Monday, July 31, 2006

[Mozambique] Fighting poverty by another name

from Mail & Guardian
It is not that Terezinha da Silva does not like what she is doing. She would just prefer that it be given another name. “I don’t like the phrase ‘fighting poverty’ or ‘alleviating’ it. I prefer ‘programme for development’, like they call it in countries like Botswana. Poverty is too wide a topic and it can mean different things to different people.”

By whatever name, Da Silva, the president of Forum Mulher (Women’s Forum), is involved in efforts aimed at ensuring that the number of poor people in Mozambique continues to decrease.

During the war, says Da Silva, women were most often the victims. In 1991 and 1992, all organisations working with women’s issues came together to share their experiences and resources. In 1992, Forum Mulher was established and has since worked with other NGOs, trade unions, women’s wings of political parties and representatives of government ministries, donor organisations and academics.

Though the forum still lobbies for women’s “needs and rights”, it now partners with the Mozambican government in its poverty eradication efforts.

The Forum Mulher is an active member of the national Poverty Observatory, an initiative that provides a platform for the government, NGOs, business and the donor community to evaluate and monitor the implementation of the country’s first plan of action for the reduction of poverty.

“The situation was not always like this. We did not always have agreement with the government,” says Da Silva. “Sometimes the government felt threatened. But we always argued that, while they were working at a macro level, we were on the ground and working on areas that we knew very well. The government has since realised that the NGOs and civil society can go to areas that it cannot.”

According to Da Silva, most disagreements were based on the government’s belief that it could initiate projects and policies and then get civil society to comment on their efficacy. Civil society, however, wanted to be consulted in the policy formulation process itself.

To date, the women’s lobby counts its greatest victory as being the amendment of land laws.

As in many African states, Mozambique recognised customary law practices that allowed for the primogeniture rule -- whereby firstborn sons or other male heirs inherit their parents’ land -- and did not extend land ownership rights to women. If a married woman inherited land, the title deeds were conferred on her husband.

Landlessness among women was further compounded by practices which demanded that a woman return to her ancestral home if her husband died. This meant that a household that had hitherto owned land -- with food and other inherent securities -- died with the male head of the family.

With the rampant spread of HIV/Aids in Southern Africa, more and more women found themselves suddenly disenfranchised.

As a result of lobbying by Forum Mulher and other organisations, the law has been changed to allow women full title to land.

A large part of Forum Mulher’s work now involves empowering women and encouraging self-esteem among them.

“It does not mean much to have rights if you don’t know how to exercise those rights, or don’t have the self-esteem to demand your rights,” says Da Silva.

In terms of maintaining women’s rights, Da Silva says: “We have to continue with advocacy work reminding the government that it is a signatory of various international obligations. We have ratified the Southern African Developmental Community Convention on Gender Equality -- the African Charter that highlights women’s rights.”

Other feathers in the cap for the woman’s movement have been the abolition of polygamy as a legally recognised form of marriage and raising the legal age for marriage from 14 for girls and 16 for boys to 18 for both.

Women can also, under certain circumstances, get a legal abortion, a scenario that Da Silva hopes will reduce the numbers of fatalities caused by “backstreet” abortions.

There were many occasions when women who fell pregnant as a result of rape or who were economically unable to raise children opted for unsafe abortions. Da Silva says unsafe abortions are the third-highest killer of Mozambican women.

A relationship that started with the government and the NGO sector being doubtful of each other’s intentions has grown into a national effort to eradicate poverty and its social consequences.

Says Da Silva: “The church has done a lot of work in fostering national reconciliation. That is why we needed to do our part and do a lot of work in health, education and social welfare.”

Official statistics say poverty has decreased by 15% in the past year. But don’t expect to see Da Silva dancing in the streets of Maputo just yet. As she says, reducing poverty is only a short-term solution; the main aim is development so that it can be completely eliminated.

An all-seeing eye on policy
The national Poverty Observatory is an initiative by the government of Mozambique. It is an inclusive and structured mechanism for all government and non-government role players to talk, plan, monitor implement and review national poverty reduction strategies. It aims to provide an ongoing platform for serious consultation on the country’s plan of action for the reduction of absolute poverty in a way that is transparent and treats all stakeholders as equals.

Barbara Kalima-Phiri, policy analyst for poverty reduction strategies at the Southern Africa Trust comments: “It has become apparent that for meaningful civil-society engagement in national policy processes to be realisable, effective and responsive, mechanisms such as the Mozambique Poverty Observatory have been created. But what is also clear is that such policy spaces are not neutral and can sometimes be highly political. They thus require that civil society organisations develop their capacities to effectively occupy this space through evidence-based advocacy -- without necessarily being antagonistic -- and do proper analysis that will ensure that their policy demands do not end up generating unintended negative impacts, but reinforce other efforts to fight poverty.”

This is an edited extract from the Poverty Observatory report

Friday, July 28, 2006

[US] Republicans Tie Minimum Wage to Tax Cut

from Forbes

Congress would pass an increase in the minimum wage before leaving Washington for vacation, but only as part of a package rolling back taxes on the heirs of multimillionaires, a Senate leadership aide said Friday.

The GOP package would also contain a popular package of expiring tax breaks, including a research and development credit for businesses, and deductions for college tuition and state sales taxes.

The wage would increase from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, phased in over the next two years, the aide said.

The maneuver is aimed at defusing the wage hike as a campaign issue for Democrats while using its popularity to spur enactment of the Republican Party's long-sought goal of permanently cutting taxes on millionaires' estates.

But it seemed certain to provoke outrage from Democrats clamoring for a measure devoted solely to raising the minimum wage.

"It's outrageous the Republican Congress can't simply help poor people without doing something for their wealthy contributors," said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.

House lawmakers were to discuss the package at an early afternoon session, while the Senate GOP aide professed confidence the bill could advance through the chamber next week.

The aide asked not to be identified publicly because of the ongoing closed strategy sessions on the bill.

"It's the one chance for Democrats who want to get a minimum wage increase," the aide said.

The move comes after almost 50 rank-and-file Republican lawmakers pressed House leaders - who strongly oppose the wage hike and have thus far prevented a vote - to schedule the measure for debate. Democrats have been hammering away on the wage hike issue and have public opinion behind them

"We weren't going to be denied," said Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, a leader in the effort. "How can you defend $5.15 an hour in today's economy?"

It was a decade ago, during the hotly contested campaign year of 1996, that Congress voted to increase the minimum wage. A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage makes $10,700, which is below the poverty line for workers with families.

In advancing the tax plan, GOP leaders excluded a measure popular with small businesses that would make it easier for small businesses and the self-employed to band together and buy health insurance plans for employees at a lower cost.

That idea was blasted as a "poison pill" by Democrats and labor unions. The small business health insurance bill exempts new "association health plans" from state regulations requiring insurers to cover treatments such as mental health and maternity care. And opponents fear they would offer inferior prescription drug benefits.

Democrats have made increasing the wage a pillar of their campaign platform and are pushing to raise the wage to $7.25 per hour over two years. In June, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to raise the minimum wage, rejecting a proposal from Democrats.

It's long been clear that there is wide support for the wage increase in the House, but Republican leaders have a general policy of bringing legislation to the floor only if it has support from a majority of Republicans. Perhaps one-fourth of House Republicans support the wage increase.

Inflation has eroded the minimum wage's buying power to the lowest level in about 50 years. Yet lawmakers have won cost-of-living wage increases totaling about $35,000 for themselves over that time.

Lawmakers fear being pounded with 30-second campaign ads over the August recess that would tie Congress' upcoming $3,300 pay increase with Republicans' refusal to raise the minimum wage.

[US] House Slates Vote on Raising Minimum Wage

from S F Gate

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer

Bowing to moderates and seeking to defuse a campaign issue before leaving for vacation, House GOP leaders Friday slated a vote to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour within three years.

The vote comes after almost 50 rank-and-file Republican lawmakers pressed House leaders — who strongly oppose the wage hike and have thus far prevented a vote — to schedule the measure for debate. Democrats have been hammering away on the wage hike issue and have public opinion behind them

"We weren't going to be denied," said Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, a leader in the effort. "How can you defend $5.15 an hour in today's economy?"

It was a decade ago, during the hotly contested campaign year of 1996, that Congress voted to increase the minimum wage. A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage makes $10,700, which is below the poverty line for workers with families.

House Republicans have yet to unveil the specifics of the bill and have been mulling what to add to it to ease the sting on small businesses and other constituencies such as the restaurant lobby. GOP aides and business lobbyists said no final decisions had been made about the specifics of the add-ons. Lawmakers were hoping to vote on the bill by Friday night.

Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said Thursday that GOP leaders may attach a proposal passed last year that would make it easier for small businesses and the self-employed to band together and buy health insurance plans for employees at a lower cost.

That idea was blasted as a "poison pill" by Democrats and labor unions. The small business health insurance bill exempts new "association health plans" from state regulations requiring insurers to cover treatments such as mental health and maternity care. And opponents fear they would offer inferior prescription drug benefits.

