Friday, May 30, 2008

Paul Collier: 4 ways to improve the lives of the "bottom billion"

from TED

Development group Oxfam urge Wolfowitz to resign

from Reuters

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON - International development group Oxfam urged World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to step down in a letter on Sunday, saying his leadership had "become untenable" and the bank's poverty-fighting mission already damaged by the crisis surrounding him.

In the letter released to Reuters, Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said World Bank staff had clearly stated they were unable to carry out their jobs and the institution was in a state of paralysis.

"Irreparable divisions have now been opened up and the role of the World Bank in the fight against poverty is being deeply compromised," Hobbs wrote, in the first public remarks by a major development group on the issue. The letter was to be published on Monday in The Guardian newspaper.

"We believe that the World Bank's ability to act as a leading development institution has already been so damaged that Mr. Wolfowitz's continued presidency of the World Bank is untenable," Hobbs wrote.

Wolfowitz is under fire over leaked documents that show he directed a promotion for his bank-employed girlfriend, Shaha Riza, soon after he joined the bank in 2005.

Wolfowitz and Riza and their lawyers will appear on Monday before a special bank panel, appointed by the World Bank's board of shareholder governments to discuss the issue.

The committee is looking into whether Wolfowitz breached ethical or other rules when he approved the promotion for Riza, who had been at the bank for eight years before Wolfowitz was nominated by U.S. President George W Bush to lead the institution.


The former U.S. deputy defense secretary and key Iraq war architect has apologized for how he handled the promotion. He has said he was new to the job and acted on the advice of a board ethics committee even though he asked to be recused from handling the matter.

Meanwhile some U.S. Democrats increased calls for Wolfowitz to step down, with presidential candidate Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and current governor of New Mexico, calling for his resignation on Sunday.

"He should resign. I just think that he compromised the integrity of the bank," Richardson told reporters at the annual meeting of the California Democrat party in San Diego.

Another presidential candidate, John Edwards, a former U.S. senator and vice presidential nominee in 2004, has also called for Wolfowitz's resignation.

It is unclear what steps the World Bank board might take on Wolfowitz because of the unprecedented nature of the issue.

Hobbs said a strong World Bank was especially necessary now, when aid by rich countries was on the decline.

The Oxfam chief also said the issue highlighted the need to change the way the head of the World Bank is chosen.

Since the founding of the World Bank and its sister organization the International Monetary Fund 62 years ago, the White House has chosen the head of the bank, while the helm of the IMF is occupied by a European.

Contagious diseases still the scourge of Africa

from Asahi

Bacteriologist Hideyo Noguchi, who researched yellow fever in Africa in the early Showa Era (1926-1989), was struck down by the disease and died there in 1928 at the age of 51. It is said his death was due to the fact the vaccine he made did not work. His last words are said to have been: "I don't understand." Although times have changed, I feel those words reflect the horror of infectious diseases.

In commemoration of Noguchi's achievements, the government established the Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize for medical research and health-care services related to Africa. The prize was presented for the first time Wednesday to coincide with the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama.

One of the recipients of the prize, Dr. Brian Greenwood, is a British specialist on malaria research. He has lived in Africa for many years and, aside from his own research, has devoted much of his time to training local researchers. Although the local conditions are harsh, I heard his work has produced steady results.

But there is still a long way to go before the disease is eradicated. In Africa, 3,000 children are said to die every day of the disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. In sub-Saharan Africa, one out of every six children dies before he or she reaches the age of 5. Malaria is one of the major causes of infant deaths.

Malaria has also been dubbed the "disease of poverty." What little money residents have is used for prevention and treatment. The disease causes poverty, and poverty causes the disease to spread. Malaria is not the only disease that continues to plague the region. Eight decades after Noguchi's death, various infectious diseases such as AIDS continue to pose a major threat to people across Africa.

Britain's Blair to launch Faith Foundation

from Reuters India

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will launch a Faith Foundation on Friday that he said aims to improve understanding between different religions and fight global poverty by mobilizing people through faith.

"Religious faith will be of the same significance to the 21st Century as political ideology was to the 20th Century," Blair said in a statement before Friday's launch in New York.

"In an era of globalization, there is nothing more important than getting people of different faiths and cultures to understand each other better and live in peace and mutual respect," he said.

Blair, who converted to Catholicism in December after stepping down as prime minister in June, was often reticent about his faith during his 10 years in power in Britain, where religion and politics rarely mix.

Time magazine, which published an interview with Blair on Thursday, said the foundation aimed to build up a "war chest" of several hundred million dollars to fund projects to fight global poverty, such as an anti-malaria campaign.

It aims to support the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets adopted by world leaders in 2000 to reduce hunger and halve extreme poverty.

"Tony Blair has argued that faith has to be rescued from those who would use it to divide and those determined to write it off as an irrelevance," the statement from his office said.

"By stressing the values of respect, justice and compassion which the great religions hold in common, he believes faith can help unite the world and shape its direction for the better."

It said in the first three years of the Foundation, priority would be given to encouraging inter-faith initiatives to tackle global poverty and to improve understanding of the great religions through education at every level.

Indigenous Canadians protest poverty

from AFP via Google

OTTAWA — Canada's indigenous people marched en masse Thursday to protest poverty in their communities, but much of the anger displayed in similar events last year appears to have dissipated.

Thousands demonstrated across Canada, chanting, dancing in the streets and beating traditional native drums, but the fires burning on rail lines and ramshackle buses parked across highways that blemished last year's protests were visibly absent this round.

"I don't think this year is going to be as it was last year," organizer and national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, told public broadcaster CBC, adding there would be "no violence" this year.

"This is really a day of reaching out to Canadians to educate and inform Canadians of the situation that our people find themselves in," he explained.

"Too many (indigenous) people live in impoverished conditions. Too many of our children are going to school hungry. Too many of our (schools) are in a terrible state of disrepair."

"We need to move urgently to deal with First Nations poverty."

Protestors again this year called on the government to beef up funding for native communities and education, as well as expedite settlement of some 1,100 unresolved aboriginal land claims now twisting slowly through the courts.

However, they were heartened by the recent promise of a government apology on June 11 for the segregated boarding schools blamed for the loss of native culture and misery over more than a century.

Starting in 1874, Indian, Inuit and Metis children in Canada were forcibly enrolled in boarding schools run by Christian churches on behalf of the federal government in a misguided effort to assimilate them.

The last such school closed in the 1990s.

Survivors alleged abuse by headmasters and teachers, who stripped them of their culture and language.

Such experiences have been blamed for the loss of indigenous family ties, gross poverty, and desperation in native communities that breeds abuse, suicide, crime, and civil disobedience.

In April, Canada appointed the nation's top indigenous jurist to head a probe of the abuses, decried by Fontaine as "one of the darkest chapters in Canada's history."

Bush to send farm, aid officials to UN food summit

from Reuters

ASHINGTON, The Bush administration will send its top agriculture and aid officials to a meeting in Rome next week aimed at reversing the global food crisis.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer will lead the U.S. delegation at the June 3-5 meeting, hosted by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Schafer said he would urge other countries to join the United States in providing food assistance to the hungry, supporting improvements in global agriculture, and trying to foster regulation and technology to help feed a growing world population in the future.

The United States is the world's largest donor of food aid. But it has turned away from agriculture in recent decades as a mainstay of its international assistance programs, focusing instead on other priorities such as HIV AIDS, democracy and governeance.

Global food prices jumped 43 percent in the year through March, prompting widespread worry about growing malnutrition, poverty, and instability in developing countries where the poor are increasingly unable to put food on the table.

Some 40 heads of state are expected at the FAO meeting, which also will address climate change and bioenergy.

The administration also pledged to press countries to resist the urge to impose bans or restrictions, as some major food exporters have done. Experts believe export bans aggravate the turmoil on world markets.

"Now is the time to lift trade restrictive policy measures," Schafer said in a briefing for reporters on Thursday ahead of the trip.

Henrietta Fore, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the United States believed support for greater farm productivity in the developing world would be part of the solution.

