Saturday, September 30, 2006

[US] Debate examines 'fixing' cycle of poverty

from The Grand Rapids Press

By Paul R. Kopenkoskey

GRAND RAPIDS -- Each man says the other is a Christian destined to spend eternity in heaven.

But Ronald Sider and the Rev. Robert Sirico take the theological gloves off when the conversation centers on earthly problems.

Sider, professor of theology and holistic ministry and public policy at the Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University in Wynnewood, Pa., will debate social policy toward the poor on Monday with Sirico, a Catholic priest who is president of the Acton Institute.

Carl Ver Beek, organizer of the debate, said attendees will note a sharp contrast between the two viewpoints presented: Sider advocates wealth redistribution through taxation, and Sirico supports minimal government regulation of the marketplace.

Ver Beek said he hopes the men's comments foster tolerance for divergent viewpoints. Western Theological Seminary and Calvin Theological Seminary are co-sponsors of the symposium.

Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, said he can cite numerous examples of the government helping people lead productive lives.

Sirico said he will argue Uncle Sam is laden with too much bureaucracy to resolve financial woes and points to the ample opportunities since the Johnson administration for the government to prove otherwise.

"Since the 'war on poverty,' trillions and trillions have been spent, and I see the same things happening," he said.

Sider, of course, disagrees.

"He (Sirico) just doesn't take with full seriousness that part of Catholic social teaching that finds substantial, though limited, role of government working for economic justice," he said.

Friday, September 29, 2006

[Mexico] Calderon to fight rampant crime, poverty

from Reuters

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's conservative president-elect, who narrowly defeated a leftist in July's election, on Thursday vowed to fight rampant crime and poverty after he takes office on December 1.

Felipe Calderon said he plans to step up the government's battle against violent drug gangs that operate without risk of arrest in many parts of the country.

"The state can't abdicate its responsibility to safeguard its citizens and their property. We can't let there be de facto powers that attack society and challenge the state's authority," he told reporters after sending an outline of his plans to lawmakers.

Drug smugglers have become increasingly violent in Mexico in recent months and Calderon's home state of Michoacan has been hit with gruesome murders including beheadings.

Calderon proposed creating special police forces and judges that would be highly paid, specially trained and given personal protection while they take on narcotics cartels.

A former energy minister from outgoing President Vicente Fox's party, Calderon beat Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by less than 1 percentage point, underlining the massive gap between the rich and poor in Mexico.

Calderon says he wants to heal the wounds opened by the election, in which Lopez Obrador accused him of fraud, and has promised to attack poverty as well as make deals with opposition parties.

"I'll focus on the priorities of beating poverty, guaranteeing public safety and creating productive jobs," he said.

A streamlined tax system, infrastructure investment and cheaper energy would reduce poverty by speeding up Mexico's economy, according to his outline.

"The priority is to create jobs. The path: economic growth, competitiveness and resulting investment," Calderon said.

Fox has struggled to create jobs and beat the drug cartels.

A special federal police force formed under Fox was supposed to be beyond the reach of crime bosses. But several of its members have been charged with corruption and even violent crimes.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

[US] Poverty line needs overhaul, experts say

from The San Luis Obispo Tribune

By Clay Barbour

ST. LOUIS - Twice a month Tonetta Jenkins of Swansea, Ill., retreats to her bedroom, turns on some music and spreads her bills out across the bed.

There, from a good vantage point, Jenkins, 43, practices what some call creative arithmetic, what others call trying to get blood from a stone.

Jenkins works a 40-hour week as a psychiatric aide and yet frequently finds herself having to choose between which bills to pay in full, which ones to pay partially and which ones to let slide until the next paycheck.

"I'm living week-to-week, paycheck-to-paycheck," she says. "It takes all I got to make ends meet, and sometimes I just don't see a way out."

Jenkins wouldn't mind a little help once in a while, but the simple truth is she just isn't poor enough.

She and her husband, William, live on her salary of $16,000 a year. The poverty line for a family of two is $13,200.

Since the 1960s, the federal poverty line has stood as the official division between the haves and the have-nots. And qualification for nearly all federal, state and local social programs has been based - at least in part - on where someone lives in relation to it.

The problem, experts say, is that the poverty line bears little resemblance to the modern world. It is a holdover from a time when food represented a third of all household costs and child care wasn't an issue.

And despite the existence of other, arguably more accurate poverty assessments, there seems to be little impetus for a widescale recalibration. Such a move would create a bleaker view of the nation's economy by increasing the number of people considered poor and would likely add financial stress to many already-strapped social programs.

"Can you imagine the political fallout if they made the poverty line reflect reality?" said Amy Blouin, executive director of the Missouri Budget Project, a nonprofit state budget analysis group. "What politician wants to be in office when poverty officially jumps from 12 percent to 18 or 20 percent?"

Originally dubbed the "thrifty food plan," the poverty line was first established in 1963.

It was then that a government statistician set the threshold at three times the annual cost of feeding a family of three, about $3,100. It was considered, at the time, a conservative underestimate of poverty.

One year later, President Lyndon Johnson declared his famous "War on Poverty" and used the poverty line as the official yardstick.

Today the poverty threshold ranges from $9,800 for an individual to $23,400 for a family of five.

"When you think about how much it costs to live these days, with health care and child care and rent and transportation, it's pretty clear that you can make well above that threshold and still struggle just to get by," said Mark Rank, a Washington University professor and author of "One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All."

Rank said that if a family of four tried to live on $20,000 (the highest amount such a family could earn without crossing the poverty line) they could afford about $18 a day for food.

"Obviously that's not going to go very far," he said.

No one knows this better than Tom and Stacy Mergenthal. The couple have been married for 10 years and for nearly all of that time, they've hovered around the poverty line.

They have two children, Madison, 8, and Bryson, 6. Another child is due any day now.

Until he quit a few weeks ago, Tom Mergenthal worked as kitchen manager for a restaurant in St. Charles, Mo. He made about $19,000 a year.

"Some weeks you just have to decide between paying utilities or eating," he said. "You learn to do without a lot."

Tom was one of the thousands of Missourians recently knocked off the Medicaid rolls. Last year Missouri overhauled the state's Medicaid program, eliminating coverage for about 90,000 people. The move lowered the income limits for qualifying, setting some caps as low as 17 percent of the federal poverty level or about $2,800 for a family of three.

Although Mergenthal's salary placed his family below the poverty line, he still earned too much to qualify for state health care. Mergenthal suffers from diabetes and asthma. He takes 11 different medications, which run about $1,000 a month. His kids still qualify for insurance. And Stacy, who has worked in the past, does qualify until a few months after she gives birth.

"There is just no way I can cover that bill without help," he said. "I'll get another job, but I won't make that much money."

Social scientists have for years argued to increase the thresholds for the poverty line. Several competing poverty lines have been introduced, most of them taking a more nuanced approach. One example is the self-sufficiency standard of Missouri.

Unlike the federal poverty line, the self-sufficiency standard looks at several characteristics, including the cost of living in an area, family size, the age of children and health care needs. The difference between the two is often substantial.

For example, the federal poverty threshold for a single mother of two this year is $16,600, regardless of where they live. The self-sufficiency standard for that same family, living in the St. Louis region, for example, ranges from about $27,000 in the city of St. Louis to slightly more than $35,000 in St. Louis County.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation says the poverty line is already too generous. Rector said many of those who live below the poverty line fail to meet "any common sense definition of the word."

According to the Heritage Foundation:

Forty-six percent of all poor households actually own their own homes.

Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning, compared to 36 percent of the entire U.S. population 30 years ago.

Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded.

"They may not be living an opulent lifestyle, but they are not the image you think of when the word `poverty' is used," Rector said.

Kristen Alliegro lives in a small house in St. Louis with her two sons, Bowen, 6, and Connor, 3. It's true that Alliegro, a single mom, has a CD player and a TV and most common appliances. But her home is packed with donated and found items.

"I buy almost nothing," she said.

In 2003 Kristen Alliegro worked for a bank, making $29,000 a year. Then she lost her job. After months of searching, Alliegro decided to go back to school.

"It wasn't an easy decision," she said. "I knew that it meant we would have to go through some really tight years."

Alliegro enrolled at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and began the long process of earning a degree in social work. She is scheduled to graduate in December.

During the past three years Alliegro and her sons have lived off of a combination of student loans, social welfare programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, and the roughly $10,000 a year she makes from part-time work.

Still, she struggles. Her bathroom is in bad shape, needing about $1,500 in plumbing repairs. And on the living room coffee table sits a mountain of past-due bills, several of them hundreds of dollars in arrears.

"I have been so close to losing the house so may times," she said. "It has been a real balancing act."

Tonetta Jenkins can relate. Until last year, she and her husband, William Merriweather, were doing pretty well.

She earned about $16,000 a year working at St. Louis Psychological Rehabilitation Center, and Merriweather earned about $50,000 a year working for Elementis Pigments, an East St. Louis paint company.

In August 2005, Merriweather was one of about 100 employees let go. Since then the couple have lived on Jenkins' salary and the $600 a month Merriweather gets in unemployment insurance.

"After you pay your car note, your house note and all your utilities, you're broke again until the next payday," Jenkins said. "Sometimes you just want to cry. But that won't help."

