, according to a Scottish Widows survey.

Overall women are likely to spend only two-thirds the number of years in full-time employment as men as a result of taking career breaks to look after children and elderly relatives.

The group estimates that more than six million women could be financially dependent on their husbands during retirement, but with around half of marriages ending in divorce, millions of women could find themselves facing retirement without a spouse to support them.

In the report, Baroness Hollis of Heigham said: "Too many women believe, often wrongly, that their partner will provide for them. They believe too that the children's need for trainers today takes precedence over some undefined needs 30 years on, that it is selfish to squirrel money away today that is needed by the family.

"They are baffled, along with most people, by the complexity of pension structures, and they reassure themselves that if the man in their life won't provide, then the State will."

Ian Naismith, head of pension market development at Scottish Widows, said: "Given the current debate on the pensions' savings gap, it seems many people are heading towards financial hardship in retirement.

"Furthermore, everything we know about current trends in pensioner poverty points towards particular hardship for women.

"The fact that women have a multitude of roles throughout their adult lives - some of which are likely to take them outside paid employment - is not at present fairly reflected in how we, as a nation, expect the individual to go about building pension assets."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

[Africa] remove subsidies to fight poverty

From Reuters

By Manoah Esipisu

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Africans want the United States and Europe to draw up a time-table to end farm subsidies before global trade talks in December to prove their commitment to helping the continent fight poverty, analysts and officials say.

The Group of Eight industrialized countries (G8) have publicly committed themselves to increasing aid, cutting debt, encouraging foreign direct investment and funding campaigns against HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Opening up their markets and removing subsidies to farmers, which undercuts Africans, is the real key and would sharply change the continent's fortunes, said Lesotho Trade Minister Mpho Malie, an influential voice in global trade issues.

"It is time to showcase Western commitment to fighting poverty in Africa and trade is the key," Malie told Reuters.

Many Africans are pressing for a united front at the December talks in Hong Kong, worried that failure there would hurt the continent.

The 148 members of the World Trade Organization must approve a blueprint for a new trade pact that could boost the world economy and help reduce poverty.

"WTO cannot afford another failure. It will be quite a severe blow to the multilateral trading system," said Karin Gregow of Kenyan non-governmental organization EcoNews.

South Africa's deputy trade minister, Rob Davies, said failure to reach agreement could see key players like the "United States slip back into the era of farm protectionism and a flurry of bilateral free-trade deals would flourish."


"African members of the WTO must have a common position," said Seriba Ouattara, director general of commerce at the Trade Ministry in Burkina Faso, Africa's largest cotton producer. "Since June we have had that and we are now refining it."

Unlike at the previous ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in 2003, when disagreements brought the round to the brink of collapse, there is a preparedness among the rich nations to negotiate, he said.

"Europe and the U.S. have not committed to a concrete position. They have talked a lot, but each says the other must do something about its own trade policies. But, unlike at Cancun, the spirit of discussion is open. They are ready to talk."

British charity Oxfam estimates U.S. cotton subsidies cost Burkina Faso, one of the world's poorest nations, 12 percent of its potential cotton export earnings.

"Export subsidies are unfair," said Oxfam's Daniel Blais in the capital Ouagadougou. "The U.S. can sell its own cotton on the world market about 300 per cent below the cost of production because of subsidies.

"With so much cotton on the market, the world price falls, affecting farmers all over the world."

Africans and non-governmental organisations involved in trade issues question the drive for Africa to open its markets when the West is not making any concessions on farm issues.

"Rich countries ... are asking developing countries to pay for that with drastic liberalization of services sector and manufacturing. I think developing countries should be careful not to agree to drastic liberalization," said EcoNews's Gregow.

[Brazil] Poverty fight breeds hope, votes

From Reuters

VILLA DAS FLORES, Brazil, Oct 20 - (Reuters) - Marlucia da Conceicao plans to vote for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva next year after he helped alleviate her family's poverty in the scrub and cacti of Brazil's northeast badlands.

Her eleven-year-old son Sandro has become the first person in her family to read and write since Lula expanded social programs and quadrupled average benefits. The boy has not had to work in the stony fields like she did as a child.

The president's faded 2002 campaign poster hangs among images of saints and the Virgin Mary in da Conceicao's wattle-and-daub shack near Cabrobo, Pernambuco state, 780 miles

northeast of the modernist capital Brasilia.

She is among millions of poor who believe Lula, a former metalworker who grew up in poverty 200 miles east of here, kept election promises to wipe out hunger and take on centuries-old wealth inequalities.

Critics in Brazil's opposition, the private sector and aid organizations say Lula has taken credit for programs started by the former government and turned them into an expensive, corruption-prone system.

They say Lula will fail to shrink gaping inequalities unless he gets recipients off $3 billion in annual handouts and into jobs.

The poor's support for Lula could be decisive as he tries to recover from a corruption scandal before seeking possible election to another four-year term in the October 2006 presidential race.

"I didn't want my children to work in the rice fields, I wanted them to go to school and get good jobs," said da Conceicao, 38, as Sandro returned from classes. "Lula helped."

Da Conceicao is among the majority of Cabrobo county's 30,000 residents who live on about $1.50 a day and qualify for the government's Family Fund, or Bolsa Familia program.

Bolsa Familia combined four programs set up by the former government and is now the world's biggest "conditional cash transfer" program, according to the World Bank.