World Bank creates $1.2bn food crisis fund

from RTE

The World Bank has announced a $1.2bn programme to fight the global food crisis, including $200m in grants to poor countries facing the most dire needs.

The bank also said it would boost its overall support for global agriculture and food to $6bn next year, up 50%.

Crop insurance and other assistance for small farmers in developing countries will be part of the programme.

Skyrocketing commodity prices in the past year have battered developing countries, where food takes the lion's share of household income.

Rising food prices have sparked deadly unrest and increased malnutrition, and a number of countries have put limits on exports to try to feed their own populations.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick - a former top US trade official who has made agriculture a priority since taking the helm of the poverty-fighting bank last July - said the programme was aimed at supporting coordinated international efforts.

More than 150 countries agreed to a new deal for global food policy at the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in April.

The new $1.2bn rapid-response facility supports safety-net programmes such as food for work, conditional cash transfers, and school feeding for the most vulnerable.

It also provides support for food production by supplying seeds and fertiliser, improving irrigation for small farmers, and providing budget support to offset tariff reductions for food and other unexpected costs.

The first grants from the $200m trust fund have been approved for Liberia, Haiti and Djibouti, with Liberia and Haiti receiving $10m each and Djibouti $5m.

In Postwar Liberia, Paradise Amid the Poverty

from the Washington Post

Feelings Mixed as Aid Workers Live Well

By Craig Timberg

MONROVIA, Liberia -- The second sushi bar to open in ragged postwar Liberia did not settle for having its chefs wear simple T-shirts, or for serving $25 worth of sliced fish on plain white plates.

Instead, the Barracuda Bar -- the new favorite hangout of ambassadors, U.N. officials and legions of aid workers whose shiny white SUVs jam the parking lot most nights -- opted to dress its staff in Japanese-style robes and red bandannas. Bigger orders of salmon and yellowtail arrived not on flatware but on little wooden sushi boats. Lobsters languished sullenly in a tank near the door, waving their antennae as customers walked by.

As this impoverished country climbs its way back from 13 years of civil war with the tiniest of steps, a boom is underway in the industries that cater to the rarified tastes of thousands of mostly European and U.S. expatriates who have come to help since peace arrived in 2003. The increasingly visible splendors available to this relatively wealthy group have left some Liberians wondering whether the foreigners are here to serve the nation or themselves.

"They drive the best of car, go to the best of entertainment center," said Allen Weedor, 42, the Liberian manager of a modest bar in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of town. "You can't really see what they've done."

The offices for aid groups and U.N. agencies that line major thoroughfares evoke as much discontent as gratitude in Monrovia, the capital. Their signature white trucks offer vivid contrasts when most vehicles on the road are worn-out old coupes with broken windshields, torn upholstery and thoroughly battered bodies that bespeak the troubled times Liberia has endured.

A U.N.-maintained list from 2005, the most recent available, catalogued more than 600 nongovernmental organizations, donor groups and agencies of the world body working in Liberia. Their missions included tending to nearly every facet of national life: food, health, education, forestry, farming, religion and rebuilding the electrical grid, water systems and roads.

Yet whatever the accomplishments of these groups, Liberians say the benefits of this massive international investment are far more obvious in the parts of town inhabited by the foreigners themselves. The number of swimming pools is burgeoning. Casinos are opening. Beach-side bars are springing up and sprucing up.

At the Abi-Jaoudi supermarket, ground coffee can be bought from Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks and Seattle's Best. There are eight types of Chi-Chi's salsa and 90 types of cereal, including six varieties of Special K. Pop-Tart lovers have 16 options; if they can't decide between strawberry and blueberry, they can get a "Splitz" Pop-Tart, with both.

A bag of these expensive imports can easily exceed the monthly salary of a Liberian lucky enough to have a job. A dinner for two at either of the sushi bars is much more -- especially if the meal is augmented with a few $8 caipirinhas or mojitos, as is possible at the Living Room, Monrovia's original, and somewhat less fancy, sushi spot.

There is another side to aid work in Liberia. Eliane Van De Velde, 35, a Belgian public information officer for the U.N. mission here, now on maternity leave, said many Westerners leave behind their families to work in a place that often is dangerous and disorienting.

"There are a lot of people who are there because they love the work," Van De Velde said.

Yet over several years in Liberia, Van De Velde said, she witnessed the most urgent needs ease as the aid flow grew sharply. As the money poured in, so did the amenities geared toward Western tastes.

"It's completely insane. The whole city doesn't have electricity. There's not a water plant. And it has two sushi bars, air-conditioned sushi bars," Van De Velde said. "You wouldn't think you were in an African country."

The arrival of sushi may have been inevitable in Monrovia, which sprawls along spectacular Atlantic Ocean beaches. For generations, the surf has been worked by fishermen who sail their colorful wooden boats out each day, netting an appetizing variety of sea life: marlin, barracuda, tuna, red snapper, yellowtail.

Monrovia also has a substantial community of relatively affluent Liberians who developed new tastes during long stretches living in the United States and Europe, often while studying at universities. But judging by the clientele at the Barracuda Bar and the Living Room, Monrovia's sushi eaters skew Western, and white.

The same is true at several of Monrovia's hot spots. Les Griot Cafe features both U.S. and European Union flags draped on its wall. Every Saturday is designated "NGO Night." At the Garden Cafe, young, lightly clad Liberian women vie for the attentions of foreign men, as do the amputees gathered outside the gates, begging for spare change.

Many in Monrovia's business community embrace the uptick in economic energy, no matter what the source. This is a country that only a few years ago was best known for blood diamonds, gunrunning and the terrifying, if occasionally antic, nicknames of drugged-out young warriors such as Dog Eats Man and Dirty Water.

Anna M.M. Bsaides, who owns and runs Mamba Point Hotel with her husband, managed to keep the business open during the civil war. As the country gradually stabilized, the hotel added a casino, the Barracuda Bar and a sports center with a Jacuzzi, ocean-side pool, workout room and tennis court. The clientele is mostly U.N. and World Bank officials, embassy staffers and aid workers. Bsaides said they are making crucial investments in the well-being of Liberia's 3 million residents.

"That is all good," she said. "They need a bit of resources . . . and they need the professionals to come and do the projects."

Few Liberians say they want the influx of money or projects to stop. Yet the flow of foreigners has stirred up sensitive feelings in a city already bristling with complex social and ethnic divides.

Freed American slaves founded Liberia in 1822, and their descendants, called Americo-Liberians, long dominated politics and commerce in this tiny nation. But Lebanese immigrants took control of large portions of Monrovia's business community in recent decades.

The Americo-Liberians say they have been sidestepped as money flows in, then out to Lebanon, without settling for long in Liberia. They say the aid groups rarely hire Liberians to senior positions, instead offering them low-paying jobs as drivers, security guards and secretaries.

Many of the foreigners also arrive with a whiff of condescension that never entirely dissipates, the Americo-Liberians say. And however much they are glad that former president Charles Taylor, a fellow Americo-Liberian, is no longer here to foment war, they are eager for the day when Liberia again is run mainly by Liberians.

High oil prices peril poverty reduction program

from the Inquirer

By Michelle Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The government’s agenda to reduce poverty incidence to as low as 17 percent of Filipino families by 2010 may likely be derailed by the adverse effects of rising oil and food prices on households.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the unabated rise in oil prices, which pushes the cost of other commodities, might make it difficult for some poor families to get out of poverty.

The latest report on poverty incidence said 26.9 percent of Filipino families in 2006 fell below the poverty line, as they failed to meet the minimum income required to meet their basic daily needs. The poverty level in 2006 was worse than in 2003, when the government documented 24.4 percent of Filipino families as being poor.

Poverty-reduction target

The Arroyo administration was hoping to trim the figure to a range of 17 to 20 percent by 2010 as part of its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations. UN member-countries have committed to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015.

But the NEDA said the soaring price of oil in the world market posed a tough challenge to the domestic economy to meet the government’s poverty-reduction target.