According to Rank, such experiences are not unusual. Studies show that 60 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will live at least one year below the poverty line. Seventy-five percent will experience at least one year of life at 150 percent of the poverty line. And two-thirds of Americans will at some point need a social safety net program.

"Today in America, where our jobs are less stable than they have ever been before, the distance between living well and struggling is just not that far," Rank said. "So it's important that we be as honest and accurate as we can about who is living in poverty. Because it could happen to anyone."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

[Nigeria] How to alleviate Poverty through sports, by Kpakol

from The Vanguard

By Emma Ujah, Abuja

The National Coordinator (NC) of the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), Dr. Magnus Kpakol, has begun a fresh push for poverty eradication through exporting young, talented Nigerians in the field of sports.

To this end, he met the Minister of Sports, Hon. Bala Kao’je, in Abuja, yesterday, to discuss the modalities in which the NAPEP could collaborate with the ministry to identify those Dr. Kpakol described as “hidden talents ” across the country.

Dr. Kpakol said he was convinced that there were many unsung, talented Nigerians at the grassroots, who could be mobilised, trained and given the opportunity to get hired by foreign clubs and thereby earn decent living, while uplifting their families and communities from the clutches of poverty.

Dr. Kpakol’s words, “we see sports a very important tool in the fight against poverty and we decided to come and share with you, particularly because you are the primary person in charge of that and we want to see how we can pay more attention to fighting poverty using some of your facilities.

“We think that there are some hidden talents in our country. They can play soccer, basketball or some other games, especially in the remote parts of our country.
“The people don’t get to see them. We can have many Okochas, many Martins, many Kanus if we search for them, assist them develop and later they will not only take care of themselves but also others in their communities.”

According to him, the fight against poverty must be fought from all fronts.
In his response, the Minister of Sports said that the ministry already had a database on young talented Nigerians and that he was prepared to work with NAPEP towards achieving their objectives..

Hon. Kao’je urged the Nigerian private sector operators to invest in sports as according to him, there were many benefits in sports both to the individual, the society and the overall national economy.

[Israel] Fischer: Decade of 5% growth needed to cut poverty

from The Jerusalem Post

Economic growth must keep a pace of least five percent per year for 10 years for Israel to reduce poverty significantly in the long- term, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer told the Finance Committee Tuesday.

"While it is certainly important to reduce poverty in the short-term [as well], if we do not maintain the desired growth rate, [Israel's] security and social condition will be weakened," he said.

"If we don't succeed in growing, we will pay a very high price, so there is a need to balance defense needs and security needs, and we still have not arrived at the perfect balance."

Fischer also advocated instating an absolute poverty threshold - bringing Israel in line with the US method of presenting poverty and canceling the current relative calculation - and setting a target towards which the government would work to pull a certain number of people out of poverty each year.

Among other tools to reduce poverty long-term, Fischer reiterated the central bank's support for a negative income tax (NIT) system to assist workers whose incomes are too low to bring them and their families out of poverty, which he said he hoped the government would adopt.

Fischer also repeated his call to bring the value-added tax (VAT) level back up to its pre-June level of 16.5% to head off effects of expected uncertainty regarding 2007 defense spending and possible lower-than-expected economic growth in the US, which could lead to greater uncertainty in world markets.

He stressed that if the government delays raising the VAT for now to help cut the deficit and debt but is forced to do so in 2007, the Israeli economy's image of reliability would suffer among international markets. Once the VAT is raised, it can be brought back down if conditions permit, Fischer noted.

Nonetheless, the governor opposed recognizing mortgage payments for taxation purposes, which he said would hurt government revenues and was shown in the US to benefit primarily the middle class, not the poor. He also discouraged the implementation of a progressive interest rate system that would discount interest for social aims and charge the business sector a higher interest rate, saying that such systems had not proven themselves and that to help the poor it would be better to directly subsidize their needs rather than seeking solutions within the financial system.

Fischer also praised the behavior of Israeli citizens during the war in the North, who "against expectations … brought their money into the country, as opposed to in the past, when they rushed their money abroad. This proves that they had faith in the economy, and that is a good sign," he told the committee.

Updating earlier forecasts, Fischer said the economy will have grown 4.6% by the end of 2006, down from his pre-war forecast of 5.3%, and that it would grow 4% in 2007, down from a prediction of 5.1% growth made before the war.

The conflict cost the economy about 8% of GDP, Fischer estimated, reiterating his assessment made during the fighting that it would cost between 7% and 9% of GDP, or up to NIS 5 billion.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

[Africa] Aid groups say African trade deals deepen poverty

from Reuters Alert Net

NAIROBI, Sept 26 (Reuters) - African countries risk sinking further into poverty if the European Union pushes ahead with new free trade deals that could harm local industry and farming by unfair competition, non-governmental aid groups said on Tuesday.

The EU is negotiating with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations to bring the so-called economic partnership agreements (EPAs) into force by Jan. 1, 2008.

The EPAs allows for eventual full trade liberalisation which aid lobbyists and critics say would harm poor countries economies most by unrestricted flow of imports.

"It is unacceptable for the EU to be pushing so hard for a free-trade deal with Africa when the consequences will be so disastrous to development and human rights", said Valarie Gnide Traore, a programme manager at development agency ACORD.

Three non-governmental bodies -- ACORD, EcoNews Africa and Oxfam -- said they would petition the EU and African countries attending trade talks in the Indian Ocean city of Mombasa on Wednesday to address their concerns over fair trade deals.

[Indonesia] ANALYSIS - Poverty may disrupt Indonesia's young democracy

from Reuters India

By Gde Anugrah Arka

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Failure to cope with poverty and unemployment could strengthen radical movements in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, threatening its young democracy and path toward economic liberalism, analysts say.

Indonesia's poverty rate is among Asia's worst, and looks set to remain grim for the foreseeable future on high unemployment and lack of strong political will to tackle the issues.

Adding to the problem, Southeast Asia's biggest economy continues to shift to less labour-intensive sectors.

The chronic poverty raises concerns about continued success for Indonesia's seven-year effort at democracy, the first since a failed attempt in the 1950s.

Many analysts say so far that effort has been impressive.

"Indonesia is now, arguably, the most democratic nation in Southeast Asia," said Ken Conboy, a security consultant in Jakarta who closely monitors radical groups.

Thailand has just undergone a military coup, Vietnam and Laos are one-party states, Myanmar is run by a junta, and most other countries in the region have policies that rights groups say leave their democracies flawed.

However, democracy alone may not be enough to keep Indonesians content.

"Economic problems definitely play into the hands of religious and political extremists. Extremists had a far more difficult time making inroads in Indonesia when the economy was booming," Conboy told Reuters.

Poverty by itself does not necessarily endanger democracy, as India shows.

But if it combines with radical ideologies that reject the current secular political system in the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia's democratic transition may be disrupted, analysts say.

"People get more and more desperate, and ideas and solutions they used to reject begin to sound more acceptable... This is already happening in Indonesia and a point will be reached when it cannot be reversed," said political and economic professor Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University in the United States, who has followed Indonesia for many years.

That could be a matter of concern not just for those who see democracy as most likely to protect human rights, but for countries worried about Indonesia serving as a base for spreading militancy in the region, and its strategic position along the Malacca Strait waterway, one of the world's busiest.

Indonesia's latest poverty data, ending in March this year, showed that as of that month there was an increase of 11 percent since February 2005 due in part to fuel subsidy cuts in the budget that pushed up consumer prices.

The number of Indonesians below Indonesia's poverty line of about 60 U.S. cents-per-day hit around 40 million in March, almost one fifth of the population.


That could provide grist for the emergence of a strong political left as has recently happened in Latin America, and for militant religious movements.

"As more and more people get unemployed and fall into poverty, demand for changes including socialism such as in Latin America are likely to grow," said economist Helmi Arman of brokerage Bahana Sekuritas.

In the religious area Indonesia has already seen a series of deadly bombings in recent years, some carried out by Islamic militants mostly raised in poor villages.

"How do radicals attempt to exploit the situation? In some cases, they offer a utopian, non-secular vision of prosperity and piety. For the under-educated, such promises hold appeal," said Conboy.

"Religious radicalism can be a major threat to democracy; by definition, non-secular extremism undercuts tolerance," he said.

There has been increasing demand for a shift from Indonesia's secular traditions, with some regions implementing Islamic laws such as mandatory headscarves for Muslim women, and calls for greater media censorship. In one province caning for violations of religious rules has been imposed.

Political swings to the left in some Latin American countries are also attracting attention, with the respected leading Kompas daily often giving them prominent space.

Despite chronic poverty and an official unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent as of 2006, among the highest in Asia, with another 30 percent considered underemployed, some in the country's political elite have given low priority to the issues.

The nascent state of democracy and masses accustomed to following authority have thus far left room for politicians to escape accountability, but analysts say that situation cannot persist indefinitely.

"Indonesia has both components. It has a suffering and frustrated population plus extremist movements eager to organise the people's anger into a force that can fundamentally change the kind of country (it) has been since independence," Winters said.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

[Malawi] Poverty alleviation UN’s greatest challenge—Bingu

from The Nation Malawi

by Gospel Mwalwanda, New York, USA,
President Bingu wa Mutharika on Thursday told the United Nations that eradicating poverty remains the greatest challenge facing the world organisation.