It demands the poor send children to school and take them for health check ups in exchange for up to 95 reais ($42) a month.

The 73 reais a month Marlucia gets cuts pressure to send her children to work when her husband cannot find $5-a-day jobs in the rice fields.

Bolsa Familia is expected to go to around 50 million of Brazil's poorest people, or over a quarter of the population, by late 2006.


The program has anchored Lula's popularity among the poor after his party leaders and aides were accused in June of buying votes in Congress and illegally financing election campaigns, pollsters say.

"Social programs are going to have a big impact for Lula in the election," said Ricardo Guedes, director of the Sensus institute, one of Brazil's leading polling firms.

Some analysts fear Bolsa Familia could be used to buy votes in next year's election and Brazil needs to find a long-term solution to poverty instead of relying on handouts.

"It's an emergency plan and it has to be linked to programs that provide work," said Katia Maia, Brazil coordinator for aid agency Oxfam.

Though Brazil's economy has stabilized in recent decades, the country's wealth inequalities are the widest in Latin America and have barely budged in 50 years.

Governments traditionally earmarked social spending on pensions and unemployment benefits for politically powerful workers rather than excluded rural peasants or the urban poor.

The focus shifted in the 1990s as Brazil expanded education to give the poor skills to enter the formal economy which is showing signs of steady growth.

Around 97 percent of Brazilian children now attend school. But the low quality of schooling means most still fail to get a basic education. It will be two decades before poor black children like Sandro reach the current low national average of eight years of schooling, based on a government study.

Lula vowed to accelerate the anti-poverty fight and wipe out malnutrition in four years when he entered office.

His first plan, known as Fome Zero, or Zero Hunger, was ridiculed for handing out food to families that needed decent education and job opportunities more than beans and rice.

He fired his development minister, created a single ministry out of overlapping agencies and combined payments onto a single card to cut costs and corruption.

"The next step is to help people develop skills so they can get jobs," said Social Development Minister Patrus Ananias, a former left-wing mayor and devout Catholic.

The World Bank puts Bolsa Familia among the top 10 conditional cash-transfer programs in the developing world. It says the government has improved monitoring and cracked down on fraud in 2005.

"I think there were high expectations for this government to deliver socially and I think they have," said Kathy Lindert a senior economist at the World Bank, which loaned $572 million to help set up Bolsa Familia.

Wanda Engle, social development chief in Brazil's former government, sees nothing wrong with Lula winning votes by handing out more cash to the poor, strings attached.

She says he could change the outlook of political elites that traditionally spent money on their own classes.

"It would be great if Brazil's politicians discovered investing in the poor pays dividends," said Engle, now head of social development at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.

[US Budget] Food stamps saved from US Senate budget cut plan

By Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - The federal food stamp program for poor Americans is no longer targeted for cuts under a revised plan to reduce Agriculture Department spending, the head of the Senate Agriculture Committee said on Tuesday after key senators from both parties objected to the proposed cuts.

The panel initially targeted the food stamp program for $574 million, or one-fifth, of the spending cuts projected to total $3 billion over five years.

But the panel's chairman, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, removed the food stamp cuts "in response to the wishes of several of the committee's senators," said a spokesman.

Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, told reporters on Monday that he heard objections "on a bipartisan basis" to cutting food stamps. His package initially included cuts proposed by President (George W.) Bush in February. The White House said it would weed out recipients who were not eligible for food stamps but who were enrolled automatically when they qualified for other welfare programs.

Missouri Republican Jim Talent was the most vocal among committee members who opposed cutting food stamps, one staffer said. The proposed cuts, in the wake of the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, also drew widespread public

At latest count, 25.6 million people were enrolled for food stamps, which help poor people buy food. The average benefit per household was $211.63 per month. Within days of Hurricane Katrina, 500,000 people were receiving disaster food stamps.

"If Congress is aware of the problems facing poor people in America, cuts in hunger assistance programs should not be part of any deficit reduction package," said a spokesman for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Democratic leader on the Agriculture

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

[Norway] Stoltenberg vows to end Norwegian poverty

From Aftenposten Norway

Norway's prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, told an assembled parliament that there would be no more poverty in the world's wealthiest nation when he presented his new government's inaugural declaration on Wednesday.

Labor Party leader Stoltenberg presented a point by point explanation of the new left-center coalition's platform, and minced no words about a war on poverty, the Newspapers' News Bureau (ANB) reports.

"There shall not be poverty in the world's richest nation. The government will abolish poverty," Stoltenberg said.

The PM repeated a series of the promises and themes from the 'red-green' election campaign: common benefits before tax cuts, jobs for all and equal and equally good access to health services for all.

Stoltenberg also repeated the coalition vow to strengthen Norway's sovereignty in the Barents region, an issue in the spotlight after an aging Russian trawler made off with two Norwegian inspectors that tried to make an arrest for illegal fishing in disputed waters.

"The northern areas will be Norway's most important strategic areas in the future," Stoltenberg said, and added that Norway would develop its relations with Russia further.

[World Bank] Russia’s G8 Presidency Will Help Fight Poverty

From Mos News

Russia’s role as chairman of the G8 will be very important in the fight against poverty and in aiding emerging countries, President of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz said on his arrival in Moscow on Wednesday.