Increases in oil and commodity prices raise the minimum amount of income required to meet a family’s basic needs. An increase in poverty incidence ensues when families are not able to increase their income commensurate with the rising cost of living.

“We might have to revise the target on poverty reduction to take into account changes in macroeconomic assumptions,” NEDA Director General Augusto Santos said Thursday.

The government’s economic team on Wednesday revised its growth projection for the economy this year from between 6.3 percent and 7 percent, to between 5.7 percent and 6.5 percent.

Updating the federal poverty measure

from the San Jose Mercury News

By Sarah Frier

Stanford University scholars are working to create a more accurate way of measuring poverty than the federal government formulas in place since 1963.

The only factors that have been used to determine the federal poverty index are income, family size and family composition. The proposed Stanford poverty index would also account for government benefits, such as food stamps and tax credits, and expenses, such as child care and heating bills.

"The current measure of poverty is grossly inadequate and doesn't accurately represent the actual needs of families or their actual income after various transfers," said David Grusky, director of the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality at Stanford and a member of the national advisory board that is developing a new poverty index.

The new index, to be implemented by early next year, would provide the public easy access to poverty information through a Web site. The public would be able to interactively simulate the impact of policy decisions, such as a change in food stamp eligibility requirements, on poverty levels, Grusky said.

Such information already exists, but in "rather obscure census publications," said Barbara Bergmann, a member of the advisory board and professor emeritus of economics at the University of Maryland.

This year, the advisory board will decide the best way to compose the index and collect data from other publications.

Grusky said he hopes the board's efforts will lead to informed government and voter decision-making.

"Measurement matters," Grusky said. "It's hard to make good policy decisions when they're not grounded in good data."

The scholars hope the government will scrap its current poverty index and replace it with what they call the Stanford Poverty Count, which will be released annually.

World Bank Urges Continent to Take Advantage of High Food Prices

from All Africa

The Nation (Nairobi)

The World Bank has asked developed nations to help African farmers take advantage of the high food prices through increased food production.

The bank's president, Mr Robert Zoellick, said while development partners had pledged additional financial assistance, more needed to be done in agricultural research.

Others are development and infrastructure, since Africa's economic gains were at risk from high food and energy prices.

"This crisis provides the opportunity to build a coalition of responses across the African continent.

"This offers a vehicle for an agricultural renaissance that raises small-scale farmers' income, enhances livelihoods, nutrition and ultimately, food security for Africa," Mr Zoellick said.

He was speaking at joint press conference with Food and Agriculture Organisation representative for Africa, Modibo Traoré.

Others were International Fund for Agricultural Development president, Mr Lennart Bage; and the World Food Programme executive director, Ms Josette Sheeran.

Mr Zoellick told journalists that although African governments had increased their investment in Agriculture, few had met the 2003 commitment to spend at least 10 per cent of their annual budgets on agriculture.

The four organisations asked the international community to complement increased financial assistance with real breakthroughs in trade negotiations.

This is to ensure that Africa's producers could gain access to lucrative markets.

The agencies asked leaders in developed nations, international organisations and the private sector to join hands under the leadership of African and regional organisations, the AU and the New Partnership for African Development.

This is to support immediate and long-term goals for growth in the continent's agriculture.

Make it easier to buy

They asked governments to make it easier to buy food meant for humanitarian assistance by removing export controls and taxes.

"Africa's very impressive economic progress of the last eight years must not be derailed by high food prices.

"Efforts to meet the hunger Millenium Development Goal can succeed if we seize the opportunity of high food prices in a continent with vast, untapped agricultural potential.

"With good policies and sufficient assistance, Africa can more than meet this challenge," said Mr Bage.

The agencies said high food prices had contributed to macro-economic problems in many countries.

They added that the total cost of food imports for Low-Income Food Deficit Countries had risen to $107 billion in 2007, a 24 per cent increase over the previous year's.

The crisis had contributed to fiscal imbalances as governments increased expenditure on safety nets and reduced tariffs and taxes on food.

Ms Sheeran said the high prices were attributable to increasing incomes in emerging markets and oil exporting countries, which had contributed to high global demand for food and animal feed.

The situation had been worsened by increasing demand for biofuels, which had created a structural link between the food and energy markets.

She asked governments to ensure that mitigating measures such as reduced taxes and tariffs on food, distribution of supplies and restrictions on food exports did not derail the progress achieved under past reforms.

"We appeal to the affected countries to mange the short-term needs in ways that do not compromise longer term growth or impose burdens on their neighbours," she said.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation has organised a high-level conference on world food security, climate change challenges and bio-energy next week in Rome.

The UN has established a task force on the food crisis, bringing together heads of specialised agencies, funds, the World Bank and the IMF.

This is to promote a unified response to the crisis in support of governments and the affected people.

The Japanese Government promised to rally its G8 partners, due to meet in July, to honour their pledges to Africa and play a more pro-active role in speeding up development.

Meanwhile, the global food crisis could reverse some of the progress Africa has made in bringing down child mortality, the head of the United Nations' children's agency said yesterday, adds Reuters.

"If more children become undernourished, that could contribute to additional child mortality," Ms Ann Veneman, executive director of Unicef, said in an interview with Reuters yesterday.

"This is not a crisis for everyone. It's an impact on those who are the most vulnerable."

Protests, strikes and riots have erupted in developing countries around the world in the wake of dramatic rises in the prices of wheat, rice, maize oils and other essential foods that have made it difficult for poor people to make ends meet.

In African nations such as Cameroon, at least 24 people were killed in protests in February while in Somalia, thousands protested earlier this month.

Ms Veneman is in Japan to launch Unicef's State of Africa's Children 2008 report, which says that five million children died in Africa before they reached the age of five in 2006.

Sudanese President, Omar el-Bashir demanded international action against Chad, over its alleged support for Darfur rebel groups and involvement in attack against the capital Khartoum, during a speech at the conference in Japan.

He spoke on Wednesday at a summit of some 40 African leaders in Yokohama, Japan, striking a discordant note at the start of a meeting, that was focused on development and poverty alleviation.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Indonesia fuel price hike necessary to curb poverty: minister

from AFP via Google

Students and workers shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration against oil price hikes

JAKARTA — The Indonesian government's decision to hike the price of fuel by around 30 percent last week was necessary to tackle poverty and inflation, a minister said Thursday.

Information minister Mohammad Nuh defended the price rise amid nearly daily protests across the country and accusations that a cash transfer scheme aimed at softening the impact of the rise was not going to those in need.

The price rise was necessary to save Indonesia's economy from the swelling cost of its multibillion dollars subsidy scheme on the back of soaring global oil prices, Nuh told reporters here.

"If the government didn't do anything, inflation would have doubled to 13.2 percent from an earlier estimate of 6.5 percent for 2008... and the poverty rate would have increased to 15 percent," Nuh said.

Nuh said the price rise would still mean a spike in inflation to around 11.2 percent this year, but inflation would drop to 5.6 percent in 2009.

The rupiah would remain stable at around 9,000 to the dollar, Nuh said.

Nuh said that a 14.18 trillion rupiah (1.53 billion dollar) cash transfer scheme to 19.1 million poor families was reaching those in need, despite reports that some poor families were being overlooked while relatively rich Indonesians received aid.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hiked fuel prices by an average of 28.7 percent on Saturday to limit damage to the budget from soaring world oil prices.

SAfrica admits 'urgent need' to tackle poverty after mob attacks

from AFP via Google

Children make their way to school past shacks, destroyed in xenophobic violence

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's government acknowledged an urgent need Thursday to accelerate efforts to tackle poverty and unemployment as it assessed the damage from a wave of deadly xenophobic attacks.

In a statement issued after a cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, the government said it "accepts that the pace of service delivery needs to be expedited ... to address the developmental needs of our communities.

"However, blaming and attacking foreign nationals is an unacceptable way of highlighting community concerns."

The government said there were genuine concerns about access to basic provisions such as water as well as jobs but they were being exploited to justify attacks on foreigners which have left more than 50 people dead in May.