Mutharika, delivering Malawi’s statement at the 61st session of the UN General Assembly, said global peace, security and stability cannot be assured if the greater section of humanity lives in abject poverty.

“I believe that in the search for global partnership for development, the greatest challenge the United Nations faces is to eradicate poverty that engulfs the majority of humanity,” he said.

He made a passionate plea to “those who have plenty, to share with others.”
The theme for this year’s session is “implementing a global partnership for development.

Mutharika said meeting the millennium’s challenges such as eradicating poverty and injustice, and the promotion of democracy, peace and security in the member nations were ingredients for sustainable economic and social development.

Mutharika said his government had given highest priority to agriculture and food security because the sector was the mainstay of the country’s economy, and was vital to make Malawi a hunger-free nation.

He said Malawi needed international partnership in irrigation and water development to reduce the country’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture, and produce enough food when rains fail.

He added the country considered transport and communications infrastructure to be essential for growth and development and a good “candidate for international partnership.

Mutharika’s speech also touched on the 238 km Shire and Zambezi waterway which he intends to develop from the inland port of Nsanje, to that of Chinde in Mozambique.
He said Malawi also needed donor support to develop its energy sector, and to promote integrated rural development since the greater percentage of the country’s population lives in rural areas.

“We believe that when fully implemented, these sectors will, together, pull our people out of poverty,” he said.

On HIV and Aids, Mutharika said on its own, the country cannot successfully wage the battle against the pandemic.

Malawi is one of the countries reeling form Aids which has claimed tens of thousands of lives since the first case in the country was identified in 1985. An estimated one million people in Malawi are living with the virus that causes Aids.

On the country’s completion point of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (Hipc) initiative, he thanked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Band for cancelling Malawi’s K400 billion multilateral debts.

Friday, September 22, 2006

[Pennsylvania] More families slip into poverty and out of fiscal self-sufficiency

from The Pittsburgh Post Gazette

By Ervin Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Nearly 50 workers who provide services for the poor gathered to discuss new priorities for their clients at a Downtown forum yesterday.

They came from Erie and from Philadelphia to focus on assistance to working families, more of whom are slipping into poverty.

According to PathwaysPA, a Philadelphia-based group that aids low-income women and families, there are 300,000 families in the state who are among the working poor. In fact, the group said, 66 percent of those who are poor in Pennsylvania work and one-third of the poor in the state are high school dropouts, making it likely that without further education or training they are likely to work in jobs where salaries move little beyond minimum wage.

Every other year, working with university economists and government data, PathwaysPA calculates a self-sufficiency standard, a measure of the wages it would take for families to meet basic needs without private or public assistance.

The standard is drawn to accommodate 70 different family types in each of the state's 67 counties. It ranges from single-parent families with one infant to a two-parent family with three teenagers.

In one example, the PathwaysPA standard for a family of one adult, a school-age child and one pre-schooler says the household needs to earn $39,200 a year, or $18 an hour on a full-time job to meet the family's home, food, health care and transportation costs.

The figure is calculated to include tax benefits. Extras, such as movie tickets and nights out, are not included in the figure.

The PathwaysPa standard is typically out of sync with the federal poverty guideline standards, which assume the greatest cost to a family is its food budget.

In its report, PathwaysPA finds the food burden shifts severely according to family size, children's ages and gender and where the family lives. Conditions which are not accounted for in the federal measurement.

"The government's [standard] is not targeted for what it takes for people to live self-sufficiently," said Carole, "but rather what it takes for people to live in poverty."

The agency believes generating its own information on what it takes for a family to live self-sufficiently can educate politicians and anti-poverty advocates, who can then help change policies that impact the poor.

Carole said the work of PathwayPa and others has modified some TANF regulations to make them less punitive to the poor.

The agencies at the forum were also encouraged to discover creative outreach to inform clients of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, a 30-year-old policy that benefits lower-wage workers.

Once only for families with children, now single wage earners can apply for the benefit.

In Allegheny County in 2003, there were 69,000 people who made claims for the tax benefit, drawing nearly $107 million in returns.

This is money that offers low-income workers a helping hand, said Carole Goertzel, director of PathwaysPa.

However, people who have done temporary work and have not filed regular tax returns do not know they can still seek the tax credit.

"It can pay the past-due electric bill. It can pay for a college course. It can pay the rent," she said. "It is so important because what happens is that families with the lowest income apply for it the least."

Agencies were also encouraged to shift their thinking from being just service providers to being advocates for change and to see their clients as citizens who could be partners in calling for policy changes.

Being poor, said Bob Feikema, head of the Parental Stress Center, is a barrier to being free.

"Without resources, being poor becomes an obstacle to reaching your capabilities."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

[WTO Doha Round] Cairns farm trade group pushes for break in WTO talks

from The Lincoln Jounal Star

CAIRNS, Australia — The Cairns Group of farm exporting countries will press ahead with a plan to revive world trade talks, despite the European Unions’ rejection of the idea, Australia Prime Minister John Howard said.

Negotiations have stalled over reducing tariffs and subsidies for farmers in Europe, the United States and other developed countries such as Japan, where strong industry lobbies argue they won’t be able to compete against a flood of imports from poorer nations.

Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile will propose a plan under which the EU would agree to better by 5 percent its offer to reduce farm tariffs, while the U.S. would agree to cut subsidies by $5 billion. He described it as a “middle-ground” proposition.

Proponents say the talks must be revived quickly or momentum will be lost and reforms that could lift millions of people out of poverty will be set back by years.

The Cairns Group, a collection of 18 mostly Asian, South American and South Pacific countries that accounts for more than a quarter of the world’s trade in farmed products, strongly backs the goals of the World Trade Organization’s so-called Doha Round.

The plan, expected to be endorsed this week by the Cairns Group, will raise pressure on the United States, Europe and other developed countries to break the impasse on agricultural trade protection that has all but scuttled the current world trade round.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who declined an invitation to the Cairns Group’s meeting that started Wednesday, has already rejected the plan as “undoable.” The U.S. negotiator at the meeting, Richard Crowder, said Washington might be flexible if other parties made concessions.

John Howard said the group’s plan would go ahead, adding “we are used to rejection by the Europeans.”

“Nothing is ever dead in the area of trade and negotiations,” Howard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. late Tuesday. “We have been used to being knocked back in the past, and I’m sure that will continue to be the case, but eventually there will be a breakthrough.”

The Cairns Group members are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.

Vaile has billed the Cairns Group meeting, which opens Wednesday and ends Friday, as among the last chances to revive the talks, though a breakthrough is unlikely without top-level EU representation here.

WTO chief Pascal Lamy and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab are attending the meeting as observers.

[World Bank - IMF] ...unsuited for Africa aid says U.N. agency

from Reuters Alert Net

By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA, Sept 21 (Reuters) - The World Bank and IMF are poorly suited to lead the flow of aid to Africa, which would be more effective if it was distributed in line with a nation's needs, not competing donor interests, a U.N. agency said.

The U.N. Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD) proposed in a report released on Thursday that aid for Africa should be channelled through a United Nations-run fund, which would regularly release money to African governments, who would then have discretion on spending.

"Such an arrangement would replace the current chaotic system in which too many agencies, some bilateral, some multilateral, are pushing too many development projects that sometimes compete with each other, often don't match recipients' development goals, and are costly to administer," it said.

"There are also very clear signals that security concerns and energy politics are again shaping the policy debates on aid and development," the report said, citing a concentration of funds for "aid darlings" of strategic interest to big donors.

Africa has received more than $500 billion in foreign aid since 1980, and remains the poorest corner of the world despite possessing vast natural resources like oil, gold and diamonds.

UNCTAD said overhauling the way aid is distributed was vital to ensure that assistance to Africa -- including a doubling of aid promised last year by the Group of Eight rich nations -- makes a noticeable impact on development.

Aid flows are currently too splintered, unnecessarily restrict government policies, place huge reporting demands on recipients, and prioritise donor preferences over the needs of those getting the aid, the U.N. agency said.

Existing aid procedures are too focused on technical assistance, at the expense of funding priorities identified by African countries, such as building infrastructure to smooth trade and diversify economic activity, UNCTAD official Janvier Nkurunziza told reporters in Addis Ababa.

Without a restructuring in aid delivery, he said African economies would miss an 8 percent annual growth rate required to achieve global poverty reduction targets.


The World Bank and IMF, institutions which currently dominate African aid flows, "have not lived up to expectations and are not suited to administering doubled aid", UNCTAD said.

While grants and loans from the Washington-based lenders make up a small portion of overall African aid, the economic and political monitoring they undertake in countries accepting their financing serves as an assurance to other donors.

Their checks and balances have drawn criticism from advocacy groups, including Oxfam, for being too dogmatic. Britain also threatened this month to withhold a 50 million pound ($93.9 million) World Bank payment to press for an overhaul of the conditions linked to aid.

Still, finance ministers meeting in Singapore this week for annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF backed new conditions in the form of anti-graft measures to halt misuse of foreign aid, a problem that has been especially acute in Africa.

UNCTAD's Special Coordinator for Africa, Kamran Kousari, said a U.N.-run Africa fund would empower countries to use aid money as they see fit, while also seeking to strengthen public institutions in countries prone to corruption.