Opponents of the idea also worry that the new health plans would skim healthier workers from traditional plans, thereby increasing the costs and pressures on those plans.

"It's outrageous the Republican Congress can't simply help poor people without doing something for their wealthy contributors," said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.

Democrats have made increasing the wage a pillar of their campaign platform and are pushing to raise the wage to $7.25 per hour over two years. In June, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to raise the minimum wage, rejecting a proposal from Democrats.

It's long been clear that there is wide support for the wage increase in the House, but Republican leaders have a general policy of bringing legislation to the floor only if it has support from a majority of Republicans. Perhaps one-fourth of House Republicans support the wage increase.

Inflation has eroded the minimum wage's buying power to the lowest level in about 50 years. Yet lawmakers have won cost-of-living wage increases totaling about $35,000 for themselves over that time.

Lawmakers fear being pounded with 30-second campaign ads over the August recess that would tie Congress' upcoming $3,300 pay increase with Republicans' refusal to raise the minimum wage.

[Turkey] Hunger line at YTL 573, poverty line at YTL 1,867

from The New Anatolian

EkoTürk News Agency / Ankara

According to survey of Türk-İş, the leading confederation of labor unions, the amount of food expenditures of a four-member family which is also described as hunger line of a family increased to YTL 573.33, and the poverty line to YTL 1867.54 in July.

The amount of food expenditures of a four-member family which is also described as hunger line increased by 0.31 percent in July reaching YTL 573.33. The poverty line increased to YTL 1867.54.

According to the research made by the Turkish Research Center, the monthly expenditure which is necessary to be made by a four-individual family in order to eat a balanced diet and which is described as hunger line increased by 0.31 percent in July compared to last month and reached YTL 573.33. The hunger line was about YTL 571.57 last month. The increase in the hunger line in first seven months of the year is determined as 5.60 percent, while the increase in last one year is determined as 8.17 percent. The hunger line was about YTL 542.95 by the end of 2005 and about YTL 530.05 last year in July.

The amount of expenditures, which are needed to be made by a four-individual family to meet basic needs such as rent, transportation, fuel for heating, lightening, water, clothing, education, telephone, and culture besides food and which is described as poverty line is YTL 1867.54 in July. The poverty line was estimated as YTL 1726.55 last year in the same period, while it was determined as YTL 1768.57 at the end of last year, and YTL 1861.80 this year in June.

Türk-İş, in its statement, said that the price increases in recent months negatively affected the budgets of families, adding that the working people needed to spend YTL 30 more for food and YTL 99 more for basic needs. It was stated that increases which were made in income of workers and retired people by taking inflation rate determined for 2006 as basis were meaningless after the price increases in the first seven months adding, "The purchasing power of sections with low or fixed income is continuing to decrease."

Minimum wage is enough for 6 days.

The statement stressed that the income level of about half of workers working within the Social Security Institution was the minimum wage and added, "With the minimum wage, which is considered high by some employers and which is wanted to be decreased, it is possible to live for only 6 days to provide a living standard required by the honor of a person."

[Uganda] Swindled Poverty Alleviation Funds Split Youths In Jinja

from All africa

The Monitor (Kampala)

Isaac Mufumba

A MISUNDERSTANDING has broken out among youth groups in Busoga over the mismanagement of Bonna Bagaggawale funds.

Shs 300 million

The Minister of State for Micro Finance, Gen. Salim Saleh, in February gave the youth in the area Shs300 million under President Yoweri Museveni's Bonna Bagaggawale (prosperity for all) scheme to support their poverty alleviation projects.

Agricultural projects in piggery, poultry and maize, groundnuts and upland rice farming had been considered.

The swindle

A section of the youth told Daily Monitor that the money has since been misappropriated by their leaders.

They say it was meant to be distributed among 50 youth groups in Busoga region through the Seventh of July Youth Cooperative Movement, which Saleh launched during the presidential campaigns.

The youth accused their leaders of putting the money to personal use.

Their secretary, Mr James Musaazi, reportedly used part of the money to purchase land in Makindye, Kampala, where he is constructing a commercial building.

Members of the youth groups worry the agricultural projects that the money was supposed to fund might not start.

The activities had reportedly been designed to be a model for a plan to commercialise farming in Busoga region.

The accused

Asked for clarification, Musaazi, on Wednesday denied swindling any money, saying property the youth allege he acquired with the money were bought long before Saleh advanced the money to the cooperative movement.

He said those complaining fall in the category of those who are not eligible for funding, and that others who would have been eligible have not met their prerequisites for the funding, which include availability of land and construction of structures that show the money will be put to use.

[Louisiana] Chamber: Poverty affects students

from The Advocate

Performance about as well as expected

Advocate staff writer

Students in greater Baton Rouge area public schools, except those in the city of Baker and St. Helena Parish, perform about as well as expected, given the relative poverty of their families.

Nevertheless, all 11 school systems in the area have plenty of students who lack basic skills in English and math: They range from roughly one in four students in Zachary to three of four in St. Helena Parish.

These are among the findings of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber in a new report, the first of five, examining public education in the region.

“We’re trying to be comprehensive, but not exhaustive,” said Stephen Moret, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer.

Noel Hammatt, an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member and an LSU instructor who has studied these issues, said the report is good as far as it goes.

“I think they’ve done a great job of capturing the challenges that we all face,” he said.

Hammatt, however, said he’d like the chamber to more closely examine the impact of race and private school attendance on public schools.

The reports are part of the business organization’s most extensive foray into public education, timed to coincide with school board elections this fall. The effort focuses on Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes.

The chamber also is recruiting and training candidates in many East Baton Rouge School Board races.

FuturePAC, a separate chamber-led political group, will contribute no more than about $2,000 per candidate, based on issues not politics, Moret said.

“This is not a bunch of business guys getting together saying who we should put in office,” he said.

The five reports, produced by in-house chamber researchers, aim to spark conversations about public schools across the region, Moret said.

One theme introduced in the first report is that the deep poverty found in Louisiana and the Baton Rouge region plays a big role in academic achievement.

“There are a lot of factors that go into student performance, only some of which come from the school,” Moret said.

The report released Thursday documents big differences between districts in the area, especially in the percentage of poor children. But, when the chamber researchers controlled for poverty, the differences between districts evaporated.

Only Baker and St. Helena Parish students performed notably below what their student poverty levels would suggest.

Moret said he suspects more detailed student poverty data might explain some of Baker and St. Helena’s low performance.

Some of the differences among the public school districts in the Baton Rouge area are stark.

For instance, four districts — Zachary and West Feliciana, Livingston and Ascension parishes — perform among the best in the state on standardized tests. Four others — Baker and Pointe Coupee, East Feliciana and St. Helena parishes — score at the bottom in Louisiana. Iberville and East Baton Rouge parishes are little better than the bottom four. Only West Baton Rouge Parish is in the middle.

The scores are in inverse proportion to the poverty of the students, as indicated by the percentage of students who qualify for free lunches.

Between 34 percent and 40 percent of students in Zachary and the three other high-performing districts don’t pay for lunch — the national average is 41 percent — while between 62 and 84 percent of the students in Baker and the five other low-performing districts don’t pay for lunch.

The picture is similar when it comes to private school attendance, with the highest performing public school districts having few students in private schools. Meanwhile, the lowest performing systems, led by East Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes, have the highest rates of private school attendance. St. Helena Parish, which has no private schools tracked by the state, is the only exception.

The report shows that even among the top four districts, between 25 percent to 30 percent of students don’t meet state standards in math and English. Among black students and children living in poverty, the percentage falling behind is much greater.

The report also uses ACT college placement test scores to hint at how Baton Rouge area students compare with the nation. ACT scores in the area range from 15.4 in St. Helena and East Feliciana parishes to 20.4 in Zachary. The national average is 20.9.

“Every single school district in Baton Rogue has substantial room for improvement,” Moret said.

Between now and Sept. 12, the chamber plans to release four more reports:

* A comparison of public schools in Baton Rouge with those in metro areas throughout the South and across the country.
* A look at the factors, both inside and outside of schools, that affect student performance, ranging from teacher pay to student mobility.
* Results from a nine-parish phone poll, being conducted by pollster Verne Kennedy with the help of political consultant Roy Fletcher. The poll gauges perceptions of student performance and school quality throughout the region.
* A “menu” of proposed education reforms, complete with pros and cons, for residents to consider as they assess school board candidates.


[UK] Eat Or Heat

from The Daily Record

By John Ferguson

PENSIONERS will have to decide between heating their homes and buying food after yet another huge price rise from British Gas.

It's the third time in 12 months that the energy giants, who own Scottish Gas, have hit customers with higher bills.

Bosses announced yesterday that prices are going up by 12.4 per cent for gas and 9.4 per cent for electricity.

British Gas managing director Mark Clare, who pocketed £800,000 in salary and bonuses last year, once again claimed that higher wholesale energy costs had made price rises inevitable.

But pensioners' charities warned that the latest increases could kill old folk north of the Border.