He said his visit has three main goals, the most important of which is connected with Russia’s chairmanship of the G8, the Interfax news agency reported. He said he would like to get to know Russia’s plans during meetings with high-ranking officials and understand how the World Bank can help Russia fulfill its important role.

Wolfowitz also said that the G8 summit in Britain this year was very important for improving the condition of the planet’s poorest people. He said it is very important not to lose the pace achieved at the summit.

Russia will take over the G8 presidency from Britain for 12 months from January 2006.

[Australia] Education the key to reducing Tassie poverty

From The Mercury


TASMANIA'S poor education report card was a major contributor to poverty in the state, a leading national economist said last night.

ANZ chief economist Saul Eslake sounded a warning to educators and government when he delivered the Dorothy Pearce Address on Social Justice.

It follows a positive assessment of the state economy.

The annual presentation is organised by the Tasmanian Council of Social Services and the audience included all Tasmanian political parties.

Mr Eslake said many of Tasmania's social challenges, including high rates of poverty, could be attributed to the lower level of educational attainment compared with other states.

He said 44.1 per cent of Tasmanians aged 15-64 had not completed year 12, compared to the national figure of 32.3, with a direct correlation between low-educational attainment, long-term unemployment and poverty.

"It seems to me that Tasmania's children ... are ill-served by pretending that Tasmania's education system is better than it is," Mr Eslake said.

He said in internationally standardised test results, by Grade 8 Tasmanian school children are below the national average by 5.5 per cent in maths and 4.4 per cent in science.

Mr Eslake said he wasn't meaning any disrespect to Tasmania's teachers and didn't want to enter the debate about the Essential Learnings frameworks.

"I believe that improving the quantity and quality of education received by Tasmania's children ought to be an integral part of any long-term strategy aimed at reducing poverty and deprivation in Tasmania," he said.

[Comment] Katrina uncovers poverty states away

From The Taipei Times

WIDENING DIVIDE: It has taken a catastrophe to rekindle debate, but after barely registering as an issue for a decade, poverty is back on the political agenda


It is a little past noon on a sweltering day a short ride from downtown Detroit, one of the last gasps of summer before the brutal Michigan winter settles in. Already the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, run by friars from a nearby monastery, is winding down.

This is a rough neighborhood. Alison Costello, the former fine-dining chef who manages the kitchen, keeps her eyes fixed ahead of her on her way home to avoid looking too hard at the drug houses that line the street. Many of the people at the tables have low-paying jobs and simply struggle to make ends meet, part of a swelling class of the working poor.

"I drove in here yesterday and I saw all these people streaming in to the soup kitchen, and I thought `there is so much suffering in this city.'" said Brother Jerry Smith, who runs the soup kitchen.

This is the US most don't see. It has taken a catastrophe to rekindle the national debate on poverty in the US. The wretched images of the poor left to struggle on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with no means of escape, provoked widespread shock. But the conditions exposed by the hurricane are not confined to the south. After barely registering as an issue for a decade, poverty is back on the political agenda.

We had all seen the evidence of "deep, persistent poverty" on television, US President George W. Bush said in an address after the hurricane struck; poverty that "has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America."

According to the US census bureau, poverty has been on the rise for the past four years, despite a robust economy. The number of people living in poverty increased last year to 12.7 percent of the population, some 37 million people, the highest percentage in the developed world. Since Bush took office an additional 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line. In 1970, the rate was 11.1 percent. Almost 8 percent of white people are classified as below the poverty line and almost 25 percent of African Americans.

"Katrina merely blew the mask off the face of poverty," says Agostinho Fernandes, president of the Gleaners Food Bank, which supplies food to soup kitchens and emergency food services in the Detroit area.

"Why did it take a disaster for our leaders to respond?" he said.

In Detroit, 34 percent of the population live in poverty, including almost half the children under 17. In the neighborhood of Highland Park, once the home of Chrysler and now all but abandoned, shops are boarded up and the bones of burnt out buildings haunt the streets. Local community workers are fighting contractors from other parts of the city using its streets to dump rubbish.

Detroit's population has plummeted from two million to 950,000 in the past 50 years, largely because of white flight to the suburbs after race riots in the 1960s. There have been cuts in police and fire departments, the city is crime-ridden and schools are a shambles. The Capuchin Soup Kitchen has become accustomed to dealing with the mentally ill after budget cuts caused the closure of local mental health facilities.

Community workers are skeptical about whether US will see another "war on poverty."

"What the president says doesn't mean much to me," says Genevieve Clark at the Hunger Action Coalition in Detroit. "He is speaking for the moment to make people feel warm and fuzzy today and then he will move on to something else."

There is perhaps good reason for cynicism. Items on the agenda in Washington include the extension of tax cuts on investment income and repealing the estate tax, both aimed at the wealthy. Also proposed are tens of billions of dollars of cuts to services like food stamps, federal student loans and Medicaid, the health insurance for low-income Americans.

Bush's vow to pay for reconstruction in New Orleans without raising taxes means further services are likely to be cut.

Democrats have also attacked the government for suspending the minimum wage requirement for companies working in the hurricane-hit region. The minimum wage of US$5.15 an hour has not in any case been increased since 1997; adjusted for inflation it is at its lowest level since 1956.

Rarely, if ever, has poverty continued to rise so long after the end of a recession. The median household income in the US has stagnated for the past five years at around US$44,400, the longest period on record. Globalization is forcing US companies to keep prices low to compete and many manufacturers are closing factories and shifting production overseas: 2.7 million industrial jobs have been lost since 2001. Many of those workers are moving into lower-paid service jobs. Unions are weak.