"We believe that aid should not be distributed on the basis of whether a government of a country is corrupt or not, it should be distributed based on the needs of a country," he told journalists in Geneva.

Kousari said the U.N. fund could collect money now dispersed across the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), the African Development Bank, and aid programmes run by governments and regional bodies like the European Union. (Additional reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse in Addis Ababa)

[US] New 'culture of poverty' sweeping U.S. speaker tells Catholic Charities

from Catholic Online

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (CNS) – A new "culture of poverty" is sweeping the United States at a "phenomenal and frightening" rate, a speaker told Catholic Charities workers at the Catholic Charities USA annual gathering, held in Minneapolis Sept. 14-17.

Generational poverty, in which two or more generations of a family have lived in poverty, is becoming an epidemic in this country, said Allison Boisvert, justice and charity minister at Pax Christi Parish in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Social workers need to understand this new culture of poverty if they are to be effective advocates for those they serve, declared Boisvert, who herself emerged from generational poverty and worked for Catholic Charities for 22 years.

"There is a language of the poor, a psychology of the poor, a worldview of the poor," Boisvert said. "Everything about them, from the condition of their teeth to the way in which they love, is suffused and permeated by the fact of their poverty."

Boisvert said at a young age she became acquainted with social service agencies as a consumer.

"I began to use all of the social and psychiatric, health care and juvenile justice systems," she said. "I moved through the process as if it were some kind of warped matriculation."

When welfare officials learned about Boisvert's heroin addiction, they gave her two options: clean up her life or risk losing her children. Boisvert chose to clean up her life.

"Like so many recovering types, I went into the business that cured me and I worked with the generationally impoverished in many forms," Boisvert said. "But I've also watched the development and the final institutionalization of a permanent underclass in the richest country in the world.

"To be impoverished in the richest country in the world is to be an internal alien, another culture that is radically different from the one that dominates society," Boisvert continued. "The generationally poor are usually as confined by their poverty as if they lived in a maximum security prison."

Poverty topped the agenda at this year's Catholic Charities USA conference and was the theme of a new policy paper detailing the agency's plans to address what is a growing problem in the U.S.

After several years of decline, recent indicators have shown an increase in the number of people living in poverty in the United States, said Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA president.

Catholic Charities statistics reveal some disturbing trends, Father Snyder said. "For the first time since we have gathered data, over 50 percent of people that we serve now live below the level of poverty in this country," he said.

A family of four earning less than $20,000 per year in 2006 is classified as poor, according to U.S. government measurements.

Catholic Charities agencies across the nation are feeling the strain, Father Snyder added.

Since 2003, he said, the number of people for whom Catholic Charities has provided emergency services -- such as food, clothing, temporary shelter, and assistance paying utility bills and prescription medication costs -- has increased by about 30 percent.

"Our work is not done," Father Snyder told conference attendees.

In her keynote address, Cokie Roberts, senior news analyst for National Public Radio, spoke about the Catholic Church's political influence at the national level.

Roberts, a Catholic, praised the church's efforts to help the poor.

"It seems to me that your issues are actually the ones that Jesus talked about," Roberts told conference participants. She challenged Catholic Charities to educate parishioners about the "option for the poor," a Catholic social teaching that puts the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

"The parishes do wonderful work in terms of actually helping the poor with soup kitchens and with collections and with people volunteering, and it's always just wonderfully heartwarming to see the children bringing up their toys to give to poor children," Roberts said. "But how about teaching it? How about having all of those people who are in those parishes every Sunday hearing about the preferential option for the poor?"

Catholics need to be educated about Catholic social teaching so they can influence public policy through their voting, Roberts said.

"I say get this poverty report into the parishes," she said. "Organize those armies of compassion, because that's where they are."

Also during the conference, Catholic Charities USA presented its 2006 Vision Award to John Carr, secretary of the Department of Social Development and World Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The annual Vision Award recognizes an individual whose life and work personifies Catholic Charities USA's vision for the new millennium. Carr, a former legislative coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was recognized for helping to apply Catholic social teaching to issues related to poverty, racism, welfare reform and other social issues on the personal and public policy levels.

[UK] still withholding money from the World Bank

from Ekklesia

The UK government is still withholding £50 million from the World Bank despite media confusion and misreporting, says Christian Aid.

Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Department for International Development, announced last week that he would be keeping £50 million of Britain’s contribution due to his concerns over the Bank’s use of economic conditions on loans.

The move was applauded by Christian Aid as a significant first step by the government in accepting the wisdom of its long running campaign to halt conditionalities in the Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Last year one of the successes of the Make Poverty History campaign, was that Tony Blair announced the UK would no longer force poor countries to implement controversial economic policies in return for aid.

The radical move to withdraw UK money from the World Bank and IMF was aimed at trying to persuade them to follow suit.

But confusion arose yesterday after media reports that Mr Benn had handed back the money to the Bank.

Christian Aid says it has now clarified that this is not true. Several key players in Department For International Development told the agency that their position had not changed and that they were still withholding the money pending a satisfactory outcome to an internal enquiry by the Bank into conditionality policy.

The issue was further muddied by several media commentators, the aid agency says, including Dominic Lawson writing in Friday’s Independent, who suggested that Christian Aid were calling for the UK to withhold funding to the Bank and the Fund because of the tough line of Paul Wolfowitz, the President of the World Bank, on corruption.

"This seems an wilful misunderstanding of the position stated by 3,000 people who marched past the Treasury on Thursday – protesting about economic conditions on aid that force poor countries to liberalise markets and sell off public services.

"For the record, Christian Aid supports all serious efforts to tackle corruption by the international community", a statement from Christian Aid said.

[Jolie and Pitt] donate to charity

from The BBC

Film stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are giving $1m each (£527,000) to two humanitarian organisations.

In a statement, Jolie said: "I have seen these brave men and women working in war zones and horrific conditions and I deeply admire them."

Both groups, Global Action for Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres, aim to improve life for people living in poverty in troubled areas of the world.

In June, the pair sold photos of their new baby to raise money for charity.

[Uganda] Mass education to fight poverty

from New Vision

By Fortunate Ahimbisibwe

THE Government will use mass education to end household poverty and illiteracy, Prime Minister Prof. Apolo Nsibambi has said.

Presiding over the opening of the National Book Week festival at Garden City yesterday, Nsibambi said mass education would reduce household poverty and improve the national economy.

“The theme of the book week festival, Literacy for poverty eradication, brings to mind the NRM election pledge to transform Uganda through education. The NRM believes in the power of mass literacy to improve the wellbeing of society. We know that Ugandans need to be literate to meaningfully participate in governance and democratic dispensation,” Nsibambi said.

He said the government would support book development through adoption of appropriate policies and laws that facilitate local authorship, publishing and access to books.

“The Government has committed itself to defeating poverty through programmes that seek to improve household incomes or bonnabagagawale. It may be necessary for the government to provide a package of books to every household to meet their need for skills, knowledge and information required for wealth creation,” he said.

At the same ceremony, Nsibambi also launched four books published by Makerere University lecturers.

This is the 14th National Book Week Festival organised by the National Book Trust of Uganda.

Fountain Publishers managing director James Tumusiime said the publishing industry has grown but needs the government support to grow further.

He said the number of publishers had increased to 50.

[Brazil] Helping Amazon's wireless Net

from The San Francisco Gate

Intel Corp. Chairman Craig Barrett is set to fly more than 1,000 miles up the Amazon River today to unveil a futuristic wireless network designed to bring high-speed Internet to a remote city in Brazil.

Barrett's appearance in Parintins -- whose 114,000 residents live on an island accessible only by boat or plane -- caps six weeks of effort by 50 technicians from Intel and Silicon Valley allies Cisco Systems and Proxim Wireless.

Together with partners from several Brazilian organizations, the team installed a high-speed wireless computer network on the island. This is the first in what Intel says will be a series of similar projects designed to bring advanced technologies to the developing world.

"We wanted to get to a city that was so challenging that, if we could do it there, we could do it anywhere,'' said Ricardo Carreon, Intel's Latin America region director, in a phone call from Sao Paolo, Brazil.

In part the Parintins project is a field test for WiMax, an emerging technology for beaming network signals up to 30 miles. But the effort is also an exercise in enlightened corporate self-interest, as Intel and other tech firms focus on selling to the developing world.

"Look at the next billion-and-a-half people who we expect to connect to the Internet,'' Carreon said. "A good chunk of those people live in cities like Parintins."

This rain forest city is best known for its annual folklore festival, boi-bumba, that draws thousands of Brazilian and foreign visitors. When they're not greeting tourists coming upriver on cruise ships, residents of Parintins are likely to be sending cattle or crops downriver on barges.

Before the installation of the computer network, Parintins was electronically connected to the outside world through a satellite uplink that was sufficient to enable low-speed, dial-up Internet, according to Jose Bruzadin, an Intel business development executive in Brazil. As one of its first steps, Intel worked with in-country partners, including the Brazilian telecommunications company Embratel, to boost the uplink for high-speed Internet.

Intel and its allies then installed a 300-foot-tall WiMax tower. At four sites in Parintins -- two schools, a community center and a medical center -- receivers will translate the signal into the standard network protocol, Ethernet. Intel chose Wi-Fi, rather than a hard-wired network, to make the final high-speed link between the World Wide Web and the roughly 70 computers donated as part of the project, Bruzadin said.

