Saturday, June 30, 2007

Poverty stalks Utahns

from the Deseret News

Rate is rising despite low jobless figures

By Angie Welling

As a state, Utah's poverty rate consistently falls below the national average, but plenty of Utahns struggle daily to meet basic needs for their families, advocates for the poor said this week.

"There are poor people in Utah," said Heather Tritten, executive director of the Utah Community Action Partnership Association, speaking at Monday's official release of the organization's first-ever data book on poverty.

Information contained in the report aligns with that of other recent studies: The state's poverty rate continues to rise even as the unemployment rate drops, rising housing costs have outstripped wage increases, and a growing number of Utah children are uninsured.

The 60-page book, which includes county-specific data, is meant as a guide for policymakers and service providers, Tritten said.

"It's for people to understand this data, so we can better find solutions," she said.
Utah's 2005 poverty rate was 10.2 percent, up from 9.4 percent in 2000, according to Monday's report. Although that is below the national rate of 13.3 percent in 2005, 11 of the state's 29 counties have rates above the national average.

San Juan County, in southeastern Utah, is among the nation's poorest counties, with a 31.4 percent poverty rate, the report states.

Additionally, 14 percent of Utah households have no net worth, meaning a complete lack of assets. This is of particular concern, Tritten said, because even the smallest financial setback can send the families spiraling into poverty.

"Those families are making it right now because they have a job, but if something happens, they probably can't recover from that," she said.

Another threat to families already on the edge is the rising cost of health care and increased numbers of uninsured children, advocates said.

"If they get sick, that can make a family that's barely making it fall off the edge and into poverty," Tritten said.

Between 2001 and 2006, according to the data book, the rate of uninsured Utah children grew by 63.3 percent. For low-income children, the increase was even more significant, at 90.4 percent.

Perhaps the only good news in the report, Tritten said, was the figure noting that low-income Utahns received more than $244 million through the federal Earned Income Tax Credit in 2005.

"This is one way that people can start building assets and get out of a cycle of poverty," she said.

The entire data book is available at

Three million Romanians live in poverty

from Radio Netherlands

The UN Millennium Goals: The fight against poverty (1)

by Thijs Papôt

The Romanian capital of Bucharest isn't one of the poorest cities in the world. But considering the country joined the rich countries' club - the European Union - at the beginning of this year, poverty in the city is at a disproportionate level. And it's visible.

Showroom manager Mike Costache proudly shows us a 'Gran Turismo', the latest model by exclusive Italian car manufacturer Maserati. The price tag is upwards of 130,000 euros and this year he's already sold 15. "We're considering opening a new showroom in Kluj (a town in the north of Romania, ed.) because there's so much demand." Who are the customers? Mr Costache will say no more than "people in the financial sector". Judging by the stylish appearance of Dorobanti Street, where the showroom is located, there's plenty of trade at the luxury end of Romania's car market. This is where the new rich go to show off their affluence.

Painful transition

If you base your impression on this street, you might conclude that Romania is rapidly catching up with the standard of welfare in the rest of the European Union, the "rich countries' club" to which it has belonged since 1 January this year. After the fall of communist dictator Nicolai Ceausescu in 1989, Romania experienced a painful transition from planned to free market economy. The relative security of an assured income disappeared and the traditional agricultural sector proved to be no longer viable, so a large section of the rural population in particular were plunged into deep poverty.

But since 2000, the country has been experiencing steady economic growth - at a rate of 7.7 percent in 2006. While GNP per capita was only 6800 dollars in 2000, six years later it has climbed to 9165 dollars. It's a leap forwards, but still a long way from the Western European average, and what's more, this is an average figure with extremes on either side. According to the World Bank, 15 per cent of the Romanian population still live below the poverty line. "A lot of people at the bottom end of society have lost out in the economic transition," warns Mariana Stanciu of the Romanian Research Institute for Quality of Life.

"We're seeing new phenomena: parents emigrate and leave their children behind. It's not clear how the children survive," she continues. "The elderly are also a concern. The poverty is visible, people beg, even if they have an income or a pension."

No social safety net
Romania is a country with no social safety net, as Vasile Vasin discovered. Due to a law that enables people to claim ownership of pre-war property, he lost his home. "A four-room apartment I bought 32 years ago." He is now expected to find a rented house, with no financial compensation. "On an income of 400 lei (about 125 euros) that's impossible" says 63-year-old Mr Vasin, who was a builder all his working life but now has to get by on disability benefit. He currently lives with his wife Greta and their dog in a 1985 Dacia Logan - a car that West Europeans would recognise as a Renault 12 - parked outside his former home.

A sign next to the car doesn't beg for money but simply draws attention to their plight. "Look there are no lights on, the new owner isn't even living there," says Greta Vasin. "But where are we supposed to go? Here at least we still get our post." There's a toilet in the café round the corner and they can take a shower at their family's house. But the family can't really come to their aid." They've got problems of their own and no room to take us in," says Mr Vasin. The couple have been living in the car since Christmas. But is it an option to spend the rest of your life in a car? "Ah, we haven't got so many years left," says Mr Vasin bitterly.

"In this situation it would be worth considering leaving the city," says Mariana Stanciu. "It's true that living standards in Bucharest are quite a bit higher than they are in the countryside, but life can still be harder in the city. In the countryside people at least have the chance to grow their own vegetables. That's why there are initiatives to move pensioners to the countryside. It's easier for them to survive there."

Country Gets US$40M for the Fourth Poverty Reduction Support Operation

from All Africa

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved an International Development Association (IDA) credit of US$40 million to support Benin’s poverty reduction strategy.

The fourth Poverty Reduction Support Credit (PRSC4) is the first in a series of programs that will support the Republic of Benin’s new Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction (SCRP) adopted by Government in February 2007. Since 2003, the Bank has provided direct budget support to the Republic of Benin through a series of three Poverty Reduction Support Credits (PRSC1-3) that helped the country to maintain macroeconomic stability.

Like its predecessors, PRSC4 will complement the resources of the Republic of Benin and other Development Partners to fund priority programs covering three key areas of the Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction:

* Improving the policy environment for private investments
* Improving access to basic services and ensuring greater efficiency of public expenditures on human capital formation
* Promoting better governance through financial management, civil service and justice reforms.

According to William Experton, the World Bank Task Team Leader of the PRSC4: “The one shift of emphasis most strongly articulated by the Beninese Government in its Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction, is the development of a favorable business environment. This central element requires an increase in competitiveness of the economy, which means improvement in the business climate and private sector development. We believe that through this operation Benin will get back on a steady path to economic growth, as government continues its efforts to promote good governance and reduce corruption.”

The first PRSC for Benin, totaling to US$20 million contributed to the country's macroeconomic stability through the strengthening of public expenditure management and private sector development. It also provided crucial expenditure for basic human development programs in education, health, water and sanitation.

The second PRSC (US$30 millions) mainly supported agriculture, rural transport, and the justice sector.

The third PRSC (US$30 million) focused on economic growth, good governance, improved public expenditure management, and financial decentralization.

With the newly approved PRSC4, the Government of Benin has received a cumulative total of US$120 million (around FCFA 60 millions) in direct budget support from the Bank since 2003.

For more information on the World Bank’s work in sub-Saharan Africa visit:

For more information on the World Bank’s work in Benin visit:

For more information about this project visit:

Aboriginal poverty, neglect is our own backyard

from The Sydney Morning herald

Erin O'Dwyer

AS troops and doctors descend on the Top End to tackle the national indigenous crisis, NSW communities are quietly waging battles of their own.

At Bowraville, on the Mid North Coast, young lives are being wasted by substance abuse, severe truancy and parental neglect.

The scale of the problem has prompted one front-line community doctor to call for welfare benefits to be paid in kind to Aboriginal families so children are properly clothed and fed.

Dr Vivian Tedeschi, from Bowraville Aboriginal Health Clinic, said truancy and child neglect were major problems in the town.

"Welfare payments [should be] paid out in kind, or in vouchers, so that payments go directly to food, clothes for the kid, school costs and rent," she said. "If you throw money at people for doing nothing, they will do nothing. It's displaced white and government guilt."

Dr Tedeschi, mother of acclaimed concert pianist Simon Tedeschi, left her practice in Willoughby on Sydney's North Shore to work on the Bowraville mission.

She said she knew of one 11-year-old boy who had attended school twice in the past three years. Another mother sent her child to school every day but he did not arrive.

"It must be emphasised that there are many, many Aboriginal children who go to school every day and never miss a day," she said. "But there is a small group who truant regularly."

Dr Tedeschi said substance abuse was often to blame, and not only among the parents. One seven-year-old boy habitually smoked marijuana. "The parents make great noises and promise [to send them to school] and it doesn't happen," she said.

Substance abuse often prevented parents from being able to get out of bed in the morning and get their children off to school, Dr Tedeschi said, adding that one mother told her: "I've got problems with drugs, I don't have money to buy shoes - we're alcoholics."

NSW National Party leader Andrew Stoner, who represents the region, said Bowraville was typical of Aboriginal communities across NSW. "It's right in your backyard - don't turn a blind eye to it. As long as the community does, little children will continue to get hurt."