Andrew Sim, of Age Concern Scotland, said: "Many elderly and vulnerable people will start to make the decision between heating and eating.

Falk AdSolution

"Something will have to be done to protect them if fatalities are to be avoided. Action needs to be taken before winter."

John Wilson, chairman of the Scottish Pensions Association, added: "It's an absolute disgrace that we are being made to pay these prices.

"So many old people have given the country so much, and now they are being left in poverty."

British Gas have 10.7 million UK gas customers and 5.8 million electricity customers. Even before yesterday's announcement, they were easily the most expensive energy suppliers in the UK.

Bosses put up gas and power prices by 14.2per cent last September, then announced a 22per cent rise in bills in March. The latest rises take effect on September 4.

Customers who buy gas and electricity from the company now face a combined annual average bill of £1134.

Other energy firms are also putting their prices up steeply - yesterday's rise was the 11th by a major supplier this year.

But industry experts say customers can still save plenty by switching away from British Gas.

Graham Kerr, of consumers' pressure group Energywatch Scotland, said: "Customers who have stayed with British Gas are paying a high price for their loyalty. It's time they looked around for a better deal."

Kerr also called on the Government to "look afresh" at their strategy for keeping people out of fuel poverty. A Government spokeswoman claimed: "We are doing everything we can."

British Gas said they would expand their winter rebate programme for the old and needy to help them cope with the increases.

Bosses at the firm say their wholesale prices have gone up by 71per cent in the past 12 months, leading to a record loss of £143million in the first half of this year.

British Gas's parent company, Centrica, made profits of £569million in the same period, although returns were down by 36per cent.

When British Gas put up prices in March, Clare claimed he saw "no need" for more increases this year as long as wholesale prices remained steady. He now says wholesale costs have gone up by 30 per cent since then.

Ann Robinson, of price comparison website, said: "The public assurances given earlier in the year have been rendered meaningless."

Clare yesterday refused to rule out even more rises this year. He said: "We hope not, but it depends on the cost of wholesale gas."

[Japan] The Face of Poverty Ages In Rapidly Graying Japan

from The Washington Post

Welfare Cuts Hit 'Elderly Orphans' Hard

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service

TOKYO -- What is left after Gosuke Kakizaki's 73 years of life as a magazine typesetter turned failed businessman turned penniless retiree is contained in two small rooms of a gray public housing complex far from the glittery core of this city. A white teakettle, a few stacks of books and a little TV set remain, as do mounted photographs from the hiking trips he stopped taking about three years ago.

That was when he was hit by the first of a series of deep cuts in welfare assistance for destitute seniors, a group whose swelling numbers are aging the face of poverty in Japan. For Kakizaki -- an "elderly orphan" living alone and entirely dependent on the state -- the reductions have slashed the government checks he must get by on in hyper-pricey Tokyo from $826 to $625 a month.

"I can't afford transportation, film for my camera or the photo-developing fees for such trips anymore," said the soft-spoken Kakizaki, who is long divorced and has only sporadic contact with his two adult children. "The photos are all I have left. I can barely afford to feed myself now."

As the world's most rapidly graying nation struggles to cope with the exploding costs of its aging population, it is cutting back its famed safety net of universal health care, generous pensions and welfare benefits for seniors of all social classes. But those already living on the margins are being hit the hardest.

Over the past decade, the number of indigent seniors nationwide skyrocketed by 183 percent to about half a million people, Welfare Ministry statistics show. Most of them are victims of the protracted recession that Japan endured in the '90s, and many have been abandoned by children bucking the Japanese tradition of living with one's elderly parents.

The creation of a new underclass of the down, out and old in Japan -- a country that long prided itself on being a "one-class society" -- is giving public housing complexes the feel of poor retirement communities. Almost one in every two people on welfare in Japan is now 65 or older, the government here reports. By comparison, roughly one in 10 welfare recipients in the United States are senior citizens, according to U.S. government statistics.

The homeless population expanded rapidly during the recession years and now numbers about 30,000, according to advocacy groups. An official survey in 2003 put the average age of the homeless at 56. The government requires seniors to have a fixed address to receive welfare, so many on the streets are getting no support.

Now the Japanese economy -- the world's second-largest -- is in the midst of a buoyant recovery. But the country is moving toward a more American-style system of senior services by shifting the burden of care from the government to the elderly themselves.

"The government talks about how we need to be more independent and care for ourselves now," said Kakizaki. "But we are old. How are we supposed to become independent at our age? How can they even ask us to?"

Selective Recovery

Many industrialized nations, including the United States and countries in Western Europe, are grappling with the question of how to care for their aging populations. But none is confronting the task on a greater scale than Japan.

One in five Japanese is now over 65, and by 2050, the figure is projected to reach nearly one in three. This year, the cost of public pensions, health care and welfare services for the aged reached a record $828 billion -- six times higher than in 1986, according to government statistics. By 2025, conservative estimates project the figure will rise to $1.37 trillion -- a figure that would then amount to 28 percent of Japan's gross national income.

Meanwhile, Japan has one of the world's lowest birthrates, raising doubts that the next generation of Japanese taxpayers can support the pension system.

Since coming to office in 2001, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has led a charge to cut government spending in many sectors, and has particularly focused on health care and pension reform. "In order for our social security system to continue to function with the aging population and declining birthrate, we can no longer continue to provide abundant benefits with a light burden," he declared in a May address to parliament.

Last month, parliament approved a series of health care bills that will force upper-middle-income seniors age 70 or older to cover 30 percent of their medical bills -- their third major increase in five years. Though many Japanese retirees still enjoy some of the world's best corporate and government pensions and have substantial personal savings, the gap is widening between them and very poor seniors.

Over the past three years, Koizumi's government has also cut the amount seniors on welfare receive by as much as 23 percent.

"Japan's economy may be recovering now, but it is a recovery with losers and winners," said Seiji Tsuji, director of the Federation for People's Lives and Health, an advocacy group for the poor. "Sadly, the biggest group of losers are senior citizens."

Battling a Stigma

The graying demographics of poverty can be glimpsed in the steel handrails installed inside hallways and entrances at the sprawling Nagafusa public housing complex in southwest Tokyo.

When 88-year-old Hisa Hashidate and her husband moved in 44 years ago as part of the first group of tenants, the beige block apartments -- with about 2,000 subsidized units -- were populated mostly by middle-income couples carving out their piece of the Japanese dream.

But today, more than half the residents are over 65 and almost a quarter are on welfare, mirroring a nationwide trend.

Hashidate's husband died 30 years ago, so she has long lived a humble existence, surviving on government assistance. But in the past three years, cuts have reduced her monthly income by 12 percent. So she stretches out one piece of fish for two days' worth of meals. Ashamed of not being able to afford traditional offerings of money at weddings and funerals, she has simply stopped attending them. Although she is nearly blind, she switches off the lights at 8 p.m. to save electricity.

"I almost never go out anymore," she said. "What is out there for me? I have no money."

In a culture that stresses the need to pull one's own weight, a profound stigma surrounds welfare. Many needy elderly are too ashamed even to apply for it. Advocacy groups for the aged estimate that the number of seniors in need is at least five times more than the half-million now receiving special government assistance.

Kakizaki, the former magazine typesetter, vividly recalls the chilly February morning in 2001 when he finally built up the courage to apply.

"I could not go through the door at first," he said. "I remember seeing the office and then turning away. I walked around the neighborhood for what seemed like forever. When I finally went through those doors, I felt as if I had jumped off a cliff."

During the 13-year economic slump that began in 1991, older Japanese were at the highest risk of falling into poverty. As companies cut back, employees in their late fifties and early sixties were the first to be let go. Kakizaki, whose wife divorced him after a printing business he owned went bankrupt in the 1980s, worked on contract at a publishing house doing layout until 1998. When he reached 65, the company declined to keep him on.

Being a failed business owner meant he could not count on a good corporate pension, and he had not paid enough to the government to collect social security. He looked for a job but found nothing. He lived off his savings for the next two years, by which time he was 67, clinically anemic and had just $500 in the bank.

He has stopped looking for work. "No one is going to hire you at my age," he said, eyes downcast. "They won't even give you a second look."

Although in former times children offered their parents help, Kakizaki said he did not even dream of asking his 40-year-old son or 36-year-old daughter to take him in. During his first three years on welfare, he said, he was able to live a simple but "decent life," taking occasional photo trips to nearby mountains and enjoying chats over a cup of sake with friends.

But the recent cuts have left him with about $138 a month in spending money after covering his rent and utilities -- about half the surplus he had three years ago.

With gas bills in Tokyo particularly high, he has taken to limiting the hot baths that most Japanese take every night to just three a week. He leaves his home only once a week to search for bargains at the local grocery.

"This is not how I thought I would be spending the last years of my life," he said.

Special correspondents Akiko Yamamoto and Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo and researcher Robert Thomason in Washington contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

[Florida] Collins sounds off on education, poverty

from Pensacola News Journal

Amy Sowder

If LeRoy Collins Jr. could change one thing as U.S. senator for Florida, it would be to keep classified information from reaching the media's hands.