Most of those computers went into the two schools where, said Bruzadin, "We can bring (students) access to a kind of information and knowledge they didn't dream they could have."

The community center computers are helping adults learn English and Spanish with an eye toward making the town more hospitable to tourists, he said.

The computers in the health center are tied to a videoconferencing setup to help the city's 32 doctors do long-distance consultation with specialists -- a potentially life-saving link, given that Parintins is more than hour by air and 12 hours by boat from the nearest city.

When Barrett cuts the ribbon on this project, he'll be acting in character. Intel has been among the most generous and consistent corporate backers of science and education. Barrett's visit to Parintins is only one stop on a Latin American tour that included a conference in Colombia to talk about ways to close the digital divide between the developed and the developing worlds. He was recently appointed to head the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies, a United Nations-sponsored effort to help bridge that gap.

Bringing technology to remote locales is an effort grounded in corporate self-interest, according to Jim McGregor, semiconductor industry analyst for the market research firm In-Stat.

"The vast majority of growth (in technology) over the next 15 years is going to come from these emerging markets,'' he said.

A growing number of U.S. companies are examining how they can incorporate promotion of development and alleviation of poverty into their business practices.

For example, in December 2004, hundreds of corporate, government and nonprofit leaders, including top officials from Hewlett-Packard Co., Microsoft Corp., Chevron Corp. and Visa, gathered in San Francisco for a World Resource Institute conference titled "Eradicating Poverty through Profit." The conclave tackled the issues of how companies could improve living standards while doing business and whether huge numbers of very low income people constituted markets worth pursuing.

Nonprofit groups long involved in bringing technology to remote places welcome these new corporate allies.

Wayan Vota, director of IESC Geekcorps, said his 7-year-old group recently did a project similar to Intel's on a smaller scale and in the Sahara desert.

According to Vota, about a year ago Geekcorps installed an Internet-enabled computer in Bourem Inaly, a city built on an island in the Niger River not far from Timbuktu in landlocked Mali.

Geekcorps used an existing satellite technology called BGAN to patch Bourem Inaly into the global Web, then built a special low-power, dustproof Desert PC.

Vota described the Desert PC as a communal resource that could be used for such tasks as figuring out whether local farmers can fetch better prices by selling their crops downriver to Nigeria or upriver to Bamako, Mali's capital.

Inside the Desert PC is a microprocessor and motherboard designed by Via Technologies, a Taiwanese company that is a distant competitor to industry-leading Intel and its main rival, Advanced Micro Devices. What attracted Geekcorps to this motherboard was that it drew less electric power than a 30-watt lightbulb.

"This thing runs for 26 hours off a car battery," said Vota, adding that Via found the Bourem Inaly project so fascinating that it sent international marketing manager Timothy Brown to visit that desert town.

This new corporate interest in bringing computing to the edge of nowhere is a pleasant change to Vota, whose organization's $4 million budget is underwritten mainly by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"Two years ago I couldn't get a person to call me back if I bled on their doorstep,'' he said.

E-mail Tom Abate at

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

[Free Trade] WTO's Lamy Says Lack of Trade Pact Would Damp Growth

from Bloomberg

By Gemma Daley

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Global economic growth would be damped if nations fail to reach an agreement on free trade, said World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy.

WTO talks faltered in July for an accord the World Bank estimates would have been worth $96 billion in global commerce. Negotiations broke down mainly because of differences over agriculture. The U.S. demanded tariff cuts by India, Japan and the European Union while refusing demands to reduce its own farm subsidies.

``There is an impressive trade pact on the table and it would be a quantum leap for economies,'' Lamy said in Cairns, northern Australia, where he is attending a meeting of trade officials from 19 nations, including the U.S. and Japan. ``The consequences of a failure of the round is less potential for economic growth and less potential to reduce poverty.''

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato says world economic growth will suffer without a global trade accord.

If an agreement ``does not materialize, prospects are for lower growth,'' de Rato said in Singapore yesterday. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson this week said ``protectionist sentiment'' eclipses even global imbalances as a growth risk.

The WTO talks were aimed at agreeing on lower tariffs, subsidy cuts and other steps to stimulate trade. That proposal itself was scaled back from earlier efforts. Countries squabbled over agricultural subsidies and tariffs on industrial goods.

Domestic Politics

Officials from 19 countries, including the U.S. and Japan, are meeting in Cairns and will discuss a plan for the European Union to slash farm subsidies by a further 5 percent and the U.S. to cut $5 billion from farm subsidies, Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile said yesterday.

``We have to focus on the domestic politics of the European Union and the United States,'' Lamy said. ``The question is whether countries have the courage, stamina and momentum to go this extra mile.''

Failure to reach a deal on world trade would hamper a global economy already at risk from inflation, rising oil prices and a slowing U.S. housing market, the IMF has said.

Lamy said negotiators had a ``brief'' window of opportunity to conclude negotiations. The WTO must reach an accord this year to leave enough time for the U.S. Congress to approve a final agreement before the Bush administration's negotiating mandate ends in July 2007.

`Serious Point'

``If there was better and more decisive political drive from the major players, we could arrive at a solution,'' Carlo Trojan, the European Ambassador to the WTO, said on the sidelines of the three-day conference in Cairns. ``I think it is still do-able.''

Trade officials from the U.S., Europe and more than 20 countries last week agreed that talks for a global agreement to dismantle market barriers must resume.

``We are at a very serious point of discussions,'' Alan Oxley, chairman of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation said on the sidelines of the conference. ``It's critical we reach an agreement at this meeting to move forward in a meaningful way.''

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he remained ``optimistic'' officials would conclude a multilateral negotiation.

``Things do not look good at the moment, but we must not be deterred,'' Howard told reporters in Cairns. ``I remain optimistic we can achieve a breakthrough.''

New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff said the so-called Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations including Argentina and Canada, which was formed in 1986 and accounts for 13 percent of the global economy, would issue a statement to the WTO.

``We will call for the resumption of the world trade talks,'' Goff said in an interview in Cairns. ``We will be building pressure for resumption of the talks, mainly for some convergence between the European Union and the U.S.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Gemma Daley in Cairns at

[Fair trade] clothes: Socially conscious apparel store to open at Hilldale

from The Capital Times

By Lynn Welch

MIDDLETON - A new apparel company here wants to bring fair trade clothing to the mainstream.

Fair Indigo, founded by four former Lands' End employees, launched its Web and catalog business Monday. The company plans to open its first store at the Hilldale Shopping Center Nov. 1.

Calling itself "style with a conscience," the company aims to sell mid-priced men's and women's clothes to people who shop for a cause.

Fair Indigo's CEO Bill Bass sees a big opportunity to bring the concept of fair trade clothing to the middle market. In a study the company commissioned with Greenfield Online of 624 women age 30 to 55, 86 percent said they care about fair trade issues, Bass said.

"Fair trade started in Europe and the growth in the U.S. has mirrored the growth in Europe, we're just lagging," Bass explained. "No one has really done this (clothing) in the U.S."

No certification currently exists for clothing wishing to use the fair trade label, according to the Fair Trade Federation trade group and TransFair USA, an independent certifier of fair trade goods.

Fair Indigo said it works with small, family-owned factories and co-ops where workers are paid a "fair wage," instead of the minimum wage. That means paying enough so a worker can afford a basket of goods including housing, food, health care, education with disposable income left over, Bass said.

They keep costs down for consumers by working directly with factories and cutting other overhead like fancy furniture - many of Fair Indigo's 20 employees use long, plastic folding tables as desks - and constructing its Web site in-house.

The result is 110 competitively priced items including a cashmere turtleneck sweater selling for $129 and a silk chiffon flip skirt for $79.

"We wanted to make this a very easy decision for people," Bass said. "You don't have to sacrifice style, quality or price to make a socially conscious decision."

The company sells fair trade staples such as coffee and tea, soaps and lotions, and accessories in addition to clothing. Coffee is sourced through Madison's Just Coffee, Queen B soaps are made by moms in New Orleans, Inara spa products come from a women's co-op in Brazil, and accessories come from cooperatives in Bali and Nepal, according to the company.

Apparel items come from 23 factories and cooperative businesses located around the globe including in Peru, Costa Rica, Macao and China.

Women's shoes and handbags are made in Italy by Madison European shoe firm Preidt.

"The style aspect is really important to us as well," stressed Elizabeth Ragone, Fair Indigo's style director, who founded the firm with Bass, Don Hughes and Rob Behnke, who came up with the idea for the business.

The style reflects the Ann Taylor, J.Jill or Macy's lines, Ragone said, with a more feminine look for the women and sportswear with a twist for men.

Renee Gasch, a public relations and Web coordinator with SERRV International in Madison, said there has been an overall growth in interest in fair trade products in general. That organization's sales have grown in the double-digit range for the past two years. Interest in fair trade products increased 22 percent in 2005, Gasch said.

But without certification, it can be tricky to assure that consumers are getting true fair trade goods, according to Nicole Chettero with TransFair USA.

TransFair recently concluded a feasibility study of the garment industry. It concluded that starting an apparel certification program would be too complex at this time.