A breakfast program - attended by almost half of the 320 children enrolled at Bowraville Central - was welcome, Mr Stoner said. But it indicated the extent of the problem.

Breakfast programs are an attempt by community groups to ensure children's basic needs are met.

Barwon state MP Kevin Humphries said funding was so scarce that police officers acted as quasi social workers.

He said in towns such as Burke, Brewarrina, Wilcannia and Moree, police were rescuing at-risk children from the street and keeping them in holding cells because there were no safe houses. A Northern Territory-style military takeover would be the state's only option unless urgent action was taken, he said.

Inspector Mark Minehan, the local area commander for Moree, said police were involved in breakfast programs but denied police were taking children back to the station.

Bowraville mother of six Marjory Buchanan urged stable Aboriginal families to foster children in need. She and her partner, Thomas Duroux, who are in their 50s, have applied to foster another child after their foster daughter turned 18.

"Aboriginal carers are needed urgently," she said. "They haven't got enough for all these poor kids."
Source: The Sun-Herald

‘I'm sick and tired of the poverty, the sadness'

from The Globe and Mail


From Saturday's Globe and Mail

DESERONTO, ONT. — Ask Shawn Brant why he's out here dressed in combat fatigues, blocking highways and rail traffic, and he quickly rhymes off a host of reasons why Canadians should pay urgent attention to native needs.

But ask him what first motivated him to take on such a role, and the Ontario Mohawk falls silent.

It was 1989, and Mr. Brant's wife was late into her pregnancy with twin girls. While she was drawing water from the well because they had no running water, she had an accident. The girls died shortly after birth.

“I have three children. I should have had five,” the 43-year-old said Friday, his voice trailing off.

It was in those moments that the issue of aboriginal poverty struck him hardest, motivating him to become the figure he is today: a man not afraid to take military-style action to voice native concerns.

“I thought it was unfair that it happened at all,” he said of the death of his twins. “It certainly brought up issues like poverty and polluted water [on native reserves].”

Mr. Brant has said he has a number of heroes, including Jesus, Malcolm X and Geronimo.

“I grew up in a house with no running water and electricity,” he told the CBC. “On the wall was a poster, no pictures. Just a poster of Geronimo with a rifle in front of him, that famous picture – it says: ‘I'd rather be red than dead' – I grew up looking at that. If I could be seen to be a little bit like that, I'd be pleased – but that's hard.

“I've been told a lot about principles and philosophy. I guess I generally always took to learn when I heard about Gandhi. I never really gave much consideration because we are not people that just sit on our hands, but I actually found out that it's not what it was about. Malcolm X is a huge hero of mine. And it's kind of embarrassing to say, but I also looked as one of my heroes as Jesus. Not in a religious sense at all, but as a man, as a true great revolutionary who ran around. And they were armed – dozens or so of them – and they knocked the hell out of people, kicked tables over, booted people out and lived a life of righteousness and truth and honour, and that kind of struck me as well.”

That very much, as well, is one of my heroes, but again, not in a religious sense.”

Mr. Brant, a slight, tall man with hair just below his shoulders, has had his share of clashes, one of them resulting in him taking up temporary residence in a school bus. He has been known to trash the offices of politicians, including Jim Flaherty's Whitby constituency office in 2001, when Mr. Flaherty was Ontario's finance minister.

Over the past two days, as part of the National Day of Action, the ringleader managed to shut down Canada's busiest highway for 11 hours, as well as place blockades on a section of a secondary highway and a stretch of nearby railway track.

This comes despite Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, calling for no disruptions – and Mr. Brant's own chief distancing himself from blockade-type action.

But Mr. Brant has his own tight-knit band of supporters within the Bay of Quinte Mohawks, many of them teenagers who set up camp overnight blocking the secondary highway. He gathers them around several times to explain the situation.

, slowly puffing on his cigarette. They listen attentively to his requests.

“We just didn't see any other way ... in dealing with these issues,” said Mr. Brant, who, moments before, had brokered a deal with the Ontario Provincial Police to reopen Highway 401.

“… nothing has ever made us a priority within the government,” he said. “I'm absolutely sick and tired of having our kids committing suicide, or drinking polluted water. I'm sick and tired of the overcrowding, the poverty, the sadness.”

The protest prompted the OPP to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Brant on charges of mischief.

This is not unfamiliar territory for Mr. Brant. He is currently out on bail on mischief charges and for disobeying a court order in connection with the 30-hour blockade of the CN rail line also here in Deseronto in April.

“Getting arrested is a reality. I've been sitting in a quarry for 94 days and if I sat in the quarry for that long, then I can certainly sit in jail for that long,” he said.

Indeed, a school bus has been his temporary quarters as his group protested against a developer's plan to build condominiums using material from a quarry on land they claim is theirs.

Mr. Brant may speak a tough line, but he's also not afraid to pull the plug on his protests when he senses a violent clash.

“When we began, I promised [my group] I'd bring them all home. That may not necessarily be the same with me,” he said, referring to the arrest warrant.

Mr. Brant describes his personality as “uncompromising.”

But authorities take heed: He says he's a lot softer today than he was in the years after the death of his twin girls. “I was a nutbar back then,” he said.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Women to Explore Strategies to Eradicate Poverty

from All Africa

BuaNews (Tshwane)

By Bathandwa Mbola

South African women are to exchange poverty eradication strategies and explore new and effective solutions to place women at the centre of action against poverty in the country.

Hosted by the South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) set to start next Monday, the four day conference, aimed at eradicating poverty, will be attended by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka.

Under the theme: "From Dialogue to Development: Women Uniting to Eradicate Poverty" the conference will be a direct response to the 2003 and 2005 SAWID Programmes of Action.

"(The conference) will bring together women development practitioners, researchers and academics, women in civil society and the private sector, women working in communities, faith-based organisations and youth structures," SAWID said in a statement, Thursday.

"It is expected that at least 60 percent of the participants will be women from peri-urban and rural communities who are mostly unemployed or self-employed, but actively involved in programmes to improve the lives of people."

In September 2006, SAWID Patron, Zanele Mbeki and a delegation of 15 visited Chile and Tunisia as part of a study on the poverty eradication strategies of these two countries who have managed to fulfil the first Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty long before 2015.

Since then SAWID has resolved to design its own poverty eradication strategy aimed at:

* targeting poorest families and marginalised communities with a basket of services and sundry infrastructure;

* creating state-supported delivery mechanisms in addition to departmental line functions;

* partnering with non-governmental service-providers;

* creating a special fund to support infrastructure linkage of poor communities to mainstream municipalities using government, private sector and citizen financial contributions; and

* mobilising civil society towards social cohesion and national unity against poverty.

According to SAWID this will be achieved through its "Development Caravan" program which provides and supports identified communities.

"This non-governmental poverty eradication programme will target indigent families in select nodal areas with a basket of services and physical infrastructure in partnership with government (their municipalities), private sector and training and research institutions."

SAWID is an independent women's platform committed to hearing the voice of every woman and to improving the status of women by engaging national government, the private sector, civil society including non-governmental organisations, community-based organizations, faith-based organisations and donors, in a partnership to shape community, provincial and continental agendas.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Strike is a poverty fight

from The Independent On Line

By Sharlene Packree

The national civil servants strike has been described as a turning point in South African history and is set to put poverty at the forefront of issues being discussed by the government.

These are the views of Trevor Ngwane, a former Soweto councillor who addressed delegates - who included scientists, researchers and policymakers - at the Poverty Challenge 2007 conference being held in Durban.

Delegates from around the world are attending the conference to discuss new ideas and strategies on how the global community can tackle poverty.

Some of the topics to be discussed will be politics and poverty, social welfare, youth and poverty and education policies for poverty reduction.

Ngwane was one of the panelists who spoke at the Politics and Poverty session along with Independent Democratic leader Patricia de Lille.

He said: "In South Africa we are living in a historical moment. The public sector strike represents a defining moment in our history."

He told delegates that if the poor wanted to change things, they should take a united national stand against the government.

"Last year, we saw the security guards' strike and the cleaners' strike. The current public strike is a culmination of all these strikes. We are fighting against poverty. People are gatvol with the government as there has been a series of attacks on the working class and the poor," he said.

The outspoken Ngwane who received huge applause, said the poor needed power and force to fight against policies that create poverty.

He described the national strike as a powerful action that created a new centre of authority for ordinary people.

"All the worker unions have shown their solidarity during the national strike. Things will never be the same again," said Ngwane.

De Lille agreed with Ngwane, saying the strike has done a "world of good" for the poor and working class.

"Government always talks about the poor but not with the poor. There is a constant debate about statistics and whether it has increased or decreased.

"We need to take a hard look at ourselves and ask why we have poverty in South Africa," she said.

De Lille also said the governments could spend billions on soccer stadiums but couldn't find the one or two percent needed for civil servants wage increases.

"We need solutions, not policies. There's no consultation with the poor. The poor need a voice," she said.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Co-op credit system gets $600mn WB boost

from The Business Standard

The World Bank today sanctioned a $600 million financial assistance for restructuring of India’s rural credit cooperatives to improve access to finance for poor farmers.