"I am horrified at the leaks that occur -- especially for the troops in the field -- which aid the terrorists," said the snowy-haired Republican candidate born in Tallahassee.

Collins, accompanied by former Escambia School Superintendent Bill Maloy, spoke with the Pensacola News Journal editorial board on Tuesday.

He's one of four Republican candidates in the Sept. 5 primary. The winner will challenge incumbent Bill Nelson, D-Orlando.

Collins, 71, who stands nearly 6-foot-3, is a statuesque man. He retired as a two-star Navy admiral, then built a successful business in Tampa.

He said he decided to run when it became clear that U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, the best-known and most heavily funded of the Republican candidates, did not have a lot of GOP support.

"When it became public that the Republican party and (Jeb) Bush did not think Katherine Harris could win, there was a vacuum," he said. "I started to fill in that vacuum."

But Collins did not get an official endorsement from the GOP either.

He said Gov. Jeb Bush called him on May 9 and told him that it was widely known his choice as a GOP candidate was Florida House Speaker Allan Bense, and if Bense didn't run, he wouldn't necessarily support anyone else.

The next day Bense decided not to run. Collins filed on May 12.

Although he doesn't have Bush's endorsement, Collins said he's pleased with the endorsements of two established Republican politicians: Jim Smith, former Florida attorney general and secretary of state; and Bob Milligan, former Florida comptroller, an elected position now called chief financial officer.

Here's a snapshot of what Collins said on several key issues:

· Health care: One way to curb skyrocketing health-care costs would be to detect insurance fraud by issuing national identification cards, he said.

Using his wife's recent surgery in which doctors almost operated on the wrong leg, Collins said basics such as medical communication need to improve. Hospital computers are good at data capture, but not at data sharing, he said. "Hospitals need to get better at prescribing the right drugs to the right people -- basic stuff," he said.

· Education: Through aptitude tests, identify those grade-school students who have a proclivity toward math and science and channel them in that direction early on, he said.

As for bringing Escambia County students up to state learning averages, Collins wants to use more retired military residents to substitute teach and volunteer.

Also, he would motivate students by dangling the proverbial carrot.

"You can't just throw money at (the problem)," he said, but "I do think there is a place for incentive payments to students who take the higher-level courses."

· Poverty: The way to solve Escambia County's crippling poverty is for residents to start their own small businesses, he said.

Collins used his own credit-card-processing business as an example. He started the service in 1969 and was employing 65 people within a year. He later sold the business, which today employs about 5,000 people.

"I just think you've got to be aggressive in starting clean business," he said. "Work harder."

· Seniors: Collins used his age to show his support for issues that affect seniors.

"I'm on Social Security. I'm on Medicare. I'm the only candidate that is. I understand."

[Nigeria] NCS Calls for Eradication of Poverty Through ICT

from All Africa

This Day (Lagos)

Efem Nkanga

The Nigerian Computer Society has called for the eradication of rural poverty through the deployment of Information Technology.

NSC stated this in a communiqué made available to THISDAY by its President,Dr Chris Nwamena after its 20th National Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Society.

The conference stated that the penetration of Information Technology by private and public sectors into the rural areas will go a log way into reducing poverty.It called on NITDA,to pioneer IT rural penetration and diffusion by embarking on life impacting IT projects which would accelerate the development of rural Nigeria before the first quarter of the first century.The Comunique lamented the high cost of internet usage in the country and noted that this might constitute an obstacle to rural internet diffusion.IT advocated that the Unified Licensing System set to be introduced into the country be encouraged as it would mitigate the problem.

It stated that the actualization of the objectives of the Federal Government's National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy NEEDS cannot be fully realized without effective deployment of ICT in rural communities.The Communique called on tertiary institutions in the country to to improve on its quality of graduates and imbibe technical competence in the face of gross inadequacies in class room infrasctructure.

Professionals at the conference also resolved that Government should encourage the establishment of IT parks as a means of leapfrogging the IT Diffusion gap by the provision of basic infrasctructure like roads,electricity,road and telephone grid that will enable the rural communities join the rest of the world in creating wealth through technology.This they stated will enhance the living standards of the rural people and maximize the technical manpower resources that abound in the hintherlands for increased national productivity.and welth creation.They called on the government to embrace and encourage research in solar solar energy for powering IT in rural areas through public sector partnership,

The conference also called on local government chairmen to develop a blue print for SEEDS and IT deployment at the local government levels by a state strategy officer.

The communiqué also resolved that e-learning and virtual classroom technology had become an inevitable toolfor expanding educational opportunities to remote communities and called for the encouragement of its diffusion and deployment by the federal government.

[Liberia] Poverty Bites Rural Dwellers

from All Africa

The Analyst (Monrovia)

Mensiegar Karnga, Jr.

Liberians living in the rural parts of the country have anticipated a tremendous improvement in their living standards following the election of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia 23rd President and Africa First Female Head of State which by all indications enjoys the supports and blessing of the international community.

Despite the numerous supports and recognitions to the Sirleaf led Government by the International Community especially the country traditional friend, the United States of America, some Liberians living in the rural parts of the country according to reports are finding it increasingly difficult to carry on their economic activities due to poverty since the election of Madam Sirleaf some six months ago, the over all national economy remains fragile.

Some of the residents from eight of the country 15 sub-political divisions who have come to the Nation Capital to celebrate the Independence Day told The Analyst that rural Liberia is experiencing what is known as hyper-inflation because prices of much needed commodities, especially rice, are out of control.

Petroleum products and educational materials have become luxury for many rural Liberians who cannot see their way out of the mess despite their best efforts to cope with the crisis.

Some rural residents are beginning to believe that the Unity Party-led government has neglected them because they do not have easy access to President Sirleaf and her government. They therefore do not know when in fact any policy will be put into motion for alleviating their current situation.

Residents of Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Maryland, Gbarpolu Counties see no evidence of government intervention in the steady rise in prices for much needed communities, especially rice, their staple food. Imported rice costs between L$1,800 - L$2,000 per one-hundred-pound bag, while gasoline is sold at about L$300.

One rural dweller added that on top of that the sanctions on Liberian diamonds was in name only because he believes that though the sanctions are hurting Liberia, Liberian diamonds continued to reach the world market illegally.

Some rural dwellers are wondering when the government security services will make their presence known in some of the rural counties where there is complete lack of any influence by the local law-enforcement authorities regarding the rule of law.

They named Gbarpolu, Lofa, Grand Kru, River Gee, and Rivercess Counties as some of the areas in which the government cannot claim that it has any control.

The rural dwellers criticized the government's first policy of right-sizing which has made many Liberians jobless. They said that unemployment and isolation create frustration which sometimes leads to criminal activities in the areas in which government never had much law-enforcing presence to begin with.

The rural residents said that some foreign businesspeople were setting their own prices in the hope of getting as much money as they could while they could because they fear that the situation can turn violent any moment.

Some of the examples given included the Lone Star Cell Communications Corporation which, according to some, is selling its US$5 scratch card in Voinjama for US$6 or US$7. They cannot see the justification for such increase in the price for a community that takes up almost no space in terms of moving it from place to place.

[UK] Poverty Trap

from IC The Wharf

EAST London must be a priority for the Mayor in his role as learning and skills boss, says London Assembly member John Biggs.

Mr Biggs, who represents east London and is a Wharf columnist, urged Ken Livingstone to help people in the area tackle poverty by giving them access to the skills and knowledge they need.

Speaking during a debate at City Hall, he said a family of four in east London needs at least £14,000 a year to avoid "the border line of poverty" but added that many find that is beyond their reach.

"A living wage - estimated to be at least £16,000 a year - was difficult for many east Londoners and risks becoming out of reach over the next six years when almost half of all jobs will require qualifications," he said.

"Local people must have access to the training needed to access decent well-paid jobs - otherwise they and their children will be consigned to a life of relative poverty.

"I want people of Tower Hamlets to aspire to the top jobs at Canary Wharf and not settle for low skill, low wage ones."

The new learning and skills council will start work in September.

[Solomon Islands] politicians get salaries doubled in poverty-ridden economy

from The Hindu News

Wellington (AP): Politicians in the poverty-ridden Solomon Islands have had their salaries doubled and a fleet of new cars have been bought for senior lawmakers,three months after violent riots and arson wrecked parts of the nation's capital, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Lawmakers ranging from Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to Government Ministers and parliament backbenchers have had their raises approved by the Parliamentary Entitlement Commission, the Solomon Star reported.

Final figures are to be revealed in the nation's official gazette this week, the report said.

Sogavare's annual salary has doubled to 1,40,000 Solomon Islands dollars (US $ 20,300; euro 16,100), it said.

The deputy Prime Minister, other Ministers, the opposition leader and ordinary lawmakers also had their salaries at least doubled, the newspaper reported.

Many Solomon Islanders among the population of around half a million lead subsistence lives in rural villages, with just 10 percent of working-age citizens gainfully employed, official statistics revealed recently.