"You have the people who grew and harvested the cotton, people who processed that cotton and made it into raw material and then those that took that material to make it into a garment itself," Chettero said. "For us to put our label on it, every single layer has to be certified."

In lieu of a certification label, consumers should look for businesses that are members of the Fair Trade Federation, which sets standards for businesses engaging in fair trade.

Fair Indigo is not yet a member, but has applied to be a member of the Fair Trade Federation.

Jonathan Rosenblum, a research analyst with the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison and an expert in labor rights and fair labor standards, is skeptical about Fair Indigo's fair trade claims.

"Who could be against doubling the minimum wage?" Rosenblum said. "But to say it's doubling wages, for those of us who have been working to assure fair labor standards understand it, is not the same thing as saying it's non-sweat (shop)."

Rosenblum said Fair Indigo is making a big claim. And it's one that is not supported by their advertising copy, he said, which gives little indication of the standards employed by the family factories or who is monitoring them to assure wages or conditions are fair.

"I don't think that a U.S. business that's seeking to make the assertion to call itself fair trade needs to produce promotions of factory owners. What it needs to produce is information for consumers that says here's who (the factories) are, where they are and who we sent there," Rosenblum said. "I'm very eager and would like to know that in Middleton, that this is where the cutting edge of change is. But I don't see the evidence of that and I'd like to see that."

With people's interest in fair trade goods growing, Bass sees a chain of stores opening across the country in the next four to five years. He believes the product line will resonate with people in markets like Madison, such as Portland, Ore.; Seattle, San Francisco, Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Boulder, Colo.

It's all much bigger than Behnke envisioned.

Behnke, Fair Indigo's vice president of merchandising, had the "big wow" early last year while working in Japan with Lands' End. Just becoming a consumer of fair trade coffee himself, Behnke went looking on Google for mainstream fair trade clothes. He found little.

"My original pitch was to have a small local business with a store and maybe a Web site and to run it pretty modestly," Behnke said. "Bill and Don came back to me and said it could be much bigger."


[Kentucky] State has slight dip in child poverty

from The Courier Journal

Too many still can't make ends meet

By Marcus Green
The Courier-Journal

Fewer poor children lived in Kentucky last year, the first drop in childhood poverty in three years, according to new U.S. Census estimates.

But the data still paint a grim picture of the state's young and destitute: More than one in five Kentucky children live in poverty, exceeding the national average of 18.5 percent.

Roughly 216,000 children in Kentucky lived below the federal poverty line last year, giving the state the 11th-highest rate in the United States.

For a family of four last year, the poverty line was $19,971, the census bureau reported.

"There's a lot of economic struggle among low- and middle-income families in the commonwealth," said James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research.

"I think that's largely driven by some changes in the economic structure in the commonwealth -- the departure of good-paying manufacturing jobs and the replacement of those jobs with lower-paying, service-related-type jobs."

As a result, some families with low wages are juggling finances to afford child care, rent and groceries. It's a balancing act that forced Katie Pugh of Louisville, a divorced mother of four, to give up phone service.

"Although a phone is important, you know, the water and the electric and the rent take precedence over it," said Pugh, a 24-year-old part-time cashier at an auto-parts store who makes less than $900 a month.

Pugh has no health insurance, although her sons are covered under the state's program for low-income children.

She's one of an estimated 92,000 people living in poverty in Louisville, according to the latest census data.

The census figures provide a four-year snapshot of income and poverty since the United States emerged from the 2001 recession. Over that time, the earnings of Kentucky households failed to keep up with inflation, and the number and rate of poor children increased.

Louisville's child poverty rate of 19.2 percent was slightly higher than the national average.

In Indiana, the child poverty rate rose to nearly 17 percent from 15 percent in 2004. Beryl Cohen, program manager for the nonprofit Indiana Institute for Working Families, said the state has been particularly hard hit with losses in high-paying manufacturing jobs.

"While jobs are starting to come up again, it's in lower-paying, low-wage jobs," Cohen said.

The consequences of childhood poverty often extend to adulthood and beyond. Children who grow up poor are more likely to drop out of school, become teen parents and become unemployed as adults, according to Kentucky Youth Advocates.

Nancy Cauthen, deputy director of the New York-based National Center for Children in Poverty, said ongoing research has debunked myths about poor families. One such myth: Children living in poverty have parents who don't work.

"Nationally, at least two-thirds of children living in poverty have at least one parent who is employed," Cauthen said.
Overall, state falls behind

In 1999, the percentage of Kentuckians living in poverty stood at 12.1 percent -- virtually matching the national average.

But, since then, the difference between the state and federal poverty rates has widened.

"Low-income families really benefited from the boom of the late 1990s, both nationally and definitely in the commonwealth, and so these families have been struggling since the onset of the recession," Ziliak said.

From 2002 to 2005, the earning power of Kentucky households stagnated. The state's median household income last year, $37,369, was actually lower than the comparable, inflation-adjusted income in 2002 of $37,964.

Families below the poverty line often worry about simply making ends meet.

Last year, Jennifer Rice held a job as an airbrush artist and worked at a booth at a Shelby County flea market.

"I couldn't get to that point where I had enough money," said Rice, a 23-year-old single mother with an 11-month-old son.

She now works a $10-per-hour job as an airbrush artist, logging as many as 35 hours in a good week. She is considering going back to college in hopes of making more money.
Push to raise wages

The recent census statistics were released shortly before Kentucky Senate Democrats prefiled a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage.

Kentucky now adheres to the federal rate of $5.15 an hour, but the bill would increase the minimum wage to $7.25 by 2009.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said a higher minimum wage is one way to fight childhood poverty and pledged his group's support of the measure.

"There's a mythology that minimum wage is for teenagers who are working at McDonald's to buy a new iPod -- and that's simply not the case," Brooks said.

State Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Shively Democrat who plans to file a similar minimum wage bill next week, said the current pay rate has not kept up with inflation.

In states that have enacted minimum wage changes, Jenkins said, "it's a plus not only for the workers, but also for the local economy."

But Jim Waters, spokesman for the Bluegrass Institute political think tank, said raising the minimum wage won't help young workers, for example, who might not be hired if employers must pay higher wages.

He also cited research that shows that employees who prove themselves "will not stay at minimum wage."

Reporter Marcus Green can be reached at (502) 582-4675.

[South Africa] Poverty Relief Fund for Land Care Increases

from All Africa

Oupa Segalwe

Improved institutional arrangements have resulted in continued increase in financial support for poverty relief in the country in terms of the land care progamme, a conference heard on Tuesday.

Speaking at the five-day Land Care conference in Nelspruit, North West Agriculture, Conservation and Environment MEC Mandlenkosi Mayisela said this financial support had increased per year from R25 million in 1998 to R68 million for this year.

The increase in funding saw a rapid increase in the number of beneficiaries with the number of projects for the 1998 to 2006 period currently standing at 469 after starting at 14 seven years ago.

This presents small farmers and resource constrained farmers with opportunities to improve the quality of these natural resources and improve productivity per unit of land.

The conference has brought about 700 delegates together from all nine provinces and serves as a build-up towards the International Land Care conference, to be held in Australia next month.

The Land Care programme aims to have communities and individuals adopting an ecologically sustainable approach to the management of the country's environment and natural resources, while improving their livelihoods.

This involves proper management of land and pastures, amongst other things, in such a manner that degradation including soil erosion, nutrient loss and increased run off of water is curbed.

Mr Mayisela said government had set itself a strategic goal to generate equitable access and participation in a globally competitive, profitable and sustainable agricultural sector contributing to a better life for all.

In pursuing this goal, he said, a number of outcomes consistent with the outcomes of the land Care programme, the Expanded Public Works Programme and the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for SA should be achieved.

Such outcomes include increased creation of wealth in agriculture and rural areas, increased sustainable employment, increased incomes, reduced poverty and inequalities in land and enterprise ownership, improved farming efficiency and increased national and household security.

The MEC added that sustainable resource management remained one of the core strategies of the Strategic Plan for the country's agriculture.

"We need to enhance the capacity of our farmers to use the natural agricultural resources in a sustainable manner and to ensure that these resources are used wisely and managed correctly," he said.

He emphasized that farmer participation was the key to the success of the strategy, saying that innovative approaches that link natural resource management to support programmes could provide a win-win situation resulting in short-term economic benefits for farmers.

Mr Mayisela also said the degradation of soil and water resources posed a threat to the productive base of the country.

He said to address the challenge, there had to be strategies in place that were designed to overcome the causes of degradation.

"We also need to invest in infrastructure and services that support sustainable land use."

[UK] Baby-boomers face poverty in old age

from The times Online

By Fran Yeoman
A survey finds that half of those nearing retirement will have to sell their homes to pay for nursing care

THE baby-boom generation is confused and badly prepared for the financial realities of retirement, according to a report published yesterday.

Help the Aged said that the Government’s complicated and unfair benefits system, combined with an overly care-free attitude to old age, meant that many people were not receiving the assistance and advice they needed to avoid poverty.

Nearly two thirds of 924 people survey by the charity had made no plans to fund their care in old age, while 20 per cent said that life was too short to worry about such possibilities.

Almost half (46 per cent) said that they would sell their homes if necessary and 56 per cent expected their savings to cover the costs of a care home despite the fact that they had made no such financial arrangements.