The Strengthening Rural Credit Cooperatives Project will reform and revitalise 31 state cooperative banks, 367 district central cooperative banks and over 100,000 primary agricultural credit societies.

"Better access to finance for India’s rural poor is absolutely critical for higher rural growth, for reducing inequality, and ultimately, alleviating poverty," said Isabel Guerrero, World Bank Country Director for India.

The 12 states which have signed up to the reform programme are - Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Harayana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

According to World Bank estimates, 87% of marginal farmers and 70% of small farmers have no access to credit from a formal financial institution in India.

Africa: Experts Fret Over Blair's Legacy On Continent

from All Africa

Abimbola Akosile

As Mr. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of United Kingdom bows out of office this week, analysts are wondering if his legacy for Africa's growth and development can be sustained by his successor, Mr. Gordon Brown.

Analysing the legacy in a discussion, Mr. Simon Maxwell, Director of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), claimed trade talks are failing and aid volume to Africa is way below target.

"Africa was on the agenda in Germany because Blair won Merkel over. He persuaded her not to focus exclusively on her preferred topic, energy security. This was a brave decision, because Germany is one of the countries in the firing line for not meeting pledges made at Blair's own G8, at Gleneagles, in 2005", Maxwell said.

Blair set up the Africa Commission, which reported two years ago and which provided the intellectual framework for a 'big push' on Africa. It recommended doubling aid by 2010, from $50bn to $100bn, of which an extra $25bn for Africa, along with a deal on debt and agreement on trade.

"Gleneagles marked a high point in the international commitment to Africa, and was the result of a sustained campaign by Tony Blair and other members of the Government. Remember Gordon Brown's initiatives on debt relief, on HIV/AIDS, on education. And remember Hilary Benn, helping to build the grand bargain of 2005, in which the West promised more aid and a better trade deal, and in return, Africa promised democracy, good governance and the rule of law. No government has given this issue such profile and such priority, both at home and internationally", he said.

The director added that at Gleneagles. Africa was promised its aid, also debt relief for 18 of the poorest countries, an end to export subsidies, and universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS and malaria.

"Two years on, the UK and some others have delivered, but many have not. Debt relief matters and has made a difference. In December, Sierra Leone became the 21st country, and the 17th in Africa, to reach 'completion point' under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries scheme, becoming eligible for 100% debt cancellation from the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank".

To him, the aid picture is less encouraging. The latest figures, issued by the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD, show that aid to Africa increased by only 2 per cent last year. Italy's aid fell by 30 per cent; US aid fell by 20 per cent; Japanese aid fell by 10 per cent. Germany's went up, but by less than 1 per cent. UK aid rose by 13 per cent.

"Despite the shortfall, Africa is growing faster than at any time since the 1960s, partly boosted by debt relief and aid, but more by the impact of China's demand for natural resources, which has driven the terms of trade sharply in Africa's favour. Growth in per capita income is 4 per cent, faster than developed countries. Poverty is falling, too: down from 46 per cent to 41 per cent in the past five years. The numbers are still too high, of course, and with population rising, the absolute number of poor people has barely changed, at 300 million living below one dollar a day".

"Nevertheless, it is better to have growth and relative poverty reduction than not. At the same time, democracy is spreading and governance standards are rising, though too slowly. Africa's own institutions are getting stronger, especially through the African Union. Africa remains the poorest continent. Darfur is a real scar on the conscience of the world. But there is good news in Africa", he said.

The economist urged that growth in Africa needs to reach Asian levels, while decrying health and education standards, which are still woeful by global standards.

He said, "Africa faces the new challenge of global warming. Climate change has been another Blair campaign of great relevance to Africa. As the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change has reported, Africa is especially at risk".

"A rise of 2 degrees in average temperature could decimate the coffee industry in Uganda, for example. Across the continent, according to the IPCC, yields from rain-fed agriculture could fall by 50% by as early as 2020. Across the world, at least 250 million people will be exposed to water stress".

"The poorest are always most at risk. That is why Tony Blair has been right to keep pressing Africa's case in the international arena, and why Gordon Brown will want and need to continue. There is a legacy of vision, of will, and of UK action, which must be geared to deliver an international legacy of collective responsibility", Maxwell said.

Oxfam cleared of Fairtrade coffee claims

from News Com Australia

OXFAM Australia did not mislead the public by claiming Fairtrade coffee helped lift some of the world's poorest farmers out of poverty, the consumer watchdog has found.

In April, two Melbourne academics lodged formal complaints with the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) saying farmers were paid very little for their beans and Fairtrade coffee should not be promoted as helping improve third world conditions.

But today, the ACCC dismissed the claim.

In a letter to Oxfam, the consumer watchdog said the matter did not raise particular concerns under the Trade Practices Act so it did not need to be pursued.

Oxfam Australia executive director Andrew Hewett said he was pleased by the outcome.

"It vindicates thousands of Australian consumers and millions worldwide who choose Fairtrade products knowing they help poor farmers trade their way out of poverty,'' he said.

The term Fairtrade refers to an independent certification and labelling system that ensures coffee growers and producers are given a fair go.

Mr Hewett said that means farmers receive a fair price for their product, gain skills and knowledge to develop their businesses worldwide and receive benefits from the sale of their products.

Fairtrade also allows farmers to use improved environmental methods, to start local community development projects, have access to low-cost credit and technical assistance, he said.

"Oxfam encourages Australians everywhere to purchase Fairtrade products to help make a difference to the lives of some of the world's poorest farmers,'' Mr Hewett said.

ZERO SEVEN Making Poverty History

from X Press Online

This Sunday, July 1, five of Australia’s hottest acts will drive in to town as part of the Make Poverty History Zero Seven Road Trip.

Having started in Melbourne, the road trip’s Perth leg will see Borne, Bias B, Custom Kings, True Live and Bliss ‘N’ Esso take to the Metro City stage, with a high energy, thought provoking show.

The Australian Make Poverty History Coalition is part of the international alliance and comprises of more than 50 not-for-profit organisations including The Oaktree and Reach Foundations and will see hundreds of specially selected and trained young Aussies aged between 16-26 travel across the country to spread the message about eradicating poverty.

Make Poverty History Zero Seven will feature the likes of Guy Sebastian, TV Rock, Dallas Crane, Blue King Brown, Little Birdy and Evermore playing around the nation and seeks to raise awareness of extreme poverty and encourage the Australian government to increase Australia’s foreign aid contribution, whilst providing a fun and entertaining environment.

Director of the Oaktree Foundation and one of the coordinators of the event, Hugh Evans says “We want to encourage all Australians to face up to the global challenge of making poverty history.”

The team behind the massive campaign are also urging Australians to pledge their support by sending a multimedia message of their face to 0447 33 FACE as part of Australia’s biggest face petition.

Tickets to the five concerts are currently on sale now, and are available through Ticketmaster. For more details head to (.)

X-Press has 15 double passes to give away. Simply send your details to before 12pm Friday.

'No medical cards' for those at risk of poverty

from Ireland On Line

Nearly a quarter of a million people at risk of poverty were unable to get a medical card because their incomes were slightly above the eligibility threshold the Combat Poverty Agency (CPA) claimed today.

Access to medical cards, the CPA claimed, is the most immediate and effective measure to reduce health inequalities and improve access to health services for low income groups.

Research showed that in 2005, 229,000 people at risk of poverty did not have a medical card. Of these, 43,000 people were living in consistent poverty.

The Director of the CPA, Helen Johnston, said: "There is a need to ensure that the medical card threshold is indexed to the poverty line so that people on low incomes can attend their GP when they need to, regardless of their ability to pay.

"We need to recognise this reality in parallel with the role that public policy has to play in creating conditions for people to lead healthier lives," she added.

The findings come after a study undertaken by the CPA and the Economic and Social Research Institute, found that poverty and poor health are interlinked.

It shows that the pattern of health in the population closely follows the pattern of social inequalities in terms of income, education, social class and poverty.

Co-author the ESRI report, Professor Richard Layte, said that policies to reduce the reduce socio-economic inequalities in health cannot be dealt with the Department of Health and Children alone.

"Policies to reduce inequities will need to be formulated and implemented on a cross departmental basis, preferably with strong inter-departmental co-ordination," Prof Layte said.

World Bank loan to fund India's rural poverty fight

from The Washington Post

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The World Bank said on Wednesday it had approved a $600 million loan for India to help it revamp thousands of ailing rural cooperative banks and fight village poverty through cheap loans.

"Better access to finance for India's rural poor is absolutely critical for higher rural growth, for reducing inequality and ultimately, alleviating poverty," Isabel Guerrero, the bank's country director for India, said in a statement.

Last year, India approved a 135.96 billion rupee ($3.32 billion) package to refinance loss-making cooperative banks so they could start lending to poor farmers at cheaper rates.

It sought multilateral cash to part-finance the project.

So far, 12 of India's 29 states have sought financial help for their cooperative banks.

About 87 percent of marginal Indian farmers and 70 percent of small farmers have no access to credit from a formal financial institution, the World Bank said, adding they often have to rely on "extortionate" money lenders.

Thousands of farmers have committed suicide in recent years across India's sprawling western and southern plateau because they could not repay loans taken for their crops.