Around 40 percent of South Africa's estimated 48 million people are unemployed, according to unofficial statistics, while more than four million are believed to be living in dire poverty and earn less than a dollar a day.

"Whilst acknowledging the urgent need to accelerate its programmes for alleviating poverty, unemployment and other forms of socio-economic deprivation, government appeals to all our communities to reject any agitation from those who wish to reduce this country into a lawless country," it added.

The acknowledgement marks a significant change in tone from South African President Thabo Mbeki's government which had previously denied any link between the attacks and complaints about the delivery of essential services.

But while the government confirmed plans to set up special courts to try those accused of carrying out the attacks, the cabinet made no concrete decision on how to assist the victims.

There had been reports prior to the meeting the government would approve the setting up of several giant camps to house some of the tens of thousands of foreigners, mainly Zimbabwean and Mozambican, who saw their homes razed to the ground in the violence which began on May 11.

However cabinet said merely it was working with officials at provincial level to find suitable land or facilities to house the victims who have either been staying in cramped community centres or sleeping out in the cold.

Meanwhile the Gauteng provincial government, which includes the Johannesburg epicentre of the attacks, said another 10 temporary shelters would be set up to held displaced foreign nationals in Gauteng.

Acting Gauteng premier Paul Mashatile said a task team led by the department of social services would be assigned to identify locations for temporary shelters.

"The task team will co-ordinate intervention, working together with the United Nations Council on refugees and other organisations," he was quoted as saying by the SAPA news agency.

The Catholic Archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Tlhagale, also called for greater efforts to be made to help victims of the violence as he issued an appeal for clothing, blankets and food to be dropped off at churches.

Mbeki has been widely criticised for his response to the violence which has severely damaged South Africa's reputation as a "Rainbow Nation" that it has sought to forge in the 14 years since the end of the whites-only apartheid regime.

While he has called the attacks a "disgrace" he has failed to visit any of the affected areas and he did not chair Wednesday's cabinet as he is currently attending a conference in Japan.

Ohio Poverty Numbers Grow

from WBNS

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There are more families in poverty now in Ohio than in the last 40 years, according to a new report.

The study shows more than 13-percent of Ohio’s population is poor. That’s about 316,000 people.

Numbers have not been that high since the 1960 War on Poverty.

The study was prepared for the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies and looks at numbers from the 2006 Census.

The largest population group in the poverty level is single mothers and their children.

The numbers show that 30% of Ohioans fall below the Census Bureau’s poverty threshold which means they are struggling even though they may not be in poverty. (The threshold is 200% of the poverty mark which is $20,444 for a family of four.)

Most of the families in poverty did have someone who was employed, but many held low-wage jobs.

Other facts from the study:

The population groups with the lowest poverty rates were older adults, whites and married persons with children.

The Southern and Southeast Ohio regions had the highest poverty rates.

Focus groups used for the report also indicated that communities with little experience with poverty are now seeing poverty moving to the suburbs.

World Bank, UN ask for more food aid for Africa

from Gulf Live


YOKOHAMA, Japan - African leaders and international aid agencies implored developed nations Thursday to do more to help countries reeling from soaring food prices.

Wealthy economies should keep providing emergency aid to the most-affected areas, but also steer funds to long-term projects in research and technology that would unlock Africa's "vast untapped agricultural potential," they said in a joint statement released at an African development conference hosted by Japan.

High oil prices, surging demand, flawed trade policies, extreme weather, growth in biofuel production and speculation have inflated food prices worldwide, trigging protests from Africa to Asia and raising fears of widespread malnutrition and economic instability.

"The record high prices of food and fuel are a painful pinch for those all over the world, but for those living on less than a dollar a day, it's devastating," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program. "By far, the region to be hit hardest by this is Africa."

The statement was issued by four groups — the WFP, the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the Food and Agriculture Organization — who met earlier Thursday with African heads of state to reiterate their commitment.

World leaders will gather for a UN conference next week in Rome to discuss the food crisis, and the heads of the Group of Eight nations will meet in northern Japan in July. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has pledged to highlight the issue during the G-8 Summit.

Participants at this week's Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or TICAD, have warned that the crisis could make it even harder for the continent to work toward the Millennium Development Goals — a set of eight objectives for poverty reduction, education, health, gender equality and the environment that United Nations member states agreed to try to achieve by 2015.

"Africa's very impressive economic progress of the last eight years must not be derailed by high food prices," the statement said.

U2 lead singer and activist Bono, who has parlayed his fame to effectively campaign for debt relief in Africa, said in a speech to African and Japanese leaders Thursday afternoon that food security is inextricably linked with other development issues.

"I'm the least qualified to talk about (food), but it might be the most important thing that we're all talking about today," he said. "This is an area where the environment meets the re-greening of Africa meets good development to fight extreme poverty."

In addition to seeking more funding, the World Bank urged governments of advanced economies to not impose export restrictions or tariffs on food that could be funneled to relief agencies or countries facing severe food shortages.

World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, speaking on the sidelines of TICAD, said taxes and bans that have been enacted by a number of countries recently were "exacerbating the problem."

Zoellick later met with Fukuda, who as president of the G8 vowed to help strengthen international response to the food crisis. Japan so far has pledged $100 million in emergency food aid and announced Tuesday that it would double its bilateral aid to Africa by 2012.

Report Says High Food Prices

from the Wall Street Journal


High food prices will allow farmers to invest more and improve crop yields in Asia and Latin America, but they also will lead to even more severe food shortages and poverty in parts of Africa, according to an international report released Thursday.

Commissioned at a time of food riots and concerns about shortages, the 73-page paper by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization and Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development lends authority to conclusions about the lopsided impact of the current run-up in food prices that many analysts in the sector have been reaching.

Emerging economies like China, Indonesia, Brazil and Argentina will benefit most from higher prices, which create an incentive for their farmers to boost production, the report says.

Asian and Latin American farmers typically get only half the yields of their American and European counterparts. They are catching up by investing in modern seed, equipment and fertilizer -- driving up prices for those components. Those improvements, for example, will drive up global wheat production to 689.4 million tons by 2017 from 602 million tons this year, the report says.

World trade is expected to rise at least 20% for most agricultural commodities, driven by exports from the developing world. "The epicenter of global agriculture will further shift from [rich nations] toward developing countries," the report said. "By 2017, these countries are expected to dominate production and consumption of most commodities, which the exception of coarse grains [corn, oats, barley], cheese, and skim-milk powder."

Food inflation's biggest losers will be the world's least developed countries, mostly located in Africa, according to the report. Their farmers tend not to be "linked to markets," and can't afford investment, so they can't increase revenue. These countries' non-farming poor will fare even worse. "Higher prices … will push more people into undernourishment," creating a need for massive humanitarian aid, the report said.

The recent food commodity price spikes are partly the result of dry weather in Australia and France. Prices will fall back as rain returns, the report said, but remain higher than in the past. Wheat, for example, will level off around $230 per metric ton, down from an average of $318 per ton this year, but higher than the $167 averaged between 2002 and 2007. Rice, corn and dairy products will follow a similar trend.

Africa making strides but still in need of help

from the Japan Times

Staff writers

African leaders said Wednesday that while their nations have a responsibility to fight poverty and improve the living conditions of millions on the continent, its partners, including Japan and other affluent nations, must also lend a hand.

During the afternoon session of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the leaders also pointed out that establishing and securing peace in troubled areas was crucial for development. The session centered on progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals adopted at the U.N. in 2000.

The global community agreed to make a collective push to rectify chronic problems ranging from dire poverty and hunger to child mortality and HIV/AIDS by 2015.

"It is true that Africa has seen growth since the beginning of the millennium," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday. "But in spite of these successes and progress, Africa as a continent is far from achieving the MDG."

Noting soaring food prices are hampering progress, Gheit urged enhanced economic partnership between Africa and Japan in food security.

The delegates also urged developed countries to provide assistance in curbing the impact of global warming in Africa, calling climate change a "grave issue on the continent."