One in five said that they would rely on relatives to cover the bills and 55 per cent thought that their basic state pension, currently £84 per week, would help to cover the £400-per-week average cost of living in a care home. Nearly half expected the Government to contribute to care costs later in life, and 10 per cent of those aged 61 to 65 thought that the state would pay for all their future needs.

Help the Aged said that the Government’s complicated care system was the main reason for the confusion.

It said that there was now a “postcode lottery”, with the state providing different levels of care depending on where a person lived. The charity’s report was published three days before the Government’s consultation on NHS-funded “continuing care” comes to an end.

This year it emerged that more than 5,000 elderly people — one in five residents of NHS nursing homes — were being denied the free care to which they were entitled.

Compensation has since been paid to those who had spent thousands of pounds on care that should have been met by the NHS.

Jonathan Ellis, Help the Aged’s senior policy manager, said: “This research highlights the worrying extent of confusion among people who are at an age when they should be planning ahead, or at least thinking about what future care needs they may have.

“The Government’s current complex system has added to this, succeeding only in fuelling widespread uncertainty about where the state’s responsibility stops and the individual’s begins.” Mr Ellis said that care was a fact of life for one in five older people. “Views held by society that ageing is something that should be feared are perpetuated even further by a care funding system that no one can understand,” he said.

“It is apparent that the public have been led into a false sense of security about what is, and what is not, available to help them if they have care needs.”

Help the Aged called for an end to the “complex and undignified” means-testing system that is said to force many elderly people to sell their homes.

The charity said that it wanted the upper savings limit after which a person pays the full cost of care to be increased from the current level of £21,000, which includes the value of a person’s home.

According to the report, 65 per cent of respondents would be happy to pay more income tax to help to fund pensioners’ care needs.

[Oregon] Minimum Wage Not Enough To Fight Poverty

from KOBI

Written by Laryl Noble

Living wages in Oregon are not meeting the basic needs of families says an advocacy group located in the Rogue Valley.

The findings in the 2006 Northwest Job Gap Study show Oregon’s living wages are at an all time low. We're experiencing it nationwide.

“ We've got to change policies, change minds, and priorities so we have a way to build the middle class again instead of letting it fall apart” says Oregon State Representative Peter Buckley.

The report also shows that in the current economy less than a third of existing jobs pay a living wage for a single parent with two children.

The advocacy group also found that minority families are suffering the most from living wage gaps.

Despite being the largest non-white ethnic group in the state, only 24 percent of Latino households make enough to survive.

The advocates agreed that the idea of a living wage estimated to be $11.38 for a single adult or 18.48 per hour for one adult & child as opposed to a minimum wage of $7.50 per hour would keep more people out of poverty.

[South Africa] Mbeki says callous rich to blame for poverty

from Reuters UK

By David Ljunggren

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Callous wealthy nations are indifferent to the plight of the poor as they pursue selfish policies which enrich the few at the expense of the many, South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Tuesday.

"These billions of poor people are increasingly becoming impatient because every year they hear us adopt declaration after declaration and yet nothing practical is done to assuage the hunger pains that keep them awake at night," he told the United Nations General Assembly.

At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders at the United Nations agreed a series of goals to aid development.

They vowed to cut extreme poverty -- defined as living on less than $1 (53 pence) a day -- by half by 2015 as well as reversing the spread of AIDS.

But Mbeki said poverty was increasing "during an era of unprecedented wealth accumulation and technological advances" and pointed the finger at rich nations, who he said insisted on an unequal relationship with the poor.

"The majority of the human race is entitled to ask the question whether the rich are responding the way they do because the further impoverishment of the poor is to the advantage of the rich," he said.

The Commonwealth of mainly former British colonies, many of them in Africa, last week urged rich nations to keep their promises to end poverty.

Only a handful of developed nations have achieved the goal of spending 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product on international aid.

Mbeki said the rich had directed an "uncaring declaration to the poor of today ... even when they are acutely aware that many in their neighbourhood die of hunger, of preventable diseases and abject poverty".

Mbeki's South Africa is in many ways a microcosm of the global wealth divide, with some of the starkest income disparities in the world and widespread poverty.

But Mbeki himself has been accused by foreign and domestic critics of embracing market-friendly policies at home which have enabled a few blacks to accumulate vast wealth and some to enter the middle class while millions remain stuck in squalor.

Mbeki said the solution to increasing poverty is to reform the United Nations and thereby help overcome "the cold reality of the indifference of the many among the rich and powerful."

[Indonesia] One hundred million to stand up against poverty worldwide in October action

from the Jakarta Post

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Organizars hope a million Indonesians will join some one hundred million people worldwide in standing up on Oct. 15 and 16 to urge governments to reduce poverty.

The campaign, which will be recorded in the book Guinness World Records, is part of a global movement to pressure governments to meet their pledge of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

"We hope that at least 1 million people in Indonesia will stand up in their workplaces, schools, and homes to remind our government to keep its promise to achieve the MDGs by 2015," UN Special Ambassador for MDGs in Asia and the Pacific Erna Witoelar told a press briefing.

In 2000, 189 members of the United Nations pledged to achieve the goals within 15 years. They include reducing by half the percentage of people living on less than a dollar a day; ensuring that all children complete elementary school; eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education; reducing the mortality rate among children under age 5 by two-thirds; reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters; and halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

UN deputy director for the Asia Millennium Campaign Minar Pimple said the participation of Southeast Asia was crucial to accomplishing the goal of 100 million people standing worldwide.

"Last year, around 35 million people joined the campaign to remind political leaders to accomplish the MDGs. Now, we want as many people as possible to be involved in the campaign. Without Indonesia and the Asia-Pacific region, we will never achieve our goal," he said.

Pimple said the movement aimed to persuade wealthier countries to grant debt cancellation to 64 developing countries so that the money could be used to achieve the MDGs.

The campaign also urges developed countries to set a clear time frame to begin contributing 0.7 percent of their GDP to developing countries. In addition, it is attempting to raise awareness of the importance of international fair-trade systems in helping developing countries prosper.

In Indonesia, the stand-up campaign will run from 5 p.m. on Oct. 15 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 16, with thousands of people gathering at the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta to mark its launch.

"Several organizations have expressed their willingness to join the activities. Muhammadiyah, for instance, will call on Muslims to stand up right before breaking the fast on Oct. 15. The total number of stand-up participants will be recorded and added to the global tally," Ratna said.

Despite its success in bringing down child mortality rates and improving education and literacy, Indonesia has seen its number of impoverished citizens increase to 39 million in 2006, compared to 35 million in 2005.

Many analysts claim the real number of poor people is much higher. The Economist magazine pointed out that the government's definition of poverty is an income of Rp 152,847 or less per month, well below the more widely used benchmark of $1 a day. Using the latter standard, it is estimated that more than 80 million Indonesians are living in poverty.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

[New York] To Fight Poverty, Bloomberg Plans Tax Credits and Rewards

from The New York Times


In an effort to reduce the city’s high poverty rate, the Bloomberg administration plans to offer tax credits to impoverished families to offset child care costs and cash rewards to encourage poor people to stay in school and receive preventive medical care.

The tax credits, which would be worth up to $1,000 per child and would need approval from the City Council and the State Legislature, and cash payments would be unique among cities in the United States, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday in announcing the programs.

In a novel effort, the city plans to raise at least $24 million from the private sector to underwrite those rewards, said Linda I. Gibbs, deputy mayor for health and human services.

The mayor announced the plans as part of his response to the recommendations of his Commission on Economic Opportunity, which he convened this year to examine ways to help the roughly 1.5 million New Yorkers who live below the federal poverty level. For a parent with two children, that threshold was $15,735 last year.

The commission’s members were drawn from the upper echelons of the city’s business, nonprofit, academic and social services sectors — with Richard D. Parsons, the chairman of Time Warner, and Geoffrey Canada, who runs one of the most acclaimed antipoverty programs in the country, at its helm. In putting together the recommendations, its leaders traveled to the city’s poorest areas and even overseas to determine what strategies might be most successful.

In keeping with the administration’s emphasis on practical, measurable solutions to civic problems, the commission focused on the working poor, children younger than 6 and young adults, and it recommended creating a system to track progress. In all, those three groups amount to about 700,000 New Yorkers, officials said, slightly less than half of the number of city residents who live in poverty.

Working under the notion that the best antipoverty strategy is a job, the commission also recommended expanding programs aimed at preparing students for college and giving high school students and adults work experience and job training. It also suggested better coordination among agencies to help people get benefits and services, thereby enabling them to seek and hold on to jobs.

As if anticipating criticism that after an enormous investigation and analysis process that engaged hundreds of experts and poor New Yorkers, the commission’s final report was neither bold nor far-reaching enough, Mr. Bloomberg defended the narrowed focus.

“What we’re trying to do is to identify groups here that we believe we know how to help, focus our resources, demand accountability, try things,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “How many people we can help, how much we can improve society, we don’t know. All we know is if we don’t start we will never make any progress.”

Saying that he endorsed the commission’s recommendations enthusiastically, Mr. Bloomberg charged his agencies with developing plans within 60 days.

Administration officials offered few specifics about their new programs, which they said they were still designing.