The absence of cheaper credit prevents farmers from adopting the latest technology, or buying quality seeds and fertilizers.

India's economy expanded by a red-hot 9.4 percent in 2006/07 but farm growth lagged seriously behind at just 2.7 percent. In May, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a 250 billion rupee package over four years to boost farm growth and tackle pervasive poverty in villages which are home to nearly 70 percent of the country's 1.1 billion people.

The move followed a poor showing by the ruling Congress party-led coalition in several state elections.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Madagascans rush to booming microfinance market

from The Khaleej Times

ANTANANARIVO - In Madagascar’s impoverished capital, the establishment of three new microcredit banks this year alone confirms the huge interest for such lending programmes from small bank-shy entrepreneurs.

‘I took out a loan to buy material and develop new, more modern products,’ says 30-year-old Faly Andrianantenaina, who runs a small clothes shop in the heart of the teeming labyrinth of Antananarivo’s main market.

‘With a traditional bank, the interest rate is too high and the application process too complicated. But with Microcred, it was very simple and more importantly very quick,’ he says.

The local branch of French-based Microcred Holding set up shop on the Indian Ocean island in December 2006.

Andrianantenaina explains that his loan of two million ariarys (1,000 dollars) will for the first time allow him to eye economic expansion.

He hopes to repay it as soon as possible, only to take out another ‘microloan’ and start diversifying his stock.

In Madagascar, where two out of three residents lived under the poverty line in 2006, traditional banks suffer from an elitist image that leaves most of the population overawed.

‘These small merchants didn’t ever dare set foot inside a bank,’ explains Nina Ranaivoarisoa, marketing manager for AccesBanque, a bank specialised in microfinance whose main shareholder is German-based Access Holding and opened its first branch in Madagascar in February.

The Aga Khan Foundation launched a similar operation in Anatananarivo in March.

In Madagascar, traditional banks do not necessarily impose higher interest rates than microfinance institutions. The main difference lies in the amount of the loan.

Microcred clients can take out as little 50 dollars at a time while the minimum loan in mainstream banks is generally 20 times that amount.

Petty entrepreneurs who are not considered ‘bankable’ due to a lack of steady income or collateral have pounced on such microloans, in spite of interest rates fetching around 24 percent over a year.

In barely six months, some 2,000 of them have taken out loans with Microcred and around the same number with AccesBanque.

‘We were not expecting such figures, and especially not such substantial loans,’ says Microcred chairman Michel Iams. ‘Madagascar has huge potential and favourable regulations compared to West Africa.’

In spite of a solid array of government incentives, the financing system championed by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus still faces some cultural resistance.

‘The repayment process is very well respected by clients, yet credit is an idea that is still perceived negatively and kept secret by people,’ Iams explains.

But the new opportunities microfinance opens up to Anatananarivo residents -- who live in one of the world’s 30 poorest nations -- appear to be gradually breaking down old cultural perceptions.

‘I’m not ashamed,’ says Johnny Randriamandimby, who borrowed 100 dollars from a microcredit company to renovate his small plumbing workshop. ‘We spend all our lives running, when we need something, we need it fast.’

Mutual savings banks had already long introduced microcredit to Madagascar but the arrival on the market of commercial banks seems to have spurred fresh interest in this form of finance.

Microcred has no qualms about admitting its commercial ambitions in Madagascar and showing its differences from the purely social purpose of Yunus’ now famous Grameen bank.

‘You can make a positive impact on development by pursuing regular economic activites,’ Iams says.

Laura Bush Presses AIDS Fight in Africa

from Newsday

Associated Press Writer

DAKAR, Senegal -- U.S. first lady Laura Bush picked vegetables and handed out mosquito nets in this West African capital Tuesday to emphasize that fighting AIDS in Africa also means tackling some of the continent's even more widespread afflictions -- malnutrition and malaria.

"It's often overlooked that one of the essential things in the treatment of AIDS or HIV is good nutrition," she said after touring a garden whose produce is used to supplement the meals of AIDS patients at a Dakar hospital.

Bush gave mosquito nets to AIDS patients as a doctor explained that insect-borne malaria -- the biggest killer in Senegal -- is even more dangerous for those who are HIV positive.

Bush and her daughter Jenna are on a four-nation African tour in which the first lady is expected to focus on how the U.S. can help a poverty-stricken continent provide health care and economic opportunity. Laura Bush is also visiting Mozambique, Zambia and Mali on her third trip to Africa.

They were accompanied on Tuesday's visit by Senegal's first lady, Viviane Wade, and her daughter. The four women picked eggplants and kale at the Fann Hospital garden. AIDS patients at the center are instructed on how the different vegetables can boost their nutrition, and are allowed to sell excess produce for income.

Malnutrition is a serious problem in Senegal and the surrounding region, where poverty often determines food choices. In some parts of West Africa, fruits and vegetables disappear during the dry time of year and diabetes is becomingly increasingly common in the region.

Last month, President George W. Bush called on Congress to authorize an additional $30 billion (euro22.3 billion) to fight AIDS in Africa, a figure that would double the U.S. commitment to the continent. The current program, which provided $15 billion (euro11 billion) over five years, expires in September 2008.

The U.S. president's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief has supported treatment for 1.1 million people in 15 countries, he said in calling for the program's renewal. His wife did not discuss how the additional funds should be targeted.

The AIDS garden and the mosquito net program have both been recipients of U.S. funding. The U.S. government has allocated US$16.7 million to anti-malarial programs in Senegal this year, and plans to continue at a similar level through 2010.

"We just eradicated malaria in the United States in about 1950. We know malaria can be eradicated, and so we stand with you as you try to eradicate malaria in Senegal," Laura Bush said.

Still, some international organizations have complained that President Bush has only truly committed to maintaining current funding levels at a time when the crisis is growing.

David Bryden, of the Global AIDS Alliance lobbying group, said that the U.S. House of Representatives has already approved more than US$5.4 billion in AIDS spending next year -- a level which would about equal the president's proposal over five years.

"If the Congress accepts his proposal it would be a disaster, because the epidemic is expanding," Bryden said.

Still, West Africa generally has a lower prevalence of AIDS than eastern and southern Africa, and Senegal is often held up as an example that the disease has not doomed the continent.

The country has one of the lowest rates in the region. A range of reasons have been given, including an organized education effort by the government, a strong culture of conservative Muslim values, a tradition of male circumcision and the simple geographic distance from the southern African countries where AIDS first took hold.

In Senegal, the AIDS debate often takes a back seat to more pressing questions of crushing poverty and a lack of jobs. The former French colony is one of the poorest countries in the world and thousands of its young men risk their lives annually on fishing boats bound for Europe.

Many Czech children end in institutional care over poverty-press

from Romano Vod'i

Czech social authorities often place children from low-income, often Romany families in institutional care in unnecessary cases instead of providing material and social aid to their parents who have ended up in financial difficulties, but want to look after their kids, the political weekly Respekt writes in its latest issue.

In some cases, even small babies have been sent to homes directly from a maternity hospital, though their mothers would rather need a proper social aid.

The weekly refers to rough estimates provided by NGOs monitoring such cases as exact official figures about the children taken from their biological families for poverty reasons are not available,

According to them, 8,000 children were sent to institutional care in the 10-million Czech Republic last year, which is hundreds of cases more than last year and the year before. This is the second highest figure in the EU, after Bulgaria, Respekt points out.
From the purely economic viewpoint, this social policy is also "very expensive" since the costs of a child in institutional care are between 200,000 and 300,000 crowns a year, while the necessary financial aid to a family in need would amount to some 70,000 crowns a year, including the subsistence level along with expenditure on education, the weekly says, referring to NGOs.

A targetted social aid would solve problems in a number of cases where the parents, though often unemployed, with a low education level and not well-versed in legislative and administrative issues, love their children and are willing to improve their social situation to be able to keep them.

The weekly cites the case of Barbora and Mirek Viola whose four- and three-year-old sons suffer from serious health troubles - allergy on dairy products and asthma. As the parents had no job and no convenient housing and the first son's health conditions deteriorated, the social authority concluded that they were not able to take care of they boy and he was taken from the family. His little brother was sent to a children's home right after the birth.

The desperate parents have been striving hard to get their sons back home since January, when they found a little flat where they could live together, but in vain. At present they can only see the sons in a children's home during official visiting hours and sometimes they may take them home, but never both together. The kids are not allowed to stay with their biological parents overnight either, Respekt writes.

The social system apparently failed in this case. Instead of the radical solution harming both the parents and children, social workers should have cooperated with NGOs to help provide a provisional housing for the family and explain to the uneducated parents how to look after the allergic children, Hane Zurovcova from the NGO Hnizdo (Nest) told the weekly.

Respekt writes that clerks from Czech social authorities mostly do not work with a family in need at first as they are often in charge of too many cases and have no time, and sometimes even no will, to take an individual approach to the parents.

If a suspicion of a wilful neglect surfaces, the clerks without hesitation decide to place children to an institution instead of trying to solve often only temporary problems of the biological family.

A more systemic solution to the problem is also prevented by the fact that the family agenda is split among local authorities that supervise social workers and three ministries - of health, education and of labour and social affairs, Respekt says.