Global warming "has taken its toll," causing droughts, erosion and a rise in the sea level, James Alix Michel, president of the Seychelles, told the conference.

Material and financial assistance from industrialized nations is necessary to halt the trend, he said, noting his country looks to Japan as "one of the key partners" in combating global warming.

Japan's More is Not Enough

from All Africa

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

By Ramesh Jaura
Yokohama, Japan

Japan is receiving kudos for what UN Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro has called the country's "strong commitment to Africa's development."

But praise for Japan at the fourth round of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) that kicked off Wednesday in Japan's port city Yokohama near Tokyo did not come without a touch of criticism, particularly from Zimbabwe.

The admiration is for the fact that Japan, the world's second largest economy, initiated the 'TICAD process' in 1993, when focus on Africa's concerns was drifting. As Migiro points out, TICAD that is held every five years "helped rally Africa's development partners in a collective and forward-looking effort."

Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori initiated a dialogue between Africa and the world's major industrial countries at the Okinawa G8 summit in 2000.

Eight years later, Africa's development concerns will again be tabled by a Japanese Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, at the G8 summit in Hokkaido in Japan, scheduled July 7 to 9.

President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso joined the UN Deputy Secretary General in testifying to the TICAD conference being held May 28-30 that the process had enriched the policy dialogue based on the principle of African countries taking ownership of their development, and the international community supporting Africa's efforts.

"This is also the basis upon which the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was founded," Migiro told delegates. The delegates are from 52 African countries, 40 of them heads of state, representatives of 22 donor nations and the European Union (EU), and 12 Asian countries, besides officials from 16 African regional institutions and 55 international organisations.

While lauding Japan's decision to double its ODA in the next five years, bringing its annual aid to Africa from the current 900 million to 1.8 billion dollars by 2012, Migiro joined African leaders in pointing out that "donor countries must meet their commitments to increase the volume, quality and predictability of ODA."

Japanese officials say that though Tokyo continues to hold on to the UN goal of spending 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA), there is no plan to set a date for fulfilling the target.

Presently, only 0.17 percent of Japan's GNI goes for ODA.

Former prime minister Toshiki Kaifu (1989-1991), who founded Japan's volunteer corps to support developing countries, told IPS that it is much easier to convince people of the need for humanitarian assistance than for ODA to countries with which Japan has no historical ties. "But of course we must continue to pursue the goal."

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid expressed hope that more funds would be allotted to maternal health. Obaid warned that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not be achieved unless the lives, the health and the rights of women are promoted more vigorously.

"Maternal health underpins all the other MDGs, especially those to improve infant and child health, to empower women, and to attain gender equality," she said. "Only when women are healthy, educated and empowered can they lift their families and their nations from the depths of poverty, and place them on a firm stairway to development."

In his opening speech to the conference Wednesday, Prime Minister Fukuda made a strong link between improving reproductive health and achieving the MDGs.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the largest civil society organisation delivering sexual and reproductive health care in Africa, said that TICAD IV comes at the half-way point of the MDGs, and provides a real opportunity to address the lack of progress being made towards improving maternal and child health enshrined in MDGs 4, 5 and 6.

"The dialogue between African leaders and international development partners should help remove bottlenecks and scale up action," IPPF said in a statement.

The consensus reached through a broad consultative process leading up to TICAD IV is that there are a number of policy recommendations and 'windows of opportunity for action' that could favourably be supported to realise the vision of a 'Vibrant Africa' over the next five years, IPPF said.

The Japanese government won some nuanced praise from Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Simbarashe S. Mumbengegwi for offering "a valuable platform for genuine policy dialogue free from the prescription-based approach."

Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister commended "the people and government of Japan" for taking the lead in the global efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic by providing 500 million dollars in 2000 which became seed money for the Global Aids Fund."

He added: "However, when they made this selfless gesture, the government and people of Japan were not aware that the Global Aids Fund would one day be used as a political weapon with which to sanction some developing countries for unjustified political reasons."

Since the launch of the Fund, Zimbabwe has received assistance from it only twice in the nine disbursements made so far. Besides, Mumbengegwi said, the amounts that were disbursed to Zimbabwe on those two occasions were paltry in comparison to what was given to other countries in the region.

The average per capita aid for Zimbabwe is only four dollars compared to 124 dollars for the region. "It is regrettable that the Global Aids Fund has been politicised," Mumbengegwi said.

GLEAMNS event aims to fight poverty

from the Greenwood Index Journal


May is celebrated as the National Month of Community Action, and Wednesday GLEAMNS Human Resources Commission, Inc. celebrated Community Action Day in support of the national theme: “rooting out poverty.”

“The National Month of Community Action is when we celebrate the services and hard work you provide,” said Alex Alderman, statewide project coordinator for the South Carolina Community Action Partnerships.

South Carolina has 15 community action agencies statewide, and the largest is GLEAMNS, which is incorporated in 13 counties. GLEAMNS sponsors after-school programs, child care food programs, early Head Start programs, weatherization programs, workforce development programs and much more.

“Rooting out poverty is something that is very important,” Greenwood Mayor Floyd Nicholson said. “We can get there if we work together. The key to rooting out poverty is good jobs, and you get a good job through a good education.”

When it comes to education, Nicholson said, “if you go into the race two miles behind and keep the same pace, you will always stay two miles behind.”

The keynote speaker for the Community Action Day celebration was Claude Thomas, chairman of the GLEAMNS board of commissioners.

“Poverty implies lack of resources for comfortable living,” Thomas said. “Poverty is nothing new. There have been many attempts to rid the world of poverty but it still remains. Poverty encompasses race, gender the world over. 14.2 percent of the population in Greenwood is below the poverty level.”

Banker says Tanzania could benefit from ongoing global food crisis

from IPP Media

By Perege Gumbo, recently from Johannesburg

A leading economist has said Tanzania is one of the few African states which command great potential to turning the current global food crisis into gainful opportunity.

That is because the country is endowed with huge arable land and has since independence enjoyed unparalleled peace and social-cultural stability, unlike so many other countries in the region.

Addressing participants to the second Business Journalism Forum, the Standard Bank Group Economist Yvonne Mhango said that with many African nations facing internal political instabilities, Tanzania could benefit from the current global food crisis.

Drawing contrasts, she said that recent Kenya�s post election violence and conflicts in Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Zimbabwe and Northern Uganda were factors which do not augur well with enhancement of farm productivity.

Tanzania has a surface area of 94.3 million hectares, of which 19.1 million hectares represents arable land, but only 5.1 million hectares are cultivated annually. The rest of the arable land is either reserved or used for pasture.

Under proper policies, incentives and technological encouragement, this land could produce enough crops to feed itself and export the surplus to global markets.

These remarks are coming in the wake of indicators showing that food prices have been rising globally, and use of crops for bio-fuels is partly blamed for the problems.

In a report titled Africa Economic Outlook, launched recently in Maputo, the African Development Bank (ADB) raised concerns that besides the rising prices of crude oil in the last three months, prices of some major food crops have nearly doubled.

According to the report, rice prices increased from USD373 a tonne to USD760 while that of maize rose from USD171 a tonne to USD220 in the last three months.

Yvonne further said that since there was no signs that the prices of food would go down as a result of continued hiking of fuel prices which has forced many major food producers to opt for bio-fuel, embarking on commercial irrigation would turn the current food crisis into economic opportunity.

She said that as food shortages continued, many African economies and the lives of common people were likely to be pushed further into abject poverty.

``This is a blow for the African nations as they struggle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing number of people who do not attend schools as well as poverty as these won�t be attained in the presence of severe hunger`` she stressed.

Apart from bio-fuels opted for by the major world crop producers to mitigate the climbing fuel prices, she said other factors that are contributing to food crisis in Africa as being changing dietary cultures, increase of fertiliser prices, high energy costs, and prolonged droughts in some parts of Africa.

Despite erratic weather, bad policies and recent ban of crop exports by countries such as China and Zambia were equally harmful.