Opposition leader Fred Fono said the salary hikes and other fringe benefits would drastically reduce the Government's ability to implement its widely publicized rural development policy.

He called the raises and the recent acquisition of 46 new cars for Ministers and permanent secretaries who head government departments an ``extravagance,'' the Solomon Star reported.

The Solomon Islands are just emerging from years of ethnic strife that took the country to the brink of economic collapse.

Law and order was restored only after the mid-2003 arrival of more than 2,300 troops and police as part of an Australian-led regional assistance mission.

Post-election riots in April saw most of Chinatown in the capital, Honiara, torched by arsonists, forcing hundreds of Chinese residents to flee the country.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

[Effects on Health] Study raises malaria block hopes

from The BBC

Scientists have made a key breakthrough in understanding the genetics of a parasite they hope could be used to block the spread of malaria.

The Wolbachia bacterium can manipulate the way insects reproduce so that it is passed down the generations.

Researchers believe a genetically modified version of the parasite could stop insects transmitting the parasite which causes malaria.

The University of Bath study features in the journal Genetics.

Malaria kills over a million people a year and is second only to tuberculosis in its impact on world health.

Wolbachia bacteria infect as many as 80% of the world's insects, including mosquitoes.

They are able to alter the sperm of infected males to prevent them successfully reproducing with uninfected females.

As a result, infected females tend to produce more offspring, which are also infected with the parasite, ensuring it thrives in future generations.

GM insects

Researchers believe it should be possible to use genetically-modified Wolbachia to spread genes that render mosquitoes unable to transmit the plasmodium malaria parasite throughout the insect population.

The Bath team, working in collaboration with the University of Chicago, have identified two of the genes that Wolbachia manipulates when it infects the fruit fly Drosophila simulans.

Researcher Dr Ben Heath said: "This is a major breakthrough in our understanding of the genetic basis of Wolbachia infection.

"In recent years there has been great interest in using transgenic Wolbachia as a way of modifying natural populations of insects such as mosquitoes which transmit malaria.

"However this would always be difficult to achieve without a full understanding of the genetics of how Wolbachia interacts with its host insect."

Part of the problem in studying Wolbachia is that it lives inside the cells of its host insect, and cannot survive in isolation.

It has also proved difficult to pin down the changes it makes to the development of sperm because they are so subtle they can be difficult to trace.

Sperm changes

The researchers compared the active genes in infected and uninfected male fruit flies to determine which were being switched on as a result of Wolbachia infection.

They identified two genes - zipper and lgl - which they found worked together to change the make up of sperm cells, making it impossible for them to fertilise uninfected eggs.

However, the Wolbachia in infected eggs seems to be able to reverse these changes, rendering the sperm cells fertile again.

The researchers are now looking at the mechanisms present in other insect species.

Dr Pierre Guillet, of the World Health Organization Global Malaria Programme, said the mosquito population had proved itself very adaptive, and responsive to environmental change.

He said there was no guarantee that introducing a specific genetic change would have much impact in a population which was subject to the effects of many other natural selection processes.

"This is very good science, but I must warn against jumping too quickly to optimistic conclusions," he said.

"What works through in a tube or a mosquito cage is much more complicated in the field."

Dr Guillet said much more work was needed into the environmental factors controlling malaria spread.

[Uganda] Link Between Multiple Land Tenure And Rampant Poverty

from All Africa

East African Business Week (Kampala)

Edris Kisambira

Uganda's maintenance of a multiple land tenure system has frustrated plans aimed at eradicating poverty, new Lands, Housing and Urban Development minister Mr. Omara Atubo has said.

This situation is however set to change now that government is working on a national land policy that will see the four existing tenure systems abolished in favour of one. The policy will ultimately change the way land is owned, used and managed.

"In Uganda we are in the process of developing a national land policy though the progress has been slow," Atubo said. There is also an African Union (AU) led process of formulation of an Africa-wide land policy framework.

Atubo said the different land tenure systems (mailo land tenure, freehold land tenure, customary land tenure, and leasehold land tenure) are central and have contributed to the development pattern Uganda has taken.

The new lands minister was addressing a regional workshop on land tenure security for Eastern and Southern Africa recently, which was co-hosted by the ministry and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Atubo said that alongside the production advantages, secure land rights can improve sustainable land management and access to credit, and serve as a source of security in times of crisis.

While secure land rights increase investments in land, promote good land use and management, limited access to land and land shortage ranks the second among the most frequently cited causes of poverty after poor health/diseases.

"Access to land and security of tenure, especially for poor rural people, are central to poverty reduction in rural areas," Mr. Harold Liversage of IFAD said. "Land is one of the most important economic assets poor rural people have but it also has political, social and cultural dimensions."

As far as tenure of security goes, Liversage said, women's land rights across all of Africa are not protected yet they play a key role in the development of national economies all over the world.

"... Very poor people tend to be landless or have limited access to land. Rural women, in particular widows and women-headed households, often have weaker land rights and as result are among the most vulnerable in society," Liversage said.

Atubo said women's contribution to the labour force and providing the backbone to the agricultural sector has to be recognised.

"Given this central role women play in agricultural production, it's without doubt that lack of protection of their rights on land and secure access to land has direct implications for investments on agriculture and efforts to promote agricultural productivity," Atubo said.

He said women who provide a majority of the farm labour (71%-80%) must begin to participate in the market, rather than be forced to depend on subsistence farming and continue to lack control over land and income from their produce.

Gender inequality, Atubo said, is a major poverty issue causing both deprivation and inefficiency.

To eradicate poverty and ensure food security through a more equitable distribution of land access and ownership, greater tenure security for vulnerable groups must be guaranteed.

Currently, Uganda maintains a multiple tenure system. Uganda is also a country of diversity in terms of cultural, social and economic experience and orientation. Different communities in Uganda hold land under different kinds of tenure.

Atubo said the colonial legacy on land tenure that was a direct result of the policy of indirect rule ensured that different parts of the country either maintained or retained their tenure systems.

In Uganda, large parts of Eastern and Northern Uganda are customary or radically changed (such as introduction of Mailo and freehold tenure in the central regions) the system of land holding depending on the needs of sustaining the colonial state.

This, according to Atubo, underlined and reinforced the political significance of land. Land, he said, is regarded not merely as a factor of production, but first, and foremost, as the medium, which defines and binds together social and spiritual relations within and across generations of the living, the dead and the unborn.

Atubo said there are still a lot of challenges in the area of formulation of sustainable policies. He said it would be the task of civil society to encourage development of robust policies, which will serve Africa for sometime.

"The process will require the building of a consensus around issues, which will have profound effect on our national economic, social and even political development," Atubo said.

[Florida] Caridad opens intern's eyes to poverty

from The Palm Beach Post

By Julie Waresh
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

In Indiana, where Megan Davenport is from, the disparity between the haves and have-nots is not so extreme as it is west of Boynton Beach.

The 20-year-old Notre Dame student noticed that immediately when she toured the area last month at the start of her summer internship at the Caridad Center.

"You see trailers, and right behind the fence is a big mansion," she said. "It's surprising that you have the richest of the rich next to the poorest of the poor - it's eye-opening."

Davenport is taking part in the University of Notre Dame's Summer Service Learning Program, which aims to expose students to the injustices of poverty and other social issues facing the nation's poor.

The program, which is run by Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns, sends students to 200 sites each summer to spend eight weeks volunteering.

This is the first time the Caridad Center has participated, but it probably won't be the last, said Veronica Bernardo, Caridad's director of program services.

"She's not here to change things," Bernardo said of Davenport. "She's here to understand and learn."

The idea is to plant a seed, Bernardo said, "and hopefully she will help someone else who may be in need."

There's plenty to absorb at the center, which provides free medical and dental care primarily to the families of poor agricultural workers who continue to struggle as housing developments overtake vegetable fields.

"The fields are sprouting half-million-dollar homes," Bernardo said. "These families are still here - now they are looking for employment."

At its West Boynton Beach Boulevard campus, the center treats 7,000 patients a year on an annual budget of about $3 million, half of which comes from grants and donations. Volunteer services and in-kind donations, such as medicine and other supplies, make up the other half of the budget.

Among the volunteers is Dr. Harvey Beaver, associate professor in the pediatric dental department at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

On a recent morning, Beaver and six senior dental students from Nova were busy treating a group of children to their first-ever dental cleanings.

Davenport, a Notre Dame senior who has applied to dental school herself, was assisting.

"I know you're hungry, but you can't eat for 30 minutes," she told a young girl who complained of hunger immediately after a fluoride treatment.

Beaver said Davenport's friendly disposition has helped make nervous kids more comfortable and has lightened the atmosphere in general.

"I hope she gets into dental school soon so we can all celebrate," he said.

While Davenport helps out in the dental clinic two mornings a week, she also does less glamorous jobs throughout the rest of the week. They include answering phones, filing and reading to fidgety kids.

That's OK with Davenport, who said she chose this site after learning it was a migrant clinic, in part so she could practice her Spanish.