The payments could range anywhere from $50 to $1,500, officials said, and could be used to reward a range of actions, from scoring well on standardized tests to enrollment in service learning programs, which would funnel high school students into community service work. Officials are also weighing using the approach to spur enrollment in the Nurse-Family Partnership, a home visitation program that focuses on low-income first-time parents.

City officials said that they did not know of another such cash incentive program in the United States, but that the approach has had success in Mexico and has been used in several other countries. Still, it is in keeping with Mr. Bloomberg’s approach of engaging the private sector to encourage certain behavior with financial rewards, as he did with a program that offered shopping and dining discounts to protesters who remained peaceful during the Republican National Convention.

The child care tax credit, which would be available to families earning $30,000 or less who use accredited child care services for children younger than 3, would cost about $42 million, city officials said. The plan is most likely to get a sympathetic hearing in the City Council, which has called for such a credit in the past.

Mr. Bloomberg said that the city would create and expand college preparation programs like the collaboration with the City University of New York that allows high school students to take college courses. He also said that the city would create a program at its public hospitals to recruit home health care aides and subsidize their training to become nurses.

Reaction to the report was tempered, with advocates and officials praising the mayor’s focus on the issue but raising concerns about the lack of specific proposals.

Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said he was disappointed that the report did not offer “particular strategies to address city policies that continue to increase hunger.”

Members of Community Voices Heard, an antipoverty group that advised the commission, worried that the focus on specific populations would ignore the problems of others, like the unemployed.

“When we actually see the action plans from the agencies,” said Sandra Killett, co-chairwoman of the board of directors, “then we will better be able to assess what the real benefits to people in poverty will be.”

And City Councilman Bill de Blasio, chairman of the General Welfare Committee, said that Mr. Bloomberg was not vigorous enough in pressuring the private sector to raise wages or the state and federal governments to subsidize programs.

“I don’t feel that he’s holding the federal government and state government and private sector to the same standard that he’s holding himself,” Mr. de Blasio said.

The City Council has scheduled a hearing on the report for Thursday.

Monday, September 18, 2006

[Chicago] Poverty rates rise in many suburbs

from The Chicago Tribune

Census data tie hike to continued influx of poor minorities

By Sara Olkon and Darnell Little

Bertha Mares, a mother of four, has neither a job nor a husband. A quiet pragmatism settled over her on a recent afternoon as she waited 20 minutes for a food pantry in Cicero to open its doors.

Eventually, the 30-year-old widow left with a plastic sack of groceries: canned chicken breast, soup, Hamburger Helper, Triscuits and mashed potatoes. Mares relies on this sort of aid, along with food stamps and $1,200 a month in Social Security benefits.

At a time of relative prosperity in the region, Mares is poor, and used to it. For her, seeking hand-me-downs and help from relatives is part of the routine.

In much of suburban Chicago, poverty rates are rising, according to information released by the U.S. Census Bureau late last month. More and more, the data suggest, that is tied to the growing movement of immigrants and minorities, especially Hispanics, to the suburbs.

In Cicero, Hispanics grew from 77 percent of the population in 2000 to 85 percent in 2005, while the town's poverty rate rose from 15.5 percent to 19 percent. And the poverty rate among just Hispanics was even higher last year, at 20 percent.

It is not a lack of jobs, but the influx of a largely low-skilled workforce, trying to find its way in a service economy, that explains the shift, said Paul Jargowsky, an associate professor of political economy at the University of Texas at Dallas who tracks poverty rates around the country.

Several studies in recent years indicate that pattern is playing out in communities around Chicago and other cities, both in inner-ring suburbs and, to a lesser degree, some wealthier towns.

The recent census figures show the poverty rate in suburban Cook County rose to 8.2 percent in 2005, up from 6.4 percent in 1999. The figure was 5.3 percent in 1989.

"It's big families and a lot of people who don't have tons of education," said Cris Pope, director of the Interfaith Leadership Project in Cicero. "That dictates what kinds of jobs they can get."

Jobs like the one Sergio Guadarrama works, if he can. Most days, the 32-year-old native of Mexico City begins his day perched by the roadside leading to the Home Depot on Cicero Avenue. He and a dozen or so other day laborers jockey for the chance to install drywall or repair a roof for a stranger. On a good day--when a contractor pays him as promised--he can make $130.

Bad days are not surprising. Never mind that few contractors provide worker's compensation or other benefits.

"Nothing is secure here," said Guadarrama, who tucked his curly brown hair under a Chicago Blackhawks cap. He has worked the last five years as a temporary hired hand.

With his wife and two children nearby in their $650-per-month Cicero apartment, a few days of shorted wages or heavy rain could spell big trouble.

The allure of more affordable housing in a nice setting is a major drawing card for many suburbs, but even in a blue-collar town like Cicero, the prices are high enough to drive some to extremes.

David Boyle, a community activist who has lived in Cicero since 1982, said he has seen single-family homes house as many as 20 people.

"You can walk into almost any bungalow in Cicero and you will find that the front room and dining room are crowded with mattresses," he said. "The landlords have figured out that they can charge $150 a month for a little baby mattress for an adult male."

For Felipe and Rebecca Roque, housing is secure for now, but money worries still consume them.

Felipe Roque works in maintenance at an apartment complex in Chicago. He takes home about $1,800 a month, a paycheck stretched thin to support the couple and their five children, ages 4, 9, 11, 13 and 20.

"He really uses his credit cards," said Rebecca Roque, explaining how their children were able to buy shoes for school this year. The children are quickly outgrowing their year-old school uniforms, but the clothes must do for now.

They still owe $68,000 on the four-bedroom home they bought in 1995. With food, clothes and utilities, that leaves little wiggle room for household repairs.

Sometimes Rebecca Roque, who volunteers at a nearby Salvation Army church, is able to take home leftovers. Trips to McDonald's or Old Country Buffet are saved for very special occasions--at most four times a year.

The Roques look forward to the day when their oldest will contribute to the household and their youngest is in school, so Rebecca can go back to work as a cook. Then, they say, they will be able to fix up the house and not lean so heavily on credit.

Cicero town spokesman Dan Proft called the new census numbers "a good news-bad news type of thing."

"More people are coming to seek opportunity, [but] they come with very little," he said. "It takes awhile to get your feet under you."

Proft said the town is committed to job creation through economic development.

"The great solution to a lot of this is a job--a consistent, reliable paycheck," he said.

[World Bank - IMF] Wolfowitz suggests ways to fight poverty

from The Houston Chronicle


SINGAPORE — Fighting corruption topped the agenda of the World Bank's gathering Monday in Singapore, with the institution's President Paul Wolfowitz stressing that accountability and transparency are essential for promoting economic growth and fighting poverty.

The point is to ensure that money goes where it is needed and is used most effectively, Wolfowitz said in a statement to the World Bank's policy-planning committee.

"Sound principles of accountability and transparency not only assure funds are spent as intended, but also are essential to accelerating economic growth, helping poor to escape poverty," said Wolfowitz, who has come under fire for decisions by the World Bank to block funding to countries accused of corruption.

Still, Wolfowitz said the bank, whose mission is to provide funding to fight poverty, said international aid donors must not abandon the poor because their governments or institutions are weak.

"That would mean they would be penalized twice," he said.

After Wolfowitz, the former U.S. deputy defense secretary, took over as president of the World Bank last year, the Washington-based institution suspended funding for more than $1 billion for projects in Africa and Asia because of allegations of corruption.

The World Bank's decision to suspend funding for many projects in Africa and Asia due to corruption allegations infuriated many countries, especially in Africa. They contend that poor people are being penalized for abuses by government officials and businesses.

"There is this belief that we are not doing enough. But nobody has told us what that 'enough' means," Kenya's Finance Minister Amos Kimunya told The Associated Press. "Nobody has added any item to what we are already doing."

In Kenya, the World Bank has held back funding for five projects, including one on education and another on AIDS, because of allegations of corruption, he said. Although Kenya has met all conditions for the loans, disbursals have been delayed because the allegations have yet to be investigated, he said.

According to the World Bank, $1 trillion in bribes change hands worldwide every year. The bank itself has uncovered 2,000 cases of alleged fraud, corruption and other misconduct related to its projects since 1999 and has sanctioned more than 330 companies and people, it says.

The World Bank says it has resumed funding for projects after recipient countries promised to bring safeguards against corruption.

The bank's policy-setting development committee met Monday to discuss a strategy paper on anti-graft efforts in countries receiving the bank's loans.

"Bank shareholders expect the bank to do all it can to ensure that the resources it provides will not be wasted," the draft strategy paper said. It said the bank would focus on good governance, using anticorruption teams, field-based governance advisors and anticorruption action plans for projects.

Wolfowitz and other delegates attending the annual meeting of the bank and the International Monetary Fund spoke of a growing consensus on the urgency of the problem.

"Everywhere you go, whether it is the taxi driver or the governments, will tell you bad governance is the reason for poverty, the lack of development," Wolfowitz said.

Speaking on behalf of 21 African countries, Kenya's Kimunya said Sunday that every country has its own way to deal with corruption and that there cannot be a uniform prescription to deal with the problem.

Wolfowitz emphasized that the bank would do whatever it can to help alleviate poverty, finding ways to meed basic needs while working with governments to resolve disputes over graft allegations.