One of the striking reasons for global food crisis she said was the Chinese intensive use of crops to feed its animals particularly pork which is the main food dependent of the majority Chinese.

In particular, she said the ban on crop exports was counter productive over the longer runs since it would tend to discourage local farmers to increase production.

She proposed that food crisis could best be dealt with by African states including Tanzania through embarking on commercial irrigation schemes, improvement in the agricultural production and the use of better seeds and fertiliser.

Students are eager to help others

from the Indianapolis Star

By Melanie D. Hayes

Some Carmel Elementary third-graders have decided they aren't too young to try to change the world. And they have joined forces with one of the most influential people who try to make a difference every day -- Oprah Winfrey.

The television host's Oprah's Angel Network and Free the Children have created O Ambassadors, a school-based program to help raise awareness about global issues and encourage kids to be leaders, said Ashley Aletto, a club sponsor.

Carmel Elementary applied and joined the program last fall -- the year the program started. Each school is assigned one of five world regions, and Carmel got East Africa.

To get in the club, third-graders had to submit a two-page application essay about why they wanted to join. All 37 students in Aletto's and Stephanie Borlik's classrooms who applied were accepted and formed a chapter.

Members dedicate an hour every Tuesday after school to it.

"We teach them about East Africa, and within that, we teach them about poverty, health, education and sustainable development," Aletto said. "We analyze pictures, show videos, read stories and do activities. We look at the differences in their lives and ours.

"For example, in East Africa, girls don't get as many privileges. In school, they can't speak. So one time, the girls couldn't say anything in our class to make them see what it would be like."

The club has been raising money throughout the year to send to Free the Children, which will use it to help kids in East Africa.

The local O Ambassadors also have organized a three-hour, end-of-the-school-year fair, Carmel's Big Give Carnival. Students from all 11 Carmel elementary schools Friday are invited to enjoy inflatable moon walks, face painting, bingo, a dunk-a-principal game and more.

The goal is to raise $20,000 through wristband sales and donations for kids in East Africa, Aletto said.

As a way to draw kids and parents out to the carnival, the O Ambassadors made several marketing materials about their club and the need in Africa. They created a video, a brochure and signs.

"We have been learning about how people in East Africa are living and how sad it is," said Kyle Schultz, 9. ". . . A lot of people don't have shelter. I think all of us couldn't imagine how sad it would be."

Dani Van Buren, 9, wants to encourage kids to go to the carnival, and to help in other ways.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stanford project promises more accurate measure of poverty in U.S.

from the Stanford Project


They're single mothers who can't afford childcare and the elderly who are unable to pay their medical bills. They're the homeless lined up at city soup kitchens and the unemployed with no prospect of work near their rural homes.

They're America's poor—struggling with different daily hardships and eligible for different types of assistance.

But the official poverty index does not recognize their different needs and their eligibility for different types of aid. The only factors that are considered in calculating the index are income, family size and composition. For a family of one adult and two children to be considered poor in 2007, it must have made less than $16,705. There were no adjustments made for government benefits like tax credits and food stamps or for financial burdens, such as home-heating bills and transportation costs.

The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality is working to present a clearer picture of the poor by regularly calculating and publishing an alternative to the official poverty index, an outdated yardstick developed in 1963. The new Stanford Poverty Count aims to provide an accurate measure of how much poverty there is in the United States.

"The current index is a statistical fabrication that doesn't authentically represent the real economic circumstances of families," said David Grusky, the center's director and member of the advisory board that is developing the new poverty measure, which draws on methods already recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and tested by the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Joined by Barbara Bergmann, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Maryland, and other poverty scholars on the advisory board, Grusky hopes the federal government will scrap the current poverty index and replace it with the Stanford Poverty Count. Meanwhile, the center plans to publish its findings using the alternative measure beginning in 2009.

By taking into account 12 factors not considered in the current poverty index—including tax credits and payments, federal benefits for housing and food, out-of-pocket health costs and childcare needs—the Stanford Poverty Count will more accurately measure which families are poor and whether poverty is increasing or declining, Grusky said.

With that information, government agencies will be able to craft policies and programs that best help those in need—a task that Grusky said is especially important as the country faces an economic downturn.

"The objective is to create a more accurate measure, not one that necessarily yields a higher poverty count," Grusky said. "If you don't have a good measure of poverty, you are operating in the dark and can't make good policy decisions."

The current index is flawed because it assumes the only way poverty can be alleviated is by increasing a family's earnings.

"Even if billions of additional dollars were spent annually by the government on healthcare, childcare or housing subsidies, not a single family would change their poverty status under the poverty estimate as it is currently calculated," Grusky said.

The current poverty index was developed nearly five decades ago. To draw a line between the poor and the non-poor, the cost of a basic food budget for a family of four was multiplied by three. After adjustment for family size, families whose pre-tax income fell below the poverty line were counted as poor. Since its creation, the index has only been updated to reflect inflation.

To illustrate the problems with the current poverty index, the advisory board uses a model of two families with cash incomes of $20,000. One family needs to pay $6,000 a year for childcare, while the other benefits from care given by a relative or a government program. The first family is forced to maintain a lower living standard than the second because it must spend $6,000 of its $20,000 income on childcare. But the two families are treated identically by the official measure of poverty.

The Stanford Poverty Count would calculate the childcare costs, and show that the family saddled with the $6,000 bill is financially worse off than the other.

Choosing Bankruptcy to Stay Afloat

from the Washington Post

Despite Tighter Rules, More Strapped Americans Seek Debt Relief

By Nancy Trejos

Danielle Lancaster makes $28,000 a year as a bank employee in Richmond. She owes almost twice that on her credit cards, student and car loans.

Add to that day-care expenses for her 2-year-old daughter, rent and utilities, and she uses up every cent she brings in. She has cut costs any way she can, suspending luxuries such as restaurant meals and movies. But that didn't stop her car from getting repossessed. "I work to live," she said. "I see my check, and it's gone right away."

Lancaster is 26 and bankrupt.

Two weeks ago, she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, which will restructure her debt. She will have five years to pay it off under a plan that lowers her monthly payments. "Everything just got to be too much," said the Richmond resident who recently earned an undergraduate degree from Norfolk State University.

Despite the 2005 passage of a law that made it more difficult and expensive to file for personal bankruptcy, more Americans are choosing bankruptcy over destitution. Filings -- including Chapter 7, which wipes out debt, and Chapter 13, which reorganizes it -- totaled 822,590 last year, up 38 percent from 2006.

The numbers tell the story of a crippled economy, one in which people owe more than they can pay to their creditors -- be they credit card companies, mortgage lenders or auto and student loan servicers. And it's one more disturbing chapter in the saga of the subprime mortgage crisis, in which homeowners unable to handle higher interest payments on their adjustable rate mortgages are turning to bankruptcy to avoid foreclosure.

"The rise in bankruptcies is not about something that happened last week or last month," said Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and a bankruptcy expert. "It's about the fundamentals. It's about declining wages, rising costs, inadequate health insurance, job instability. More hardworking middle-class families simply can't make it in this economy, and it's only getting worse."

Bankruptcy attorneys and economists said the trend cuts across all segments of society -- the young and the old, homeowners with bad mortgages and renters, the poor and the middle class. In the past, bankruptcies were more common among people who had sudden life changes, such as a divorce, illness or job loss. Now, the bankrupt are people who have simply racked up too much debt.

"It is pretty widespread because there are widespread problems in the economy," said Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland at College Park. "Americans have been spending 105 percent of their income for the last three or four years. That's not sustainable."

Declining home values are exacerbating the problem. No longer can people rely on the equity in their homes to pay down more expensive debt. Most troubling is that people are increasingly seeking bankruptcy protection to save their homes. Filing for Chapter 13 freezes a foreclosure and allows homeowners to negotiate more manageable payments with their lenders.

Take Jerome and Stephanie Smith. They used a fixed-rate mortgage to buy a house in Richmond in 2000, then refinanced to an adjustable rate loan in 2003. At least three more refinances followed -- Jerome Smith said he has lost count. The couple's monthly mortgage payment more than doubled to $1,600, excluding taxes and insurance. "I'm not dumb, but sometimes we do dumb things," Jerome Smith, 52, said.