The pressure on wages at the bottom is creating a new class of the working poor.

Valerie Bland, 33, a single mother, fills a supermarket trolley at a food pantry in Detroit run by a local community group called Focus:Hope, which also provides training to get people back to work. Her job as a nursing assistant doesn't pay enough to cover the bills and buy food for her infant son.

"I would be struggling without this program," she says. "I am still penny-pinching but this takes some of the stress away."

Welfare to work reform in the 1990s tilted benefits in favor of people with jobs, leaving a less effective safety net. Healthcare costs continue to rise at double-digit rates.

Yet the rich continue to get richer. For the first time in the census, the top 20 percent of earners in the US took over half the total income. The bottom 20 percent took just 3.4 percent. Only the top 5 percent of households enjoyed real income growth during the year.

A recent survey released by market research firm TNS said the number of millionaires in the US has reached a record 8.9 million, rising for the third successive year.

"With the Bush re-election, it's hard to make a case that there is a high political cost to ignoring or even exacerbating our poverty problem. Inequality promotes greater inequality because once you have disenfranchised a generation then their progeny is facing ever higher barriers and it's that much tougher to get out," one researcher says.

The question for many is how long poverty will remain a topic in Washington. Katrina made New Orleans a magnet for charity.

"It slammed the door shut on us," Fernandes says. "Organizations like ours were feeding the impoverished in the south before the storm; we were feeding them through the storm; and we are feeding them after the storm."

[Viet Nam] ...celebrates anti-poverty success

From Vier Nam News

HA NOI — Viet Nam celebrated the United Nations’ International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, or Poverty Day, yesterday by reporting the positive results of its programmes to help the poor.

The efforts of the Viet Nam Communist Party, the people and the army in implementing the country’s hunger eradication and poverty alleviation programme have ensured great achievements.

Figures show that the number of poor households in Viet Nam has fallen by more than 340,000 each year from 1992.

Hunger has been eliminated while the number of poor households has dropped from 30.2 per cent in 1992 to 10 per cent in 2000 and 7 per cent using the standard set by the Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Ministry in 2000.

The United Nations’ Viet Nam development report describes Viet Nam’s efforts at poverty reduction as among the most successful examples of economic development.

Hunger eradication and poverty alleviation have become a highlight among the achievement of doi moi (renewal).

The Government has now decided to provide VND60 trillion to implement the National Target Programme for Poverty Reduction for 2006-10 based on the effectiveness of hunger eradication and poverty alleviation campaign of 2001-05.

The purpose of the programme will be "to reduce poverty more comprehensively and fairly with sustainable development and international integration."

The Government has also approved a new criteria by which households are to be classified as ‘poor.’

The standard will be an average monthly income of VND200,000 or less for rural families and VND260,000 for urban.

The new criteria means the country will have about 4.6 million poor households by the end of 2005, representing 26-27 per cent of all households.

The highest rates of poverty are found in the north-western region - more than 62 per cent - and the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) - more than 52 per cent. The lowest rate is in the Eastern Nam Bo in southern Viet Nam with only 11 per cent.

The Viet Nam Fatherland Front Central Committee says the Fund for the Poor has collected thousands of billions of dong, built and repaired more than 310,000 houses for poor families.

The fund had mobilised VND63 billion from October 2000 to the end of last month.

VND7.5 billion has been contributed to the fund by 162 organisations and individuals in the last nine months while the fund spent VND7.3 billion help 64 localities hit by natural calamities.

The Viet Nam Fatherland Front Central Committee reports that the country built and repaired 37,264 houses for the poor in the past nine months.

It built 222,969 houses and repaired 87,053 houses from 2001 to the end of last month.

Social policy banks provided loans worth VND11.6 trillion totally to 3.5 million poor households between 2001 and 2004 and localities started more than 50,000 training courses to teach more than 2 million people farming techniques.

On average, 1.2 million new jobs are created each year, half of them for women.

About 3 million students from poor families and ethnic groups are exempted from school tuition fees every year.

But about 441,654 temporary and degraded houses need to be rebuilt or repaired.

The Fatherland Front granted certificates recognising the efforts of 1,901 communes, wards and towns; 130 districts and six cities and provinces to successfully replace temporary houses with solid construction in the last nine months. — VNS

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

[UN] Annan urges concrete actions to fight poverty

From Xinhua

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty with calls for concrete actions by world governments tofight poverty and hunger.

"Poverty devastates families, communications and nations. It causes instability and political unrest and fuels conflict," Annan said in a message to mark the global anti-poverty day, which fallson Oct. 17 each year.

Annan said that in September, world leaders once again unanimously endorsed the millennium development goals, which including halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

At the September world summit, developed countries agreed to support developing country in reducing poverty through increased development assistance, debt relief and fair trade, he said.

"Those commitments represent a breakthrough in the fight against poverty -- promises that we must all work to ensure are translated into concrete actions, especially for the world's poorest people," Annan stressed.

UN figures show that some 800 million people worldwide are chronically hungry and malnourished and every day, 30,000 children die due to causes directly related to poverty.