But, she said, the experience so far has surpassed her expectations.

"It's great to see everything this center does," said the Mishawaka, Ind., native. "That they can do all this with volunteers, grants and donations."

While Davenport works for free, she said she will receive three theology credits for the program and a $2,300 scholarship toward Notre Dame tuition.

She also must complete a series of weekly reading and writing assignments designed to foster reflection on social justice, poverty and suffering.

The goal of the program, which relies on Notre Dame alumni families to house the students, is to build a foundation that will lead to further community involvement and social change.

Davenport, who is staying with a Boca Raton family, said she already has plans to "give back."

"I've seen myself going abroad," she said, "but the more I see here - there is so much need in our own country."

[Ghana] Students must fight poverty - Blay

from Ghana Home Page

Accra, July 25, GNA - Mr Freddie Blay, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament on Tuesday tasked tertiary institutions to be at the forefront of the fight against poverty, ignorance and disease that had remained a scourge in the country in spite of massive effort to eradicate them.

He told the students: "You with strong limbs, fertile minds and abundant energy should exploit the opportunities offered by your tertiary level education, to acquire relevant skills and knowledge to confront these challenges, with renewed confidence."

Mr Blay was speaking at the First International Professional Student Summit organised by the Ghana Union of Professional Students (GUPS) under the theme: 93The Professional, Principal Stakeholder in Industry, Societal Development and Nation Building."

The summit brought together other professional student associations from Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon and the United States of America to celebrate successes, and to dialogue to find solutions to difficulties in professional education.

Mr Blay said tertiary institutions were not only centres for imparting knowledge but should be seen as a learning place to develop intellectual and professional capacity essential for national development.

He said the time had come for students to involve themselves in community development by disseminating information on development issues and to monitor progress of government projects at the local level. "Our tertiary education should not push people into craving for white collar employment; it should have practical orientation with emphasis on the development of skills in using theoretical knowledge for practical purposes", he said.

Mr Blay said there was the need to enable young professionals to compete with their counterparts in the developed world and to devise technologies that would absorb labour gainfully into the productive process.

"To achieve this, tertiary professional institutions must adopt innovative methods in imparting education and training. The condition of service should be improved systematically to attract well qualified academic and non-academic staff."

He commended the students for organising such a forum and urged them to maintain a united front to contribute effectively to national development.

Mr Ransford Addo, GUPS President, said the summit, which would be an annual event would provide a platform to share experiences with international partners, and to prompt government and other stakeholders on the plight of professional students.

Ms Michelle Betz, a media consultant, encouraged the students to have mentors, saying that that was the only way for them to remain committed and to have a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve in life.

[South Carolina] A taste of poverty

from The Beaufirt Gazette

Workshop simulates low-income reality

The Beaufort Gazette

While their mother was at the welfare office applying for food stamps, the Nattin siblings sat in their makeshift classroom and told their friends all about their plight.

Their electricity had been shut off, the refrigerator was broken, their older brother got fired from his dry cleaning job and the family received an eviction notice in the mail.

"I can tell the utilities are going to get cut off, but at least the children will have clothes and a roof over their heads," said LaVone Cording, 56, shuffling through wads of toy money and a pretend Social Security card.

Cording played the part of Nancy Nattin, a 36-year-old single mother of three, for two hours Tuesday afternoon during a poverty simulation workshop at The Baptist Church of Beaufort.

Cording joined 14 others who played different roles within families living in poverty in various scenarios such as a newly unemployed family, a family receiving public assistance and an elderly person on a limited income.

The simulation was headed by Anne Smith, executive director of Kentucky-based Ministries United of South Central Louisville, an emergency services agency for the poor.

Four years ago, Smith started traveling across the country setting up poverty simulation workshops to educate people about the difficulties of living below the poverty line.

"I just want to get people to learn about poverty in America," Smith said. "It's your next door neighbor, it's in your community. People living in poverty are everywhere."

The Baptist Church of Beaufort paid for the simulation with a $10,000 grant from Coastal Community Foundation and the Clemson Compassion Fund, said Paul Capps, in charge of ministry assistance for the church.

Capps said that through the simulation, the church hopes to bridge the disconnect between parishioners and people living in poverty in the Northwest Quadrant -- a poor, predominantly black, 39-block area in the Beaufort's Historic District just outside the church property. In the simulation, participants were given a scenario outlining their economic situation.

During four 15-minute periods, each period representing a week, heads of households had to buy food, pay rent, and interact with each other by filling out applications and doling out toy money to church members representing various agencies such as a bank, food pantry, mortgage company and pawn broker.

The Nattin family -- played by Cording; Jessica Romine, 14, who played the role of troublemaker Ned Nattin, 9; Tory Sheppard, 14, who played Nicki Nattin, a 12-year-old with learning disabilities; and Terra Marsh, 17, who played Nathan Nattin, a high school graduate unable to keep a job -- all ended up evicted, suffering from malnutrition and in debt without utilities, school supplies or clothing.

"It was sad because it's actually true -- it's real life that people go through," Terra said. "Kids in this situation have a lot of pressure -- I was a 17-year-old with a job. My paycheck went to the family. I couldn't do things I wanted to do ... It's not easy."

[Oxfam] To End Hunger -- More Aid, Quicker Aid, Smarter Aid

from All Africa

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

Moyiga Nduru

Global aid agency Oxfam has called for a thorough review of efforts to end hunger in Africa, arguing that emergency assistance is often inadequate and arrives too late -- while the underlying causes of hunger are going largely unaddressed.

This comes in a report titled 'Causing Hunger: An Overview of the Food Crisis in Africa', issued Monday.

Humanitarian assistance to the continent increased from 946 million dollars in 1997 to just over three billion dollars in 2003, says the agency. Yet, hunger remains acute throughout Africa, as evidenced by the string of food crises that has ravaged the continent during the past months alone in the Sahel, Southern Africa, and Horn of Africa.

According to Oxfam, donors point to doubts over the ability of United Nations agencies to administer aid effectively as constituting one of the reasons for insufficient or late funding of U.N. appeals. Nonetheless, the aid group believes a one billion dollar commitment by donors to the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund is key to "quicker and more equitable assistance."

Inadequate early warning systems and the failure to heed signs of an impending food crisis are also amongst the factors that delay aid -- while the allocation of funds may be more influenced by media attention and politics, than need.

The report further highlights a "disproportionate emphasis on in-kind food-aid donations", noting that this form of assistance only goes part of the way to addressing food crises.

"Although food aid can play an important role in emergencies and save lives, it should not be viewed as the inevitable default response to food insecurity, particularly where poverty is the main cause of hunger," says Oxfam. "Other innovative solutions -- such as cash transfers, food vouchers or cash-for-work programmes -- may be more appropriate."

The agency cites the case of seed fairs in Zimbabwe, where farmers have been given vouchers to purchase seeds. This has provided them with the option of buying seeds for crops that are hardier than others, giving farmers a better chance of reaping a harvest under difficult conditions.

Food donations from abroad may also have as much to do with enabling donor countries to get rid of agricultural surpluses, as with humanitarian motives, notes Oxfam.

"Dumping imported food from the United States and Europe in Africa is not the most helpful way of addressing food security," Nicki Bennett, Oxfam regional humanitarian advocacy co-ordinator, told IPS. "It's cheaper and quicker to buy food locally."

The group states further that graft can undermine the effectiveness of aid.

"Another key challenge is to ensure that emergency aid is not diverted by corrupt elites, or used by governments or other groups for their own ends. This is a particular risk in conflict situations However, aid programmes can be designed to reduce these risks," indicates the report.

But, dealing with the loopholes in emergency aid provision will only go part of the way to addressing African food insecurity. As important are measures to target what Oxfam calls the "root causes" of hunger.

These include poverty, unfair global trade rules, conflict and HIV/AIDS, climate change -- and a dearth of effective policies to assist rural communities.

Amongst its recommendations for tackling the underlying causes of hunger, Oxfam advises increasing long-term investment in the development of rural areas to a minimum of 10 percent of government spending; this target was set for African states by the African Union.

These funds should be supplemented by foreign aid, building on the "slight recovery" that Oxfam says has characterised external assistance to agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa recently -- this after years of decline. According to the report, foreign aid for agricultural activities in Africa dropped by 43 percent -- from an average of 1.7 billion dollars to 974 million dollars -- between 1990 and 2002.

Notes Sam Moyo, executive director of the Harare-based African Institute for Agrarian Study, "We need to improve productivity through modern technology, through provision of water, improved seed varieties and fertilization."

Oxfam's recommendations for dealing with the root causes of hunger also include calls for greater African and international efforts in support of peace, an end to the dumping of subsidised agricultural exports by the developed world that undercuts sales of local produce, and increased funding for HIV/AIDS programmes.

"By 2020 a fifth of the agricultural workforce in Southern African countries will have been claimed by AIDS," the agency warns.

Oxfam further states that wealthy states and large emerging economies should focus more on reducing global warming, and preparing Africa to cope with climate change -- while African countries should address environmental degradation, and plan their own response to climate change.

"Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change because of its extreme poverty and dependence on rain-fed agriculture, which means that even small changes in the weather can have big impacts," says the report.

"If current trends continue, some climate models predict that by 2050 Africa will be warmer by 0.5-2 degrees Celsius," it adds.

"One credible prediction estimates that Africa will have between 55 and 65 million extra people at risk of hunger by the 2080s if global temperatures increase by less than 2.5°C. That figure will rise to 80 million if the increase is higher."

[Canada] Natives seek poverty aid

from The London Free Press


CORNER BROOK, N.L. -- Five national aboriginal leaders emerged from a meeting with Canada's premiers and territorial leaders yesterday saying they were encouraged by the support they received in their fight to have the federal Conservative government honour the $5-billion Kelowna Accord announced by the Liberals in November.

"We came here seeking support for our issues . . . especially what we consider the single-most important social justice issue in the country, and that is First Nations poverty," said Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations after meeting the premiers in this western Newfoundland city.

"It's obvious that everyone around the table sees the importance and the legitimacy of the (Kelowna) plan, and that we need to move forward to give effect to the principles set last November."

Chief Patrick Brazeau of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples said he thinks Prime Minister Stephen Harper is right to try a different approach from the Kelowna Accord because the Liberal plan didn't provide help for natives who live off reserves.

"We firmly believe that although the Conservative government has been in power only seven months, they will fulfil some of the commitments agreed to in Kelowna while putting their own individual spin on some of the priorities they want to focus on," said Brazeau.

"We're continuing to work with the federal government to ensure we provide hope for aboriginal Canadians."

But despite the apparent optimism from the aboriginal leaders, some premiers expressed doubt that the Conservatives would honour the 10-year plan that was designed to address poverty on First Nations reserves.

"This prime minister has his own agenda relative to the way aboriginal people in this country will be treated," said Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

[UK] Soaring bills 'pushing millions into fuel poverty'

from The Guardian

Charlotte Moore
Guardian Unlimited

Huge rises in household utility bills over recent years are having a dramatic impact on Britain's poorest families, a report claimed today.

UK households with the lowest incomes could be spending as much as a tenth of their incomes on gas and electricity, the price comparison website said.

Analysis of government data showed that during 2004-05, the poorest 10% of households - around 2.4m homes - spent 5.7% of their annual expenditure on gas and electricity. The average proportion for all households was 3.1%.

But the rapid recent rise in the cost of wholesale energy - which has pushed up the average gas bill by two-thirds and the cost of electricity by a half in the last three years - means that the poorest households could now be paying as much as 10% of their incomes on fuel, according to MoneyExpert. This would qualify them to be classified as "fuel poor" according to government criteria.

This latest warning comes hard on the heels of two previous reports this month from National Energy Action and the National Right to Fuel Campaign, which claimed that up to 2m households in England will face fuel poverty by 2009.

A spokesman for the Child Poverty Action Group said MoneyExpert's report confirmed its suspicions that the poorest families were being hardest hit by the recent price hikes.

"The Government has been committed to ending fuel poverty and its focus has rightly been on ensuring that pensioners are protected, but other vulnerable groups such as low-income families with young children must not be forgotten," he said.

"If prices continue to rise with no extra help for the poorest, then both the government's fuel poverty and child poverty targets will be at serious risk."

Meanwhile, pensioners' groups said the government needs to redouble its efforts to help the elderly cope with rising fuel bills. A spokesman for Help the Aged said: "One and a half million older households currently lack decent heating or insulation and are at real risk without increased investment in schemes such as Warm Front and other home energy efficiency programmes."

Yesterday EDF Energy announced that it was putting up the cost of gas and electricity for the second time in less than a year - by 19% and 8% respectively - while the wholesale gas producer BG announced a 46% increase in its second-quarter profits.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

[WTO Talks Doha round] Trade talks collapse as nations play blame game

from Ireland On Line

World Trade Organisation members have shelved more than five years of free trade talks as differences over farm aid proved unbridgeable.

Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO, said a deal billed as a recipe for lifting millions of people out of poverty would not be reached by the end of the year and there was no new timetable for completing the round.

“We are in dire straits,” Lamy said in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday, after six of the WTO’s most powerful members failed to agree on steps toward liberalising trade in farm and manufactured goods. He said he did not intend to propose any new deadlines or a date for negotiators to resume meeting.

The 25-nation European Union criticised US intransigence over agricultural subsidies for the breakdown, while the US blamed Brazil and India for being inflexible on cutting barriers to industrial imports and the EU for refusing to make deeper cuts in its farm import tariffs.

Last week, presidents and prime ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialised countries called a new trade deal a top priority. But that promise did not translate into real negotiating action during two days of meetings facilitated by Lamy between Australia, Brazil, the EU, India, Japan and the US.

Now the whole process of agreeing to a binding treaty may have to be put on ice until after US presidential elections in 2008 because President George Bush’s “fast-track” authority to strike trade deals expires next year.

Without that measure, which requires an up or down vote without amendments, it would be much harder to gain congressional approval in the US, the world’s largest trading nation.

Analysts have warned that a failure of the Doha round will lead to more bilateral trade pacts between nations, which are not expected to bring as many economic benefits as the multilateral deal.

Some ministers also warned yesterday that the suspension of the Doha talks, which were launched in Qatar’s capital in 2001, might also cause an increase in the number of trade disputes being brought to the WTO.

“This is a serious setback, a major setback,” said Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim,

“It is somewhere between intensive care and the crematorium,” India’s trade and industry minister Kamal Nath said of the Doha round, which aims to boost the global economy by lowering trade barriers across all sectors, with particular emphasis on helping poorer countries develop their economies through export growth.

Nath said “it could take anywhere from months to years” to restart the negotiations, which stalled as poorer countries demanded that the EU and US offered greater cuts in support for their farmers.

The US and EU, in turn, want major developing countries like Brazil and India to allow more foreign competition in their industrial and services sectors.

But at times, the almost incessant sniping between the EU and the US has appeared the greatest obstacle.

“The US judged that it would be better for the process to be discontinued at this stage,” said EU trade chief Peter Mandelson, adding that he was disappointed that the flexibility Bush indicated at the G8 summit was not realised in negotiations.

“Surely the richest and strongest nation in the world, with the highest standards of living in the world, can afford to give as well as take,” Mandelson said, adding that the stoppage in negotiations “was neither desirable nor inevitable. It could so easily have been avoided”.

But US trade representative Susan Schwab said Lamy told US negotiators there was not enough movement among other countries to put additional US offers on the table. She said the EU was trying to protect itself by blaming the US

“The finger-pointing can’t hide the fact that their average tariff is twice as high as ours and that their farm subsidies are more than three times what ours are,” Schwab said on a conference call.

US agriculture secretary Mike Johanns said proposals by other countries “appeared to be getting lighter and lighter in the last few weeks”.

“There was just simply nothing there,” he said.

The US indicated to its trading partners that it could make greater cuts in its agricultural subsidies, Johanns and Schwab said. But both declined to say whether Washington had made a concrete proposal.

Mandelson said the meeting broke down when the US maintained its hardline stance on farm support programmes after all others had outlined where they could compromise.

“The US was unwilling to accept or indeed to acknowledge the flexibilities being showed by others in the room and as a result felt unable to show any flexibility on the issue of farm subsidies,” he said.

Advocacy groups criticised both the EU and the US for spending more time fighting one another and less time concentrating on the needs of poorer countries.

“You could give this four weeks, for months, four years or four centuries. It doesn’t make a difference,” said Matt Grainger, spokesman for international aid agency Oxfam. “The US and the EU refuse to accept that they have to cut their agricultural support."

[Africa] benefit from UK's new strategy to fight poverty

from African News Dimension

By ANDnetwork .com

The British government is to focus on improving governance, fighting corruption in poor countries, increasing spending on public services, and dealing with the impact of climate change to fight poverty in poor countries.

According to a release by the department for international development (DFID) office in Kigali, Rwanda the secretary for DFID, Hilary Benn, issued a new White Paper recently setting out the UK policy on international development.

According to the release, the 'White Paper', titled ‘Eliminating world poverty: making governance work for the poor’, responds to four big challenges: good governance in poor countries; improving security, poverty reduction and tackling climate change.

It also focuses on reforming the international system in organisations like the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and European Union to better deal with international problems.

According to the release, in a bid to improve governance and fight corruption, a new US$185 million Governance and Transparency Fund has been initiated to help people hold their governments to account.

"A long-term progress in the fight against poverty will only be achieved through effective government, and by people with the voice and confidence to hold their governments to account. That’s why governance is at the heart of this White Paper,” the release quotes Benn as saying.

The release further indicates that UK spending on education in developing countries would double by 2010 to over US$1,8 billion a year, and that the UK would also work with developing countries to back ten year health plans, including ways to abolish user fees.