Then something happened that had nothing to do with his judgment. He injured his back at his job as a machine operator. He has not worked since surgery in December and is getting $350 a week in disability payments, about one-third what he normally brings home.

The family -- the couple and their daughter -- had to go on what Jerome calls "the poor man's budget." That means buying a bag of 15 chicken legs and thighs, four boxes of macaroni and cheese for $1, three cans of green beans for $1, a big can of spaghetti and meatballs for $1.84, a 20-pound bag of rice for $5, some cereal, grits, eggs, bread, milk and juice. "You stick to that, and that comes under $100" a month, he said.

Still, the couple has not been able to keep up with the mortgage. One of three cars has been repossessed. The electric company has sent a cutoff notice. Phone service has been suspended.

Late and missed payments damaged their credit score so much that they couldn't get any lenders to refinance at more favorable terms. Then their mortgage company scheduled a foreclosure. Filing for Chapter 13 fended that off.

"There was nothing that I could really do," Jerome Smith said. "My hands were tied."

Congress recently considered a proposal by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) to let bankruptcy judges cut interest rates and principal on troubled mortgages. But that plan was scuttled last month. Instead, consumers must operate under the law passed in 2005, which was intended to get people like the Smiths to choose other alternatives. In response to critics, such as credit card issuers who complained that people sought bankruptcy too frivolously, Congress enacted tighter income limits, tougher standards for measuring a debtor's ability to pay and mandatory credit counseling.

Personal bankruptcies reached a peak of 2.04 million that year as debtors rushed to file before the changes went to effect. The number dropped precipitously in 2006 but started climbing back up in 2007, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

In the District, there were 358 Chapter 7 filings in 2007, up from 297 the previous year. There were 336 Chapter 13 filings, up from 240 the year before, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

U.S. bankruptcy courts in Maryland and Virginia provided more recent figures. In Maryland, there were 982 Chapter 7 filings in April, up from 534 in April 2007. There were 625 Chapter 13 filings, up from 424. In the Eastern District of Virginia, which includes Northern Virginia, there were 1,191 Chapter 7 filings in April, more then double the number -- 581 -- this time last year. There were 552 Chapter 13 filings, up from 410.

Bob Arnold, 46, is waiting to find out whether the court will accept his Chapter 7 filing. He once made more than $100,000 a year as a manager at a printing plant. Then he lost his job, which wiped out his ability to pay child support and send money to about a dozen credit card companies, the lender for his timeshare and Capital One for his car. His monthly obligations totaled about $2,000, more than he takes in at his new job as a paralegal. He kept up his child support but stopped payments to other creditors. Then a friend, an attorney, suggested bankruptcy.

"I'm not happy about it, but I have to do what I have to do," the Centreville resident said. "I can't keep these creditors on hold, and I can't give them what I don't have."

Earlier this month, he sat in a hot, windowless room at the Legal Services of Northern Virginia's Falls Church Office as attorney Nancy Ryan explained how to file for bankruptcy. In the room were people with credit card debt, cars that had been repossessed, houses that had been foreclosed upon. "It's a tsunami," said Q. Russell Hatchl, pro bono coordinator for Legal Services.

Ryan reminded them that although a bankruptcy would take care of their debts, it could also leave them with damaged credit for as long as 10 years.

Lancaster knows that all too well. Although she is relieved that her monthly payments to her creditors will drop to $290 -- her car alone had cost her $400 a month -- she has felt the negative impact of filing for bankruptcy. She is trying to move closer to the District so she can get a better-paying job, but she cannot persuade any landlord to let her rent a place unless she hands over a lot of money up front. "It's hard to do anything once you get a bankruptcy," she said.

Abu Dhabi fund unveils poverty alleviation strategy

from The Economic Times

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) has announced a five-year aid strategy to support poverty eradication initiatives in developing countries, WAM news agency reported Wednesday.

Under the new strategy, which is to run till 2012, the fund has allocated 750 million United Arab dirhams (about $204 million) as soft loans to finance infrastructure projects such as electricity, roads and water sectors in developing countries.

Addressing a meeting of the fund's board of directors, member Fawziya Al Mubarak underlined ADFD's efforts to further Abu Dhabi's general policy in providing help to developing countries, and supporting their efforts to achieve economic and social development.

Adel Al Hosni, legal advisor to the fund, said: "The priorities of the fund in this stage can be summarised in providing help to underdeveloped countries in the form of soft loans, supporting the capitals and enhancing the capabilities of these countries."

The ADFD was established July 1971 with its head office in Abu Dhabi, with the aim of providing assistance to the developing countries in form of confessional loans, grants or contributions to projects capitals.

Intel, Nobel Laureate to Bridge Tech, Finance Divides

from E Commerce Times

By Andrew K. Burger

Combining the technological prowess of a company such as Intel with the microfinance know-how of Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, a joint venture between Intel and Yunus' Grameen Trust will begin making loans and sharing expertise with people in poor countries to help bridge the digital divide.

Intel Latest News about Intel and Grameen Trust are joining forces in an effort to bridge the financial and digital divides separating many of the world's most wanting from basic services and economic opportunities.

Joined via video link by Grameen Trust founder and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett announced that Intel Capital and Grameen Trust are forming a joint venture that aims to bring information and communications technology (ICT) and microcredit facilities to poor communities throughout the developing world.

"It turns out that information technology can follow on the work that Dr. Yunus did in Bangladesh. And in fact if you look, whether you're in Bangladesh or Bolivia or the remote areas of China or India, or even Malaysia, bringing technology in and allowing local rural residents to compete on an equal basis with those in urban areas is very, very important. If you've seen Dr. Yunus's book, Creating a World Without Poverty, he talks about this social concept," Barrett said.
Technology Providing Opportunities

Using the social business Over 800,000 High Quality Domains Available For Your Business. Click Here. model created and employed by Yunus in building Grameen Bank, the Intel-Grameen partnership aims to draw on Intel's expertise developing innovative information technology, as well as its financial resources, with that of Grameen in microfinance and community-economic development.

Grameen's microcredit and community development programs have reached some 7 1/2 million people in 73,000 villages throughout Bangladesh. The partners foresee a number of ICT-based services and entrepreneurship opportunities growing out of their nascent social business venture, according to Intel.

"Examples include remote villagers receiving medical attention through Internet connectivity, rural communities being able to order medicine locally instead of having to walk 10 miles to a hospital, and families being notified of monies received from relatives abroad," the company said.

"Both Intel and Grameen will invest funds and expertise into this joint venture. Intel will be investing through its venture capital group -- Intel Capital. Intel will also contribute with its technology expertise, and Grameen will bring in its extensive experience in creating economic development and income-generation opportunities at the village level to the joint venture," Kazi Huque, the joint venture's managing director, told the E-Commerce Times.

"The goal is to set up a nimble organization that can understand the social requirements and effectively deploy solutions locally. We will not be able to provide the exact amount of funding both parties invested into the joint venture."
Win-Win Proposition

The idea for the joint venture was conceived last September when Barrett met with Yunus in Bangladesh, Huque recounted. "At different times, we had talked internally within Intel on the use of microfinancing to make technology more affordable in the emerging countries. Separate from that discussion, Craig Barrett was in Bangladesh to launch the Intel World Ahead Program.

"During a meeting Dr. Yunus and Craig started a discussion on the concept of social business and how that could potentially apply for IT solutions targeted at the poor segment of the population. After a series of follow-[up] management meetings between Grameen and Intel, we agreed to form a venture where we would bring the expertise of both the companies for a common cause."

Coming together in common cause is a win-win situation for Intel, Grameen and the communities in developing countries it plans to work in. "Grameen's vision is to alleviate poverty. According to Dr. Yunus, this joint venture will create opportunities for poor people to rise above social and economic barriers. Technology-based services will provide the 'hand up' that people need to discover their full potential."