Friday, October 14, 2005

[US] Black churches lead the poverty battle

From Fort


The Dallas Morning News

(KRT) - The picture that got me was of the woman wading through hip-deep water, pushing an older woman in what looks like a shopping cart. Both black, of course. Most images coming out of New Orleans were of African-American families crying for help, either from a rooftop or, like these women, standing in who-knows-what-kind-of-infested water.

The only good thing you can say about these scenes is they have revived a national debate about race and poverty. The black church knows how to lead this discussion - its members deal with these issues every day. Plus, it is one of the few institutions that can go between left and right in divided America.

More than 500 African-American pastors and church leaders gathered in North Texas last week to own the challenge. Five of them sat down with me to talk about race and poverty in America and the black church's role in facing these issues.

What stood out is how deeply involved each pastor is in his community. Dallas. Kansas City, Mo. Minneapolis. Bridgeport, Conn. Cleveland. No matter their home, the pastors were collaborating with other churches in their towns.

"It's about getting out of the pulpit and talking with people," says the Rev. Rodney Maiden of Providence Baptist Church in Cleveland. The United Pastors Mission he's involved with takes on "the dysfunction" within the "social/political" part of Cleveland.

Here in Dallas, Dr. Tony Evans has been at this work for more than two decades. He's pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, and he's also head of Project Turn Around. Its mission is simple: rebuild communities from the inside out.

Consider Project Turn Around's Adopt-a-School program. The goal, Evans said, is to get every urban church to adopt a school.

So far, he's enjoyed success. In Texas, the Duncanville school district turned over its entire mentoring program to Project Turn Around. Struggling students get hooked up with adults who work with them on everything from academics to relationships.

The Rev. Stan Archie agrees that the black church needs to play a pivotal role, especially after Hurricane Katrina. "Katrina washed poverty to the surface," said the president of Kansas City's Christian Fellowship Ministries. "We don't want other cities to look like New Orleans, where poverty was sanctioned."

That's it, isn't it? Whether or not we can agree about race, we should be able to agree there was a wink and nod toward poverty in New Orleans. It goes on in other cities, too. As Archie put it, Katrina only helped us see it.

These ministers, God love them, are placing their churches at the forefront of the discussion. David Myles of Brooklyn Park Evangelical Free Church outside Minneapolis put it this way: "The urban church needs to move to a place of excellence, not mediocrity."

The Rev. Robert Turner has tried this through linking up his Bridgeport Bible Fellowship with suburban churches around Connecticut. "Walk the streets with us," he tells them. The strategy must be working because nearly $500,000 has been raised through partnerships with his and other urban churches to work on programs like Project Turn Around.

The black pew has this kind of reach because its members can talk with authority to liberals and conservatives. Liberals share their concern about poverty, and conservatives identify with them on family issues.

Evans believes the black church can speak to both sides when it stays true to its religious roots. "You can't argue against this approach biblically," he says.

Agreed. And these pastors, plus many others in the black church, are offering a fresh voice.

They aren't like Al Sharpton, who jets from crisis to crisis in search of headlines. They grind it out at home. And their answers are a mixture of religious inspiration, person-to-person compassion and urban/suburban partnerships. "We want to link churches together across the lines of race and poverty," says Evans.

They also want to hold the government accountable. And they aren't afraid to do so. Evans emphasizes their loyalty isn't to Republicans or Democrats.

These are our first responders, the people who need to lead us forward now that Katrina has shoved race and poverty back in our faces.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

[Virginia] Wytheville woman takes look at poverty

From the Wytheville Enterprise

When Wytheville photographer Susi Lawson set out to capture on film the face of poverty in Virginia, she wanted to avoid the usual depressing photos of the poor. She wanted to focus on people.

Lawson, a single mother living on a low income, took second place in the Virginia Poverty Law Center’s photo contest, "Through Different Eyes: Faces of Poverty in Virginia." Winning entries in the contest will be exhibited this week in Richmond.

Though Lawson’s entry didn’t capture first, it has become something of a poster child for the project. Lawson’s entry, "Sunday Best," shows a smiling Daisy Dunford in a Sunday dress, barefoot and leaning against a wall with paint chipping away. The image of Daisy, who is the daughter of Dee-Dee Thigpen of Wytheville, can be seen on everything from invitations to the Richmond exhibit to the cover of a book planned for release later in the year.

Lawson said there is a stigma attached to words such as "poor" and "poverty." Many people, she said, buy into the assumption that a "poor" person is not only financially lacking, but is also lacking in other aspects of life.

Her photo disputes that assumption, she said, and illustrates that those with meager means aren’t necessarily angry or depressed. They are just people.

Lawson said she is honored to be a part of the project and thankful to the families who let her into their lives.

"It’s about taking pictures, but it’s also about giving pictures," she said.
The exhibit was scheduled to be unveiled today, and after an initial run for about a year, it will go on the road, taking its view of poverty to places all over the state.

View Lawson's photo here

[World Bank] China responsible for 75% of poverty reduction in the Developing World since 1980

From FinFacts Business News

World Bank World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has arrived in China for his first visit to the country since taking over as head of the global institution.

The President flew directly to one of China's poorest and most remote regions - the western province of Gansu - to see first hand the challenges confronting the country he calls "a major global force."

Wolfowitz arrived in China directly after a two day trip to Japan which included meetings with government officials, parliamentarians, students as well as business leaders.

On the first leg of his visit to China, the World Bank president is visiting poor people in rural villages in Gansu province - whose incomes are in the bottom one percent in China.