The White Paper that builds on two previous White Papers (1997 and 2000) also indicates that there will be new support to develop technologies for cleaner water and sanitation, with funding more than doubling from US$175 million a year in Africa by 2007 to US$370 million by 2010.

According to the release, the UK currently provides US$85 million each year in development assistance to Rwanda.

The New Times - Rwanda

[Wyoming] Sheridan confronts poverty

from The Billings Gazette

For The Gazette

SHERIDAN, Wyo. - Sheridan County is fast becoming a land of the "haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor," according to resource development consultant Sheila Schermetzler.

The Sheridan County Tripartite Board, which administers Community Service Block Grant Funds in the county, contracted with Schermetzler, who is based in Laramie, Wyo., to conduct a community-needs assessment on poverty. She shared her findings recently at the Sheridan Senior Center, at a meeting called A Dialogue on Poverty.

Schermetzler said the yearlong, $10,000 study focused on what's going on in the community and what the public can do to help alleviate poverty. "Sheridan does have poverty," she said.

Surveys were sent randomly to 250 people who live in the county, 500 low-income clients served by Community Service Block Grant agencies, 84 human-service agencies, and 15 Community Service Block Grant agencies. The return rate was 55 percent. The surveys were compiled according to city, town, area of residence and age groups. Every community in the county had respondents.

Schermetzler said she found it alarming that more than 5 percent of Sheridan County children live "in extreme poverty," with single mothers having the lowest income. More than 9 percent of the people living in the county live in poverty, and 21 percent do not have health insurance.

The median income for a family of four is slightly more than $53,000, while most single mothers in the county survive on less than $14,000 each year.

"More money will have to be dedicated to providing services to the poor," she said. "The middle class is disappearing."

Schermetzler said that in the past 30 years, the average earnings per job have fallen $5,000 - from slightly more than $28,000 a year in 1970 to $23,516 a year in 2000. The findings are a dollar-to-dollar comparison and do not take into account inflation over the 30-year period, she said.

"Even though the number of people working has increased and unemployment is decreasing, those people that are working are making significantly less than they did 30 years ago," she said. "The middle class is having difficulty making ends meet to the high cost of the standard of living.

"There's a strange dichotomy going on here. We have a group of the new rich and a group of the new poor. The middle group is disappearing. There is a wide disparity between the wealthy and the poor."

According to state figures, Sheridan County has the fifth-highest cost of living in Wyoming. Food is the highest cost compared to the other 23 counties, with clothing and medical care costs ranking second only to Jackson.

Schermetzler said two factors are exacerbating the impact of poverty in Sheridan County.

"Wealthy people are moving into the area who are willing to pay big money for real estate, driving up the cost of housing, and the aging population has more focus on retirement and less focus on building up business and economic development," she said.

Sheridan County has a 2 percent vacancy rate for housing and the average apartment rent is $504.

"As a community, we do not recognize how critical this segment that lives in poverty is and how large that segment is. It's sort of like 'out of sight, out of mind,' " board chairman Les Engelter said. "This study should raise the awareness of our community."

The nine-member board will now develop an action plan, hold a final public hearing and prepare a request for proposals for block-grant funding to be sent to the state.

"We now have to look at the priorities, redraw the lines and address the needs of the poor," Engelter said. "It's very difficult with only $130,000 in grant funding, and the needs are so much more in the community."

[Nigeria] Commissioner calls for public/private cooperation in poverty reduction

from The Tide

Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information, Mr Abia Onyike says for Nigeria to succeed in its poverty reduction programme, both the private and public sectors must evolve a multi-dimensional approach.

Onyike made the assertion during a ceremony to mark the draw of maiden extravaganza raffle organised by the management of the Ebonyi Broadcasting Service (EBBS) Radio, Abakaliki at the weekend.

Onyike noted that gone were the days when heads of government organs wait for overheads and subventions for them to make remarkable impact.

Onyike said the wind of economic reform across government organisations now required innovation and creativity by managers of government organs.

He commended the initiative of EBBS’s management in introducing the project.

The commissioner for commerce, Mazi Ben Akpa commended the transparent nature of the exercise, and noted that by disqualifying staff of the station and their relatives from participating was in order.

Earlier, Mr Nwafor Odom, general manager of EBBS said his station embarked on the project to assist the state government solve the problem of poverty as well as determine the reach of the station.

Odom noted that the patronage EBBS got indicated that people receive the station in far away states like Ondo, Benue, Kogi, Imo and some parts of the Cameroun.

[Rwanda] The Complexity of African Poverty

from All Africa

The New Times (Kigali)


Rwembeho Stephen

It seems everyone is at least talking about the poverty that afflicts much of the majority in the world these days. Concerts have raised awareness among the young people, grants have been offered by the wealthy, and debts have been relived by the most powerful, yet the problem of poverty and its associated ills-illiteracy, poor health, oppression, to name a few, still afflict the world. Poverty is destroying individuals and entire societies. There is no international issue that is more pressing or damaging.

Poverty is the oldest and the most devastating disease in the third world. Its rate of killing cannot be compared to any disease, right from the genesis of mankind. It is worse than malaria and HIV/AIDS, which are claimed to be the highest killer diseases.

HIV/AIDS only attack a few people in a society, which is a negligible portion of the world's population. But poverty, is a pandemic that affects a greater number of people in the society and the whole society at large. "Out of the world's population of more than 6 billion people, nearly 1.3 billion live on less than a dollar a day, and close to 1 billion cannot meet their basic consumption requirement... (World bank report 2001)

A failure to solve the seemingly intractable problem of global poverty in the world offers a grim present and even a worse future, with targets to solve the problems of child mortality not being reached; and if we do not work faster, better, and harder, with more money and greater impact - we will miss most of our targets, on child mortality, primary education and maternal health. This poor rate of progress is unacceptable. It should shame the world. And we have to do something about it.

On current forecasts in Sub Saharan Africa, we will not achieve our target for reducing child mortality until 2165. Why? It is not that the knowledge to avoid these infant deaths does not exist; it is not that the drugs do not exist; it is not that the expertise does not exist. What is missing is political will and the capacity to make it happen!

According to a recent UNICEF report,1.2 billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to clean water, 113 million children have no classrooms, no desks, no textbooks, and no teachers. Millions of children die each year from diseases we know we can prevent. HIV and AIDS is, in some countries, wiping out all the gains in life expectancy of the last 40 years

The part of the world that is mostly clearly affected by poverty is Africa. In fact, as the rest of the developing world has seen a steady decline in rates of poverty, the situation in sub-Saharan African is only getting worse. As the Global Policy Forum notes, The World Bank recently reported that Sub-Saharan African countries have the largest share of people living below one dollar a day. The tragedy is that while other countries in Asia and Latin America are slowly but surely pulling themselves out of the poverty club, African countries, are regressing into lower levels of deprivation, with the result that the number of poor people in this region is expected to rise from 315 million in 1999 to about 404 million in 2015.

While the rest of the world seemingly slowly pulling itself out of debt and poverty, the situation in Africa remains grim. One of the most important issues related to poverty in Africa is the AIDS epidemic.

Currently, 25.4 million people are living with HIV in Africa with over 3 million new infections occurring each year ( HIV/AIDS and poverty are linked in a way that makes determining causality difficult.

There are other health concerns in addition to AIDS. Measles alone kills over 500,000 African children each year (Red Cross), and 11,000,000 children die before their fifth birthday each year as a result of mostly preventable diseases, including malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. These deaths can be prevented.

We know how to prevent these deaths--we have the biological knowledge and tools to stop this public health travesty--but we are not doing it. Yet.

And the current public health system is simply not up to the challenge, with poverty a major obstacle, as Sustainable Development International points out:

The record of African countries in dealing with disease is not encouraging. There are major structural and geographical problems to be overcome. Millions of people in Africa simply do not have access to trained medical personnel, and even if they do, essential medical equipment and drugs are either not available or supplies are not sustainable. In addition, there are inadequate data on the incidence and prevalence of illness, which adds to the problem of providing a reliable healthcare service.

Until the creation of affluence becomes the major political driver, more money will be spent on arms than on health.

Access to education is another critical issue facing the people of Africa. Illiteracy and low levels of schooling make any reform or economic program challenging. USAID identifies the challenges facing education in Africa:

African primary school enrollment and literacy rates are among the lowest in the world; 42 million school children in sub-Saharan Africa are not enrolled in school. Of those that do have access to school, the schooling they receive is often of such poor quality that they are not able to acquire even the most basic skills of reading and writing;

In 1999, more than 860,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa lost teachers to AIDS. And education as a matter of fact is a tool for eliminating poverty, decreasing disease, and creating a sustainable future.

UNESCO describes its impact: Development experts underscore the fact that universal education for children-particularly for girls, who account for more than half of the world's children not in school is the foundation for lasting social change. Education broadens employment options, increases income levels, improves health and well being, helps prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and stabilizes interpersonal ties.

No less tangible are the rippling effects education can have on a community or an entire nation. Compounding all of the problems in Africa is the rate of population increase, which swallows up much of the aid and debt relief provided by Western donor States.