Moreover, the poor parents are often frightened and do not know where to seek help and how to defend themselves. Their case is then assessed on the basis of official documents submitted by the social authority and courts often decide upon their recommendation.

One of the few Czech NGOs that offer help to parents who want to "win" their children back is Hnizdo, headed by Zurovcova.
She recalls in Respekt that the impulse to set up her organisation was a shocking case of the Sivak family from Ostrava, north Moravia, whose all children gradually ended up in homes unnecessarily.

The authority reacted first to the behaviour problems of their older son who started to skip school, which "disqualified the parents in the clerks' eyes" so they started to take all children in their pre-school age from the family, including their newborn daughter who was sent to institutional care directly from a maternity hospital.

Zurovcova told the weekly that with the aid of her organisation, the little girl returned to her parents after five months, and the Sivaks also succeeded in the "fight" for their youngest son. However, the second son is still in a children's home and his older brother is on the run.

Thanks to the NGO, the Sivaks are now living a "normal family life," Respekt adds.

"During the time we were providing help to the Sivaks, we realised that this is no rare case and we started to prepare a project. At first we helped some 27 families, now is up to 120 families, two-thirds of which are Romanies," Zurovcova told Respekt.

To take children from their biological parents should be an extreme solution under law, yet in the Czech Republic it has become the quickest solution due to a inefficient mechanism, the absence of social housing, a low number of social workers and insufficient information about NGOs that could help in such cases, Zurovcova said.

"Institutional care can cover children's material needs, but it will at the same time completely break up the family bonds," she stressed.

Nevertheless, it seems that these problems have at least attracted attention thanks to people like Zurovcova, and the Czech Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has started to seek solutions.

The ministry admits that a comprehensive programme for deprived families in need is lacking, Kristyna Kotalova, head of the children's social and legal protection section at the ministry, told Respekt.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Necas (senior ruling Civic Democrats, ODS) therefore wants to establish the National Office for Employment and Social Administration that would also coordinate the work of social workers. The government could thereby influence their number and train new ones if need be.

The ministry also intends to introduce the method of "conference on the case," that is to organise meetings of parents, NGO experts and social authorities to agree on an individual plan of help to a particular family.

"The most important step is probably to unite the agenda under one ministry from which it would be controlled and monitored consistently," the weekly quotes Petr Bittner from the Human Rights League as saying.

Single moms often live in poverty

from The Courier Journal

Activists: Spread affordable housing

By Marcus Green

About 40 percent of Louisville households headed by single mothers are bunched largely in high poverty areas west and south of downtown, a new report shows.

Housing advocates say the study shows the need for more affordable housing throughout the city, including subsidized apartments and public housing.

And such housing should be required in every Metro Council district, according to the study released today by the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, a nonprofit agency that supports fair housing issues.

The mayor's office stopped short of endorsing mandated affordable housing, instead endorsing incentives to encourage developers to build homes of different price levels.

Experts say the importance of blending low-income residents into middle-income neighborhoods is that it offers better work and education opportunities for impoverished parents and children.

"In these high-poverty areas, there aren't a lot of jobs, a lot of viable institutions" such as parks, said Karen Christopher, a University of Louisville sociologist. "When you're raising a family, that's what you need."

Expanding affordable housing into middle-income and affluent neighborhoods won't directly pull single-mother families out of poverty, but it could influence their aspirations and behavior, Christopher said.

Homes and apartments are deemed affordable if they cost less than 30 percent of a household's income, according to the federal government.

But in Louisville, demand outpaces supply, with nearly 15,000 people on a waiting list to receive housing subsidies.

The housing coalition's analysis of U.S. Census data paints a stark portrait of households headed by women, showing that 37 percent of those led by single mothers are impoverished.

The coalition is recommending several steps.

In addition to requiring affordable housing in each of the Metro Council's 26 districts, the coalition wants public money to be consistently directed to a city trust fund that homebuyers and developers could use for that purpose.

"The ultimate goal is to have affordable housing everywhere," said Cathy Hinko, the coalition's executive director.

Mayor Jerry Abramson's office disagrees that the city should require affordable housing in all parts of Louisville.

"We have always taken an incentive approach," said Chris Poynter, an Abramson spokesman. Those include incentives that encourage the construction of homes for low- and moderate-income residents.

In an attempt to start the housing trust fund, Abramson has committed $1 million to the fund in the pending city budget and promises to add more in the future, Poynter said.

Efforts in the General Assembly to use a portion of certain state fees for affordable housing have failed.

"We agreed that there needs to be some kind of dedicated stream, but we would like to see Frankfort be partners with us," Poynter said.

Sarah Foster, a policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky, said policies that improve housing for single-mother families should be applauded.

But she said any group creating those policies "should not ignore the undeniable benefits for moms, dads and children" from a family with two parents, "nor should they create any policies that undermine the institution of marriage," Foster said. Many of the single-mother families live in unsafe areas or in shoddy housing, but they could move to stable neighborhoods if more affordable units were available, Hinko said.

Austina Merriweather, a 29-year-old single mother of two children, lived in Parkway Place housing complex, in a council district that has 1,400 households headed by single mothers.

She moved to an apartment in the Park DuValle neighborhood in 1999, a housing development with a mix of income levels, and now owns a Habitat for Humanity home there. She has no concerns about her safety, although she had worried about drug activity and people gathering on porches at Parkway Place.

"That was an environment that I could not see my son playing outside," said Merriweather, a bus monitor for Jefferson County Public Schools.

Virginia Durrance lives in Louisville's 6th District, just west of Interstate 65 in downtown. In 2000, about 32 percent of residents there lived below the poverty line -- $13,880 for a family of three, according to the 2000 Census.

Durrance, 39, hasn't worked for about two years, she said, but hopes to look for a job after she has gastric-bypass surgery next month. A federal housing voucher pays rent on the Arcade Avenue apartment she shares with her 9-year-old daughter.

But she would like to move. She said her apartment has been broken into, and she worries about the safety of nearby parks.

"In the daytime I'm OK, but at night time it's not safe," she said.

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

Anti-poverty coalition's message for new PM

from Inspire Magazine

Anti-poverty coalition Micah Challenge has urged Britain’s new Prime Minister to take a powerful stand to stamp out global poverty.

The Millennium Development Goals were set in 2000 by world leaders to reduce poverty. Last month, during Prime Minister’s Question Time, Tony Blair gave his “complete support” to the aims of Micah Challenge to ensure that world leaders keep their promises and meet the MDGs.

As Mr Brown takes over as PM tomorrow, (Wednesday, June 27) Micah Challenge – a coalition of churches and Christian organisations – is challenging him to do the same.

Mr Brown’s track record of commitment to keeping those goals has been praised by Micah. He was instrumental in getting G8 countries to agree to a relief package at Gleneagles in 2005. He has also made free universal education one of the two main pillars of Labour’s foreign policy. The other is climate change.

Last month in Parliament he said Britain’s Government would continue to press the international community to raise development aid.

Andy Clasper, Micah Challenge Executive Director said: “Gordon Brown has a great track record for getting the British Government and the international community to honour the promises they have made to the world’s poorest people.

“Now Micah Challenge is challenging him to keep up the good work and make a positive difference to the world’s poor during his time as Prime Minister.

“I know that this is an issue that’s close to Gordon’s heart and I would quote back to him his own words on tackling world poverty, that gave us so much encouragement in 2004.

"When the need is pressing when it is our generation that has made historic commitments, the simple questions that we must ask are: If not now, when? If not us, who? If not together, how? Not left to some other time and some other people but now and us, working together.

“I and the members of Micah Challenge coalition, and countless others like us are ready, Gordon.”

Poverty eradication workshop on Chile model starts today

from The Jamaica Gleaner

he Organisation of American States (OAS), in collaboration with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), will host a three-day regional workshop, starting today. The workshop aims to introduce the concept and framework of the highly-acclaimed Chilean poverty eradication model, 'The Puente (Bridge) Programme', to several Caribbean countries.

The workshop, which will be held at the Hilton Kingston hotel in New Kingston, will be attended by participants from Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, and Jamaica - the countries which will pilot the programme in the Caribbean. In addition, representatives from the social development funds in Latin America, Dominica and Haiti will also attend.

Building programme

Scarlette Gillings, JSIF's managing director and also vice-president of the Social Development Commission of the OAS, said the workshop would be the precursor to a two-year capacity-building programme funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. This is part of a broader support package by the OAS for the institutional strengthening of the social investment funds and the ministries of social development in the English-speaking Caribbean. This is in keeping with efforts to decrease the levels of poverty in the region. She noted further that Chile's Puente Programme has been internationally recognised for its success in providing critical psychosocial and economic support to families in extreme poverty. It has, therefore, become a model for developing countries.

Among those scheduled to speak at the opening ceremony are Dr. Omar Davies, Minister of Finance and Planning; Alfonso Silva, Ambassador of Chile; Adriana Lagos Toro, head of the Department for International Cooperation, FOSIS - the Chilean counterpart of JSIF; Professor E. Nigel Harris, vice chancellor, University of the West Indies; Francisco Pilotti, director of the Department of Social Development and Employment, OAS; and Denis Kingsley, Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica. The ceremony will begin at 10:00 o'clock.