"China, as we all know, has been the fastest growing economy in Asia for the past 20 years and has lifted more than 400 million people above US$1 a day poverty levels in that time," Wolfowitz said prior to his arrival in the country.

"And when we talk of China these days, we tend to think only of Shanghai and skyscrapers, of trade surpluses and rapid economic growth and above all, of amazing poverty reduction.

"These images are all true, but they don't tell the whole story."

Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, will also give Wolfowitz a firsthand experience of another major challenge facing the country - the environment - as the capital is one of the most polluted cities in the world.

The trip will also give the World Bank president the chance to view efforts to combat environmental degradation. Wolfowitz will visit a World Bank and government funded program, aimed at turning part of the dry arid desert into lush green usable land.
The program is one of a series of projects in the Loess Plateau region implemented in the late 1980s and early 1990s - a program that has been hailed as one of the largest and most successful conservation programs in the world. Over the last two decades, Bank funding helped turn dry arid land in the Loess Plateau to arable land, lifting more than one million people out of poverty.

Wolfowitz will also visit other projects supported by the Bank and other donors to reduce poverty in the region and meet some of the rural families whose lives have been improved. He'll also meet women who've benefited from a Bank managed project to empower women in the western province - by giving grants for the women to set up small scale enterprises.

The Bank president will also talk with provincial and local government officials.

"I am looking forward to seeing firsthand how China has tackled poverty on such a massive scale. I think the world has a lot to learn from their experiences and I think the Bank can work with China to share those lessons," Wolfowitz said.

From the poor western province, Wolfowitz will proceed to Hebei to participate in the Ministerial Meeting of the G-20, which is hosted by China this year and attended by representatives from a bloc of 20 nations, established in 1999.

The meeting, attended by finance ministers and central bank governors, will discuss, among other issues, reform of the Bretton Woods institutions as well as global imbalances.

The World Bank leader will then visit a nearby province of Hebei where he will see a Bank funded project which provides poor farmers with microcredit to raise cattle, and also one of the largest private gas distribution companies in China with investment from the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group's private sector arm.

Beijing will be the final stop on the trip, where Wolfowitz will meet senior Chinese leaders and officials to discuss how the World Bank can best support China's development goals.

Prior to his arrival in China, Wolfowitz said the country - now in its third decade of a transition from a planned economy to a market economy - has "redefined the competitiveness of virtually every other country."

"Today people who make cars in Germany or saris in India are equally challenged by China's rise. People who export iron ore from Australia or Europeans who buy cheaper clothing benefit from the effects of China's rapid growth and increased competitiveness.

"Our job, as a global institution, is increasingly going to be to help countries adapt to this new environment and turn it to their advantage," he said.

"The country faces some important challenges, especially in the areas of environment, natural resources, and climate change, on the one hand, and with remaining poverty and growing inequality, on the other."

"These issues all affect the sustainability for growth. China needs more and better infrastructure to provide a framework for industry and to keep the cities operating efficiently. It needs to deal with an ageing population.

"It needs to continue moving - probably even more rapidly - towards a more effective legal system and a better investment climate."

Wolfowitz said the history of successful development left "no doubt that weak public institutions could be a major bottleneck to growth and investment."

While in China, Wolfowitz will also meet women's groups, civil society organizations and students.

[Ireland] Combat Poverty seeks national waste-charge waiver system

From Ireland On Line

The Combat Poverty Agency has called for a nationwide system of waste-charge waivers for low-income families.

The agency said there was currently no obligation on local authorities to implement a waiver scheme and those that did exist were being applied with little consistency.

In a report published today, Combat Poverty said there were many ways to provide these waivers, including through tax credits or via the social welfare system.

However, it said it believed the best option was a locally operated scheme, with grants given to local authorities to help meet the costs of the operation.

The agency is also calling for further changes that would allow households to make phased payments and that would take income and household size into account when deciding the amount of the charge.

[World Bank] Poverty and Inequality Decline in Former Soviet Union, Study Finds

From The New York Times


Despite the common perception that the gulf between rich and poor has widened in the former Soviet Union, a World Bank study released yesterday found that poverty has fallen sharply across the region and that inequality has lessened since the financial crisis in Russia in 1998 and 1999.

Forty million people moved out of poverty in Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union from 1998 through 2003, leaving 61 million people still poor, the study found. The proportion of people living in poverty has fallen from one in five to about one in eight, household surveys of consumption on which the study is based show.

Economic growth and rising wages have been driving forces in the decline of poverty, with a strengthened social safety net playing a more modest role, the study found. It defined the poverty line as $2 or less a day, per person, double the usual global standard because of the added costs of heating and heavy clothing required for the cold climate in the countries involved.

Among families that remain poor, two-thirds work, in contrast to the rest of Europe, where poverty is concentrated among the unemployed.

What lies behind the statistics are the tumultuous changes unfolding in the transition from centrally planned socialism to market capitalism. Workers are moving from state-owned enterprises to private companies and migrating to cities from farms for construction and service jobs.

In Russia, where poverty doubled to 20 percent at the height of the financial crisis, it fell to 8.5 percent by 2002, the most recent year for which data are available, lower than before the crisis. Preliminary household survey data from 2003 and 2004 indicate poverty continued to decline, said Ruslan Yemtsov, a senior economist at the World Bank and the author of the study.

Progress in reducing poverty has been greatest in the region's economically dynamic capital cities and least in the countryside. In Uzbekistan, 4 percent of people in the capital, Tashkent, were in poverty, compared with 55 percent in rural areas. In Kazakhstan, it was 2 percent in the cities of Astana and Almaty and 31 percent in rural areas.

"In some places, growth is concentrated in and around the capital, and the rest of the country is excluded from growth opportunities," Mr. Yemtsov said.

While broad progress has been made in reducing poverty across the region, it has not been even and has bypassed some places entirely. Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Kazakhstan have been among the nations where the rate of poverty had declined most rapidly, while it increased in Georgia and Poland.

Inequality has lessened across the former Soviet Union because the growth in incomes was proportionately higher for the poor than for the rich, the study found.

But in one potentially troubling portent for the longer term, while countries of the former Soviet Union have so far created enough jobs to keep pace with those destroyed, Eastern Europe has not.

Poverty reduction may slow as poverty itself becomes more concentrated among those who lack the education, skills and mobility to take advantage of new opportunities.

"Will economic growth take care of poverty?" Mr. Yemtsov asked. "The answer is that if current growth rates continue it will take a very long time to reduce poverty. The effect of growth on poverty will fall because of the failure to create new jobs for those excluded."

[Comment] America still offers hope for escaping grip of poverty

From Indy Star

Peter Z. Grossman

In August the government released its latest report on poverty in America. It said that the ranks of the poor had grown since 2004 by more than 1 million people to a total of 37 million, 12.7 percent of the U.S. population.

The fact of poverty in America was emphasized by the scenes from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The wealthy and middle class, for the most part, got in their cars and drove to safety, leaving only the poor behind. The pictures and numbers are nothing to dismiss. There are poor people who have not benefited from a growing economy.

Yet, there are some misconceptions about what these numbers are telling us. Many people believe that the poor are a trapped class; that those sinking into the ranks of the poor can't get out; that 37 million people in this country are poor and most of them are going to stay poor.

But the reality is different. In fact, most people who are classified as poor at some point in their lives leave poverty, many for good. While we can hope that no one will be poor, we should also recognize that these numbers do not mean that capitalism has failed.

It is important to understand just what poverty means in the U.S. It refers to money income (before taxes) amounting to $19,307 or less for a family of four. While it may well be difficult in 21st-century America for a family to get by on that amount, money income alone often does not tell the whole story.

Income is not, for example, corrected for regional differences; in a small town, $19,000 may be adequate while even more money may be too little in a major city. Nor does it include non-cash benefits like food stamps and housing vouchers. By some estimates, including such benefits reduces the poverty rate by 3 or 4 percentage points, or by about 12 million people.

Then there is the question of just how long a poor person officially stays poor. Studies have shown that after two years, more than half of people classified as poor are no longer in those ranks.

This shouldn't be surprising. Among those who fall into poverty are those who are unemployed, especially when they stay unemployed for a few months. But the average time on unemployment is about three months. After workers find jobs, many of them cease to be poor by official or any other measure.

Young people 16 to 21 are also represented among the poor. Many of these are new entrants into the work force who often start out at low pay. But with experience, they see their wages rise and leave the ranks of the poor. Of course, each year there are new young workers just starting out who are poor, at least for the short term. The number of poor doesn't change, but the people who make up that number do.
Immigrants are another large segment of the poor. About 6 million poor people are immigrants, who because of education or language have few options but to work at low-paying jobs. Another 2 to 3 million are the children of immigrants born here and classified as "U.S. natives" but dependent on their parents' incomes. While some immigrants remain poor all their lives, their children typically do not. A recent study of second-generation Mexican Americans shows that they are realizing the same kind of upward mobility that second-generation immigrants from Europe enjoyed in the past.

Of course some people, and not just immigrants, are trapped in poverty, with little hope of getting out; perhaps as many as 10 million people fall into this category. Programs from the Great Society era as well as 1990s welfare reform have not provided a means for them to escape chronic poverty.

There are some barriers such as racial discrimination and family structure that keep people poor that are hard for government action to overcome fully. However, if there is one area where government programs might make a difference, it would be education. Probably the single most important way to escape poverty is through educational attainment. We need imaginative and innovative programs to make this more likely for the chronically poor.

America faces a challenge in helping the poor, but the problem is not as big or as bad as numbers suggest. Poor people, as they have for two centuries, still hope of making it in America, and many of them do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

[U.N.] Report Links Poverty, Violence Against Women

From ABC News

In New Report, U.N. Says Stopping Violence Against Women Is the Key to Eliminating Poverty

By JILL LAWLESS Associated Press Writer

LONDON Oct 12, 2005 — The world will never eliminate poverty until it confronts social, economic and physical discrimination against women, the United Nations said Wednesday.

"Gender apartheid" could scuttle the global body's goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015, the U.N. Population Fund's annual State of World Population report said.

"We cannot make poverty history until we stop violence against women and girls," the fund's executive director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, said at the report's launch in London. "We cannot make poverty history until women enjoy their full social, cultural, economic and political rights."

The report said gender equality and better reproductive health could save the lives of 2 million women and 30 million children over the next decade and help lift millions around the world out of poverty.

In 2000, the U.N. agreed to eight Millennium Development Goals, which include halving extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education and stemming the AIDS pandemic, all by 2015.