Teen Dean keen to root out poverty

from The Camden Advertiser

By Iliana Stillitano

ELLIE Dean of Mount Annan is an enthusiastic 17-year-old student at Elizabeth Macarthur High School.

A youth ambassador for the Make Poverty History Zeroseven campaign, she's on an ambitious mission to help eradicate poverty by embarking on a musical road trip around Sydney.

Ellie will join hundreds of Australians and major recording artists in an international call for action against poverty.

Make Poverty History is a coalition of aid agencies, community groups, celebrities and Australian churches and Christian groups.

Ellie was selected from an overwhelming number of entries.
Starting this coming Sunday, July 1, she will travel around Sydney's suburbs.

Interstate ambassadors will take a bus trip around the country with many big names in the Australian music industry.

They include Missy Higgins and bands such as Evermore, Blue King Brown, Borne, Little Birdy, Dallas Crane and Antiskeptic.

They will perform at road shows as they travel to Australia's capital cities before converging on Sydney.

Ellie said she was honoured to be part of what would be a history-making event and that she was looking forward to joining in the fight against poverty.

``I really believe that our generation can end extreme poverty,'' she said.
``The statistic that really shocks me is that every three seconds a child dies from poverty.

``I like the idea that we can do something about that.
``This is an opportunity to remind the Government of a promise it made in 2000 to end poverty by 2025.''

Monday, June 25, 2007

Iran's ex-PM breaks silence to warn on poverty

from The Middle Eastern Times

TEHRAN -- Iran's last post-revolution prime minister has broken years of silence to warn that poverty is threatening the basis of the Islamic republic, the media reported Sunday.

Mir Hossein Moussavi, seen as close to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, served in the now-defunct post of prime minister from 1981 to 1989, but has largely stayed out of politics ever since.

In a speech quoted by most of the reformist newspapers, he complained that the country was becoming immune to pictures of impoverished minors and statistics that he said showed that 20 percent of Tehran children were homeless.

"It seems that we have distanced ourselves from the revolution's vision and thoughts," said Moussavi. "It seems like we think that our responsibility is over. Uprooting poverty and meeting human needs, while preserving their dignity, is what the Islamic republic's economy is based on," he added.

Moussavi, who also served as foreign minister, noted that Article 43 of Iran's constitution said that it must aim to provide all the basic needs and food to its people.

"The Islamic republic's legitimacy depends on these principles. It means that this system, as long as it is an Islamic republic and accepts this constitution, cannot abandon this goal and settle for less."

Iran's reformists - including the outgoing government - were keen for Moussavi to run for president in the 2005 elections as a popular moderate who still enjoys great legitimacy owing to his closeness to Khomeini.

However, he refused, for reasons that were never publicly disclosed, and conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went on to thrash the more pragmatic Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the run-off.

With Khomeini's backing, the leftist Moussavi managed to haul the country through a bloody war with Iraq and international isolation. After Khomeini's death in 1989, the post of prime minister was scrapped.

His comments come at a time of increasing concern about Iran's economy, with MPs and economists warning that the policies of Ahmadinejad risk further fueling rising inflation.

The country is also grappling with problems of unemployment for its booming youth population as well as drug addiction and juvenile delinquency.

Kamla: Govt hiding poverty

from Trinidad News

OPPOSITION LEADER Kamla Persad-Bissessar accused Government of trying to cover up growing poverty in the country. Speaking during debate in the House of Representatives last Friday, Persad-Bissessar claimed that Government has shifted its tactics of “statistical conmanship” from the country’s crime to its poverty figures.

She said while Social Development Minister Anthony Roberts has boasted about the country’s poverty levels being reduced by half during the PNM’s term in office, Government was really doctoring the figures “to cover up a crisis” in the country.

Persad-Bissessar claimed that based on the UNC’s calculations which stretched from a European Union survey on poverty in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999, the current data should say that any person who is earning a monthly salary of $1,700 or less “is considered poor.”

Stating that the country has no idea what agreements Prime Minister Patrick Manning committed it to during last week’s Caricom Conference in Washington DC, Persad-Bissessar said it was time to establish a parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs.

Leader of Government Business Ken Valley said when this call was made in 1996 the then UNC government did not submit any names for that committee.

Persad-Bissessar countered that the then Opposition PNM were equally at fault in the matter.

Project Promise compels community to keep spotlight on poverty

from The Appleton Post Crescent

By Kara Patterson
Post-Crescent staff writer

Project Promise, a recent effort that spread awareness about Fox Cities poverty, has prompted the formation of small groups that are addressing specific issues affecting the community's poorest residents.

The four-month initiative ran from January through April and included a community book read, poverty simulations and diversity circles. So far it has inspired 13 teams with various goals centering around improving the quality of life for people in need.

"Project Promise wasn't intended to be a long-term initiative as much as a spark in the community," said Paula Morgen, co-leader of the ThedaCare-driven Community Health Action Team (CHAT), the main sponsor of Project Promise.

"It really brought the community together to think about, talk about and learn about poverty. You have hundreds of people who maybe weren't engaged in the poverty issue before, who now have found a place to get involved and to help with the cause."

Team projects include teaching gardening, harvesting and canning; mentoring current or former prisoners and their families; matching senior citizens with families who need life skills training; mobilizing faith communities to help with poverty initiatives; and working for more affordable public transportation.

One group that's interested in legislation affecting poverty is planning on partnering with a coalition leading Vision 2020, the state's recently launched plan to end childhood poverty by the year 2020.

The teams of volunteers are inviting others to join them who may not have attended Project Promise's action forum in April, when the teams formed.

Morgen said people by July 16 should contact the teams that interest them, so the teams can schedule meetings.

A full list of teams, their objectives and contact information is available at www.project ActionForum.htm.

Dr. John Mielke, a retired Appleton cardiologist who sits on the Appleton school board, is leading the team that hopes to create a money management curriculum for children.

"Any way you can educate the public about financial literacy, that's going to help poverty," Mielke said. "Ultimately, the idea is to get the (school) superintendents in the area together and ask them how we might embed (it) within the K-12 curriculum."

The Fox Cities is in the infant stages of fighting poverty, but the community is taking the right small steps, said Mielke, who co-leads CHAT with Morgen.

"People have been made aware that there is poverty, and it's real poverty, and it's not somebody's imagination," Mielke said.

"I think we've made progress there. That is the first step, people becoming concerned and investing their time, talent and resources to see if they can't make a difference."

Project Promise action teams

To get involved with an action team, contact the team leaders listed below.
# Developing ways to discern the needs of people in poverty. Contact: Nancy Heykes of the Fox Cities Rotary Multicultural Center, 920-882-4056, ext. 200 and
# Building awareness of the resources available to help people in poverty. Contact: Jennifer Wanke of Limited Emergency Assistance Valley Ecumenical Network (LEAVEN), 920-738-9635 or
# Teaching life skills through community gardening, harvesting and canning. Contact: Susan Richardson at 920-832-5119 or
# Tapping senior citizens to mentor families in poverty. Contact: Kathie Gribble at St. Bernard Parish, 920-738-9372 or
# Providing daycare support for adult students in poverty pursuing higher education. Contact: Christopher Matheny of Fox Valley Technical College,
# Working with the Fox Valley Housing Coalition to develop local recommendations and plans for affordable housing. Contact: Debra Cronmiller of the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley, 920-882-0346 or
# Researching divorce law and creating suggestions for legislative reform. Contact: Ray Durkee at 920-727-0904 or
# Developing money management education programs for children. Contact: Dr. John Mielke at 920-716-0845 or
# Educating employers to help their employees maximize income potential. Contact: Alan Prahl of Financial Information & Service Center (FISC), 920-886-1000.
# Mobilizing faith communities to support local poverty efforts. Contact: The Rev. Roger Bertschausen of Common Ground, 920-731-0849 or
# Finding ways to make Valley Transit public transportation more affordable. Contact: Kathy Fenner at 920-969-1510 or
# Ministering to current and former prisoners and their families. Contact: Karen Rickert of St. Thomas More Parish at 920-738-6697 or
# Joining with Vision 2020 to work toward ending childhood poverty in Wisconsin by the year 2020. Contact: Vicky Selkowe of the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families,
On the Web:

ANC reviews policy as poverty gap widens

from The Mail and Guardian

Mariette le Roux | Cape Town, South Africa

The African National Congress (ANC) is set to confront growing disquiet about the gap between rich and poor at a policy conference this week amid the biggest bout of worker unrest since apartheid.

With the ANC due to elect a new leader at the end of the year, the four-day meeting in Midrand, near Johannesburg, will be partly seen as a test of strength between left-wing and pro-business elements.

Topping the agenda will be debates on social and economic transformation and on the role of organised labour, while some of the most heated discussion is expected to revolve around the thorny issue of land ownership.

While this week's conference cannot set policy, its recommendations will be submitted for approval to the ANC national congress in December when delegates elect a new party leader in succession to President Thabo Mbeki.

Even Mbeki, while trumpeting his government's impressive economic record, has acknowledged more needs to be done to address the plight of the working class who form the bedrock of the party.

In his latest ANC weekly newsletter, Mbeki, sometimes slated as too business-friendly, agreed the party's central task was to "liberate our people from the scourge of poverty".

Joel Netshitenzhe, head of policy in the Presidency, expanded on the theme at a recent briefing when he conceded "inequality in society is worsening" even if the economy is booming.

"Whilst ... the income of the poorest has been improving, it has not been improving at the same pace as income of the richest in the population," he said.

After 13 years in government, the conference offers the party an opportunity to reassess its multiple identities of political liberator, social development conduit and business-friendly pursuer of investor stability in Africa's economic powerhouse.

Jacob Zuma, the ANC's deputy leader who has his eye on the top job, said the challenge is to strike a balance between encouraging growth and addressing "evidence of a widening gap between rich and poor".

"If the economic situation is not stable, that can inevitably affect political stability," he told journalists.

Formed in 1912, the ANC spearheaded the decades-long political and military charge against white rule.

It still describes itself as a liberation movement -- the struggle following the downfall of the apartheid system under white minority rule being against poverty and inequality.

Yet it is judged harshly by its alliance partners, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party, for adopting policies that have fostered a new business elite at the expense of broad social uplifting.

Hundreds of thousands of public servants have been striking since June 1 against poor pay, even as the country enjoys its longest-ever economic expansion.

Johannesburg-based Centre for Policy Studies research manager Omano Edigheji said the ANC seemed torn between its different constituencies.

"In a country like South Africa, where there is a constitutional provision for social justice, it is morally reprehensible if the promotion of equity is not prioritised in public policy," he stated in a review of the conference agenda.

Vast swathes of South Africa's 47-million citizens, 80% of whom are black, are still poor.

On the other side of the spectrum is a burgeoning black elite benefiting from empowerment deals criticised for leaving the masses on the sideline.

The ruling party boasts that unemployment levels, unofficially as high as 40%, have begun to decline while poverty is on the decrease.

But a draft ANC policy document concedes that joblessness remains "worryingly high", with at least one-third of the population living in poverty.

"The ownership and control of wealth and income, the poverty trap, access to opportunity and so on are defined ... as under apartheid, on the basis of race and gender," it adds.

Tearfund welcomes Brown’s Global Poverty Pledge

from Christian Today

Christian relief and development agency Tearfund has welcomed incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s pledge to “wage an unremitting battle” against global poverty. The aid agency warned, however, that “more rapid and deeper action” by governments will be required to meet pledges to halve poverty by 2015.

Andy Atkins, Tearfund Advocacy Director, said he was “very encouraged” by Mr Brown’s announcement that he would strengthen and enhance the work of the Department for International Development, and align aid, debt relief and trade policies in a fight against poverty, illiteracy, disease and environmental degradation.

“Few could doubt Mr Brown’s personal commitment to tackling poverty – but the world needs faster movement on aid, climate change, trade, and debt,” he said.

“The UK Government remains in a strong position to continue influencing global policies affecting poor people. We urge Mr Brown to use his enhanced influence as the new Prime Minister to step up the pace.”

Tearfund said that Mr Brown had an immediate opportunity to tackle the causes of climate change by ensuring that the new Climate Change Bill committed the UK to an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.

It was also important that Mr Brown push for international adoption of a Global Action Plan on sanitation and water for the 1.1 and 2.6 billion people respectively who lack these basic human requirements, affirmed the aid agency.

Continued Mr Atkins: “In 2005 when Mr Brown spoke by video link to Elinata Kasanga, a Zambian subsistence farmer supported by Tearfund’s church partners, he told her that ‘every child should have free education in Africa, and we must have healthcare systems which give free healthcare to children and families’. For Elinata and millions of people like her such services remain far off dreams.”

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Clinton, mining industry launch anti-poverty effort

from The Washington Post


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced a $200 million initiative on Thursday in partnership with mining industry businesses to fight poverty in Latin America and other poor areas of the world.

The Clinton-Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative was launched with initial commitments of $100 million each by two philanthropists -- Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining and entertainment financier, and Carlos Slim Helu, a Mexican telecommunications billionaire.

Clinton said the coalition of businesses involved in extracting natural resources in poor countries would work to improve health and education in those countries and promote sustainable development.

"I'm proud of the coalition in the natural resources industry that has come together to invest in sustainable growth in emerging economies," Clinton said in a statement before a news conference at the New York headquarters of his charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation.

"Ultimately our goal is to bridge the gap between the rich and poor, and give all people a shot at a better life," he said.

The statement said there was a long list of potential supporters in a sector where there are more than 2,000 listed mining companies around the world with a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. At least 20 have joined the coalition.

"A number of major resource, resource finance and supporting companies have agreed to partner with or support the new initiative," the statement said.

Universal pension may offset old-age poverty

from The Taipei Times

Thursday, Jun 21, 2007, Page 6

A universal pension offering benefits equivalent to the extreme poverty line of US$1 a day would reduce old-age poverty in developing countries, which are expected to see the most rapid population aging in the coming decades, according to a new UN report released on Tuesday.

In most developing countries, even those with low incomes, the World Economic and Social Survey 2007 said a basic pension "represents an affordable option."

Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Jose Antonio Ocampo said such a minimum pension would achieve a long-term UN goal of eliminating extreme poverty "for all the older people now."

At a news conference launching the report, Ocampo said the world is aging at unprecedented rates -- "a phenomenon that is universal now" -- with the population aged 60 and older expected to increase from about 670 million in 2005 to close to 2 billion in 2050.

"Although the phenomenon is more advanced in the industrial economies, it's going to grow at a much faster rate in the developing world," he said.

At current trends, by 2050 nearly 80 percent of the world's population over the age of 60 -- approximately 1.6 billion people -- is expected to live in what are now developing countries. That compares with 63 percent -- or 422 million people -- in 2005, the report said.

Aging reflects "human progress" in lowering mortality and improving health and nutrition and provides an opportunity to utilize the experience of older workers, Ocampo said, but it also provides economic and health challenges for many older people.

According to UN figures, the labor force itself is aging.

In 2005, less than one-fifth of the global working age population, aged 15-64, were older workers, aged 50-64. That figure is expected to grow to one-quarter globally by 2050 -- and almost one-third in developed countries, the report said.

Ocampo said the expectation that the problems of an aging and declining work force can be solved through increased fertility and migration "will not materialize."

Facing the economic challenges associated with aging will require a mix of solutions including increased participation of women in the work force, increasing the working life of both men and women, "and finally and very importantly to increase labor productivity," he said.

"It is quite clear that if there is not an increase in labor productivity in the rapidly aging societies, there will actually be a slowdown in economic growth that will affect everyone," Ocampo said.

He said "countries that are more advanced in the aging process" -- including Germany, Italy, the US and Japan -- need to focus on increased productivity, especially Italy and Japan.

At the global level, the most rapidly growing age group is aged 80 and over, the report said. While this group now represents less than 1.5 percent of the total world population, it is expected to quadruple from less than 90 million in 2005 to almost 400 million in 2050, according to the report.

The report documents the link between poverty and the lack of pensions.

The expansion of pension coverage and increases in benefits, for example, have been important factors in the decline in the incidence of poverty among older Americans from 35 percent in 1960 to less than 10 percent at present, it said.

But the report said 80 percent of the world's population does not have sufficient income protection in old age to enable them to face health problems, disability or loss of income, citing the latest available statistics from the International Labor Organization in 2002.

"This would mean that in developing countries alone, about 342 million older persons currently lack adequate income security," the report said.

That number would rise to 1.2 billion by 2050 if no measures are taken to expand old-age pensions.

The cost of a US$365 annual pension to all those over age 60 in 66 of 100 countries would be less than 1 percent of GDP in 2005.

Child poverty concerns in NW

from the Southport Visiter

by Gary Stewart, Ormskirk Advertiser

A REPORT by Save the Children suggests that 1 in 10 children in the North West are living in severe poverty.

For a couple with a child that means living on average of £7,000 a year. That’s just £19 per day to cover electricity and gas, phones, other bills, food, clothes, washing, transport, health needs as well as activities for children and all other essential items.

Kate Bratt Farrar, spokesperson for Save the Children, said: “We can’t let these children slip below the radar. They’re the children who are hardest to reach, need the most help and the greatest investment to lift them out of poverty.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Poverty fuelling Afghan child labour

from The Central Chronicle

New York, June 20: Poverty, lack of educational opportunities and the demand for cheap labour are helping fuel prevalence of child labour across Afghanistan, the United Nations Children's Fund has warned.

Nearly one quarter of Afghan children between the ages of seven and 14-- more girls than boys-- are working and the problem worst in rural areas, Noriko Izumi, head of child protection for UNICEF in Afghanistan, says.

"Poverty and low family income levels force children to work to support their family," said Izumi. "Children are cheaper to employ than adults and easier to manipulate. It is easier to hire and fire children."

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 218 million children worldwide, from 5 to 17 years old, are engaged in some kind of labour, with 126 million children engaged in the worst forms of child labour.

UNICEF is working on several fronts to tackle child labour in Afghanistan, which already has a number of legal and policy instruments to protect children, including a national strategy for children at risk and a child labour law defining the legal age of employment.