The report said one of the targets promoting gender equality and empowering women is "critical to the success of the other seven."

Improving women's political, economic and educational opportunities would lead to "improved economic prospects, smaller families, healthier and more literate children, lower HIV prevalence rates and reduced incidence of harmful traditional practices."

"Inequality is economically inefficient, it is a violation of human rights and it is a hazard to health," Obaid said.

But for many women around the world, the U.N. agency said, the picture remains grim.

It said 250 million years of productive life are lost annually because of reproductive health problems including HIV/AIDS, the leading cause of death among women between 15 and 44. Half the 40 million people infected with HIV around the world are women, and in sub-Saharan Africa, women make up a majority of those infected.

Lack of contraception leads to 76 million unintended pregnancies in the developing world and 19 million unsafe abortions worldwide each year, the agency said. More than half a million women die annually from preventable pregnancy-related causes a figure that has changed little in a decade.

One woman in three around the world is likely to experience physical, psychological or sexual abuse in her lifetime. Many still lack the educational opportunities available to men: 600 million women around the world are illiterate, compared with 320 million men.

The report said progress had been made in many countries but was too slow. Women fill only 16 percent of parliamentary seats around the world, an increase of 4 percent since 1990. The highest rates are in Rwanda where 49 percent of parliamentarians are women and Sweden.

In Iraq called the world's youngest democracy by its government many women felt the country's draft constitution "will not be presenting them with all the opportunities for equal rights that they would have wished," Obaid said.

At a U.N. world summit last month, many were pessimistic about whether the Millennium Development Goals would ever be reached. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it was "a make-or-break moment" for the goals.

The report said the estimated cost of achieving them US$135 billion in 2006, rising to US$195 billion in 2015 was "modest and feasible," especially when compared to the estimated US$1 trillion earmarked each year for global military spending.

"If world leaders decide to do it, I think it can be done by 2015," Obaid said. "The question is, is there a political will to make this investment?

"I think since the world summit, it's the first time world leaders have committed themselves to universal access to reproductive health by 2015. The issue has gone up the scale of importance. I am much more hopeful this time than before."

[US] Many of nation's poor trapped in pockets of concentrated poverty

From Sign On San Diego

By Juliana Barbassa

SAN FRANCISCO – Many of the country's most disadvantaged minority households are trapped in pockets of concentrated urban poverty, preventing them from getting the educations and jobs that would enable them to rise above the poverty line.
Fresno has the nation's highest concentration of residents in extremely poor neighborhoods, according to a study released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, the Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

New Orleans, second on the list, had its deep racial and economic rifts exposed by Hurricane Katrina. But according to the Census-based research, the deprivation seen in that city's lower Ninth Ward is closely mirrored by conditions in parts of Louisville, Ky., Miami, and Atlanta, which round out the report's top five list.

Poor planning over decades has concentrated public housing at the core of cities around the nation, while new developments, jobs and schools mushroomed in the suburbs, beyond the reach of low-income households, deepening the divide between the haves and the have-nots, the study said.

"Concentrating poverty compounds the effects of just plain poverty," said Alan Berube, primary author of "Katrina's Window: Confronting Concentrated Poverty Across America."

Berube's study focused on extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods where high crime and a lack of quality housing, stable job opportunities and supportive schools erode the quality of life, and limit the chances that a family might rise above the hardships imposed by their own financial straits.

These are areas in which 40 percent or more of residents live below the federal poverty line. The average household earnings in these areas barely exceed $20,000, and four in 10 adults are disconnected from the labor force – unemployed and not looking for work.

"We're underserved, under-respected. ... You have to leave your community to get the most basic services," said Rev. Paul Binion II of Fresno's Westside Church of God.

One result of high-density poverty is its tendency to ensnare the next generation, the study suggests. In these communities, where an average of one in 12 adults have college degrees, children lack the money, role models and academic footing that would help them get into college themselves.

"It's access," said Tate Hill, business development coordinator for the Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development. "It's not that people who live in impoverished areas don't want to work or don't want better lives or don't want their children to go to good schools – they just can't access it."

Tate's organization serves an area of 36,000 people that is 49 percent Hispanic, 26 percent black, and 10 percent Asian and doesn't have a single bank or credit union in the area. The nonprofit offers vocational training, first-home-buyer's classes, and coaching in basic workplace skills like interviewing.

But Tate sees the obstacles to a better life growing even as he works to tear them down. As California's still affordable Central Valley attracts new residents from the more affluent urban areas to the north and south, housing prices are skyrocketing, he said, and people are being left behind.

Fresno is working to overcome these challenges, but its efforts are hampered by a limited tax base, city officials said.

"We're very aggressive in our efforts to produce affordable housing," said Michael Sigala, Fresno's housing and community development manager. "There's just not enough resources when the city doesn't have a very rich population to start with."

Within the last year, the city committed funding for 250 new units that will be dispersed throughout the city, and available at reduced rents, Sigala said.

Atlanta is one of the cities where a concerted effort has been made to dissolve pockets of poverty.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development tore down some of the city's worst projects and replaced them with mixed-income neighborhoods in the 1990s.

But the successful program, created under the first Bush administration and supported by President Clinton, has been hurt by the current president's budget cuts, Berube said.

"For a significant number of families in distressed inner-city neighborhoods, the first step has to be removing the barriers associated with their living environment," Berube said.