At the same time, it urged the Afghan Government to sign and ratify two important ILO conventions-- one concerning the minimum age of employment and the other one regarding hazardous work. Among the challenges for UNICEF is difficulty verifying a child's age because of the low birth registration rate in the country, which has emerged from decades of conflict.

Church Action on Poverty Celebrates 25 Years of Service to the Poor

from Christian Today

by Anne Thomas

Church Action on Poverty (CAP) will celebrate 25 years of service to the poor.

In recognition of its Mancunian roots, the organisation will be holding a service and reception at Manchester Cathedral to celebrate the occasion on Friday 13 July.

The service will be lead by the Dean of Manchester Cathedral, Rev Rogers Govender, with an address by Deacon Lewis Rose, CAP chairperson and Co-ordinator of Scottish Churches Industrial Mission. Also taking part will be Paul Goggins MP, CAP’s second National Co-ordinator.

A separate parliamentary reception, hosted by John Battle MP (CAP’s first National Co-ordinator) is taking place on Tuesday 26 June. Speakers will include Baroness Rev Kathleen Richardson and the Bishop of Ripon, Rt Rev John Packer.

Church Action on Poverty was launched in 1982, as an ecumenical response to the re-emergence of poverty as a major issue of public concern in the UK, and rapidly grew into an effective campaigning organisation within the churches, working in partnership with people in poverty and a wide range of other partners across the UK.

Over the past quarter of a century, we have appreciated the support we have received from a wide range of organisations and individuals," said CAP.

"As well as celebrating the past, we hope to use the occasion of our quarter century to share some of our hopes and plans for the future."

Report says poverty, murder rates are up among Phila. children

from the Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

Nearly one-third of city children were living in poverty in 2004, up from about one-fourth in 1999, according to an annual "report card" unveiled by Mayor John Street.

The number of children living in poverty reached an estimated 111,683, or 30.3 percent, up from 25.4 percent in 1999, said the report produced for the city by the nonprofit group Philadelphia Safe and Sound.

The report said 179 people ages 7 to 24 were murdered last year, a 20 percent increase from 2005. Not all the trends were negative: the report said teenage pregnancies declined and fewer children were exposed to dangerous levels of lead.

Street, who has sought to expand services to improve young people's lives, acknowledged that "children are suffering." He said some problems in society do not seem to respond to efforts by the city, including a trend toward regarding some services "almost as a substitute for responsible parenting."

Priority to Women in Bangladesh Effort To Eradicate Poverty

from Bernama

By Jenny Lanong

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 Jun (Bernama) – Oppression from money lenders, family problems and unequal opportunities between the rich and the poor have been identified as the main factors that contribute to poverty among the countries in the South.

Various measures to eradicate poverty have successfully been undertaken by the governments of these countries to reduce the level of poverty.

In his presentation ‘The Experience of Grameen Bank’ at the forum on Poverty Eradication: Sharing Experience and Lessons Learnt Among South Nation, organised by the South-South Information Gateway (SSIG) here Tuesday, Grameen Bank (GB) Vice President A.S.M Mohiuddin said that efforts to eradicate poverty in Bangladesh are focused mainly on the women folk.

For the women of Bangladesh, oppression may come in the form of being divorced, an exhortative dowry, family pressure or an abusive husband. In Bangladeshi, the wife is the last person to partake of any meal in the family.

Politically, socially and economically, Bangladeshi women need assistance and funding to improve the quality of their lives, he said.

In view of this, GB was established to provide financial assistance to the poor in Bangladesh. GB is a bank by the poor for the poor.

“97 percent of borrowers are women and the borrowers own 94 percent equity in the bank with the remaining 6 percent held by the government” he added.

The bank provides mortgage-free loans to borrowers who are given the option of either making weekly repayments or a flexible repayment schedule of their proposal.

GB provides credit facilities such as of term loans, flexible-loans, housing loans, study loans while a scholarship program have been established for the children of shareholders.

According to Mohiuddin, under GB’s scholarship program, daughters are given priority.

The loans have enabled the construction of 646,137 houses for the poor and funded the tertiary education of 17,113 students.

GB’s efforts have proven successful at improving the quality of life for the poor in Bangladesh, he added.

In the three decades of its existence, GB has managed to improve the socio-economic standing of Bangladeshi women.

In 2001, 42 percent of borrowers stood above the poverty level and in 2006, the percentage has increased to 63.6 percent, he said.

Group wants to make local poverty history; Number of city's working poor continues to rise

from The Brantford Expositor

Anja Karadeglija

Over the coming months, local poverty activists will be getting a boost from a superstar-powered global campaign which branded millions with white plastic bracelets and influenced the most powerful men in the world.

Make Poverty History is coming to Brantford, but the target is not Third World debt, unfair trade rules or astronomic AIDS rates in Africa, the traditional purview of the organization.

Instead, Make Poverty History Canada will be tackling poverty in Brantford.

In March, the national organization decided to set up a lobbying campaign to bring Canadian poverty to the table in the next federal election. It is a little unusual, allows coordinator Dennis Howlett, but not unprecedented. Make Poverty History campaigns in other countries have also tackled the issues of the domestic poor.

priority ridings

From its inception in 2005, Howlett's organization has included Canadian poverty on its agenda.
When the activist campaign was established, the group was looking for areas where it could have the most influence.

"We were looking for priority ridings," said Howlett. "That is, ridings where the last election was decided by a margin of 10 per cent or less."

In 2006, Liberal Lloyd St. Amand beat Conservative Phil McColeman by 582 votes, less then one per cent of the total number of voters.

"We have around 900 supporters in Brantford, so we have more than 100 per cent of the margin in our supporters," Howlett explained.

So the city became one of the 50 ridings targeted for action at all candidates' meetings and other events. Two Make Poverty History Brant meetings were held recently.

JoAnne Dubois, a member of the organization, said that they are in the planning stages now, both in terms of strategy and events, but have many ambitions.

"We want to interview the election candidates on poverty issues," she said. "We're looking at forming a social justice coalition."

Dubois, who works at both the community legal clinic and the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant, said poverty in Brantford is often hidden, but pervasive.

low-income residents

A 2005 report found that, within the city of Brantford, 20.3 per cent of families and 43.6 per cent of singles had incomes that placed them below the low-income cut off, the closest thing Canada has to a poverty line.

Because 40 per cent of Brantford residents don't have a high school diploma, it very difficult for them to find work, Dubois explains.

"Even temp agencies want people with their high school diploma. And that is putting a lot of people on welfare."

Even those working full time, at minimum wage, still fall under the low-income cut off. To meet the line, a wage for someone working 40 hours a week would have to be $10 an hour - $2 more then the current minimum wage.

"If you look at the food bank, growing numbers of people who are accessing it are working families," Dubois says.

Someone on a disability pension would have even less - about $950 a month - to survive on, Dubois explains.

"You're often forced into poverty if you become disabled. You can go from having a full time job, a home, everything, to barely eating," she says.

Welfare pays even less and, while the amount is geared to housing costs, moving through the waiting list for affordable housing in Brantford can take years, Dubois says.

As the summer goes on, Make Poverty History Brant will start developing a strategy and deciding which aspects of poverty to focus on. That should be decided in time for the provincial election on Oct.10, which Howlett considers a "dry run" for the group's work in the federal election.

Report attacks UK poverty

from In The News

One in ten children in the UK is living in 'severe' poverty, a new report has claimed.

Save the Children said it was "an outrage" that children from such a wealthy country were living in families that could not afford to meet basic needs such as living in a warm house, having an adequate diet or going on school trips.

Under a new measure which combines household incomes with adult and child deprivation, the charity estimates that 1.3 million youngsters in Britain are living in severe poverty.

Its report warns that such children, who represent 10.2 per cent of the population, are living in families who survive on an income which averages just £7,000 a year.

That compares to the average national income of £19,000 a year.

Save the Children said that as a result, families in severe poverty had just £19 a day to cover the cost of electricity and gas, phones, food, clothes, washing, transport, health needs and activities for their children and other essential items.

Of those families living in severe poverty, 84 per cent cannot afford to make regular savings of £10 or more per month, while 74 per cent cannot replace any worn out furniture, the charity warned.

London was found by researchers to be the region with the highest levels of severe poverty, with more than one in six children in the capital estimated to be affected.

Publishing its report ahead of Gordon Brown's appointment as prime minister next week, Save the Children argues that while combating the problem has been one of the chancellor's flagship policies the government is currently set to miss its target to halve child poverty
by 2010.

It is now campaigning for ministers to take further action to ensure that the goal is met, including calling for an additional £4 billion of government funding to be made available for the fight against deprivation.

A foreword to the charity's report by former Low Pay Commission chair Adair Turner warns: "The government have taken important steps to target child poverty, but more action is needed, particularly to help those facing the most severe deprivation."

Responding to the study the Conservative party said the report was an "appalling indictment" of the chancellor's record on social justice.

"The sticking plaster approach - tackling the symptoms of poverty but failing to deal with its long-term causes - has clearly failed," said shadow work and pensions secretary Philip Hammond.

"We need a completely new approach, based on social responsibility that addresses the root causes of poverty," he added.