The joint venture aligns with the goals of Intel's World Ahead program, Huque noted, to use technology to improve education and healthcare Latest News about healthcare and spur economic development.

"It's a unique opportunity to be the first technology company in the world to test the variability of the social business model, injecting the discipline of capitalism and do good. Ultimately, this is about helping connect the next billion people, which is a key part of Intel's growth strategy," Huque said.
Testing the Social Business Model

The joint venture will be set up as a separate entity with the aim of implementing ICT solutions that address very specific social problems, Huque explained.

"The goal is to use ICT to provide specific services that target the poor population segment and would provide social benefits. We also believe that to sustain such solution, there needs to be a local entrepreneur earning a livelihood from such services and therefore has a vested interest. Project selection would therefore need to meet such guidelines, but at the end of the day, it's the technology, financials, individual incentives and social benefit that must align," Huque continued.

As altruistic as the venture's aims are, the intricacies and challenges associated with carrying out ambitious social and economic development projects have proven substantial, and have created backlash against organizations.

India Helps Burma, China in Wake of Disasters

from the Voice of America

By Anjana Pasricha

India has sent relief and pledged assistance to two neighboring countries recently struck by natural disasters: Burma and China. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi on India's efforts to project itself as a responsible regional power.

When a cyclone devastated Burma, earlier this month, Indian navy ships and aircraft began ferrying relief supplies to its neighbor in less than 24 hours.

The foreign ministry says two Indian medical teams are treating 1,500 patients a day in the disaster area.

Commerce Minister Jairam Ramesh assured a recent pledging conference in Rangoon that India will assist the country in reconstruction work.

India has also reached out to another neighbor, China, which is coping with the aftermath of a massive earthquake. New Delhi has pledged $5 million in assistance and sent transport aircraft with relief material such as tents.

Unlike many countries, India has diplomatic relations with Burma's military rulers. Bilateral ties with China have vastly improved in recent years.

But analysts say India's efforts to help its neighbors are more than just friendly gestures.

A foreign policy analyst with New Delhi's Center for Policy Research, Brahma Chellaney, says India wants to demonstrate that it can play a responsible regional role.

"In recent weeks, India has rushed large amounts of aid both to impoverished Burma as well as to booming China," he said. "It did not make a distinction between China and Burma. It is an effort to reach out and help people in one's neighborhood -- of course with the hope that this will improve the diplomatic environment and help improve bilateral relations and also help increase India's role in the region."

Analysts say New Delhi has stepped up "aid diplomacy" in recent years, in a bid to raise its global profile.

India's efforts to project itself as an aid-giver rather than an aid recipient were first noticed after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck several countries in the region. Within hours, Indian warships had ferried supplies to Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia -- even though the disaster had struck its own southern shores. India declined foreign aid, saying the money should go to countries in greater need.

Former Indian Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh says New Delhi wants to emphasize that it is an emerging power.

"I think now India is giving a message that 'yes we have reached a state of development where we are in a position to help others, and that is why we are doing it'. There is a feeling that our capabilities have increased, and we can do it. We feel we have reached the stage where other countries deserve it [aid] more than we do," he said.

Last year, as a growing economy raised its confidence, New Delhi set aside $1 billion for international aid, saying this was in step with India's growing stature in global affairs.

It is a much smaller amount, compared to what other Asian countries such as Japan or China disburse as aid. But it is a far cry from the time when India was, itself, reliant on massive aid from foreign donors.

Saumitra Chaudhuri, an economist on the prime minister's economic advisory council, says India has virtually phased out relying on external aid, in recent years.

"There was a time, maybe till about the middle 80's, when bilateral and multilateral assistance used to comprise a very large segment of capital flows into India. Now, they comprise a very, very small segment -- such a small segment that it is barely noticeable."

India's large navy and air force make it easy for New Delhi to extend a helping hand when disasters strike. India has the world's fourth largest military and its fleet of warships in the Indian Ocean and large air force can ferry disaster relief material quickly to neighboring countries.

UN summit to prevent mass starvation

from the Telephraph

World leaders will meet in Rome next week to discuss ways of preventing mass starvation and instability because of soaring food prices.

The summit, which is to be hosted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, is expected to hear arguments for the establishment of a global food fund and see pledges of food aid from wealthy countries to poor nations to ward off the food shortages.

Leader will also discuss the increased production of biofuels, which is blamed for a reduction in arable land available for food production, as farmers turn to growing crops for fuel. New international guidelines on biofuel production are expected to be discussed.

Britain is expected to argue for aid in the form of fertilisers and seeds to be distributed in time for planting for next season.

"Failure to reach a deal would hit the poorest hard. Literally tens of millions of people will be denied a chance to break out of poverty," Prime Minister Gordon Brown reportedly said last night.

The summit comes as food shortages and send the cost of food soaring sparking unrest in nations such as Haiti, Cameroon, Niger and Egypt, where riots have broken out. Food shortages and the related political instability are seen by some as a more pressing long-term challenges than terrorism.

Ohio woman stops in Naples in walk across the country to bring awareness to poor, homeless

from Naples News


Kim Denmark is on a pilgrimage.

Denmark, 46, has been walking since 1999 across the United States to raise awareness about the plight of the poor and homeless in America.

Starting from her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, Denmark has walked about 264,000 miles so far through 16 states in a quest to reach 49 states, ending in Washington, D.C.

She spent Tuesday walking about 8.3 miles through Naples, starting at Collier Boulevard and U.S. 41 East, heading west along U.S. 41 and ending at the Naples mayor’s office on Eighth Street South.

Many motorists honked their horns in support of Denmark along with her small group of supporters, who walked beside her.

Customers at Trixie’s Torpedo Sandwiches on Eighth Street South near Fifth Avenue South cheered.

Denmark, who carried an orange sign that read “Walking for welfare reform, homeless poor,” said she is trying to get Congress to focus on the working class who struggle to live “paycheck to paycheck.”

“I think we do a lot for Third World countries. Denmark said. “I think we should do a little more here in America for the working poor.”

Last week, Denmark, who has spent the past 78 months walking, trekked through the Everglades on U.S. 41.

It was her first encounter with alligators.

“I was crying and running,” said Denmark, who walks about 10 miles a day.

During Denmark’s visit, Naples Mayor Bill Barnett delivered a proclamation to honor her efforts in raising awareness about poverty, declaring May 27 “Kim Denmark Day in the city of Naples.”

“It’s amazing,” Barnett said. “It’s hard to fathom.”

“It’s inspiring to see someone living out her commitment to help people out,” said Van Ellison, director of St. Matthew’s House, a homeless shelter on Airport-Pulling Road.

Ellison hopes others use Denmark’s dedication as an example.

Between Jan. 24 and 25, 2008, officials counted 495 homeless people and people who were at risk of becoming homeless in Collier County.

Following the presentation, Denmark visited St. Matthew’s House.

Among the many homeless residents at the shelter was Tony Morel, 57.

Morel came to St. Matthew’s two months ago after losing his Bonita Springs home due to his wife’s hospital bills. He also lost his job after taking a leave of absence to take care of his dying wife.

He had nothing but praise on Tuesday for Denmark’s actions.

“I think it’s amazing that someone would take all this time to walk for poverty,” he said.

Through her journey, Denmark said many homeless people she has spoken with have become homeless because of alcohol and drug addictions, a mental health condition or a catastrophic event in their lives.

Denmark said she had a spiritual encounter while she was ill that told her to walk for change.

Through a dream, Denmark said God showed her how “arrogant and nasty” she was with others.

The former business owner dropped everything 24 hours after the dream and began to walk, losing everything she owned and also becoming homeless herself, she said.

During her trips, Denmark visits homeless shelters and soup kitchens to encourage the needy and takes her message to churches, civic groups, city commissions and even pedestrians.

“There are a lot of nonprofits that need more funding to help the homeless,” Denmark said.

During her trip in Florida, Denmark recalled a hit-and-run accident by a truck driver early in February in Vero Beach.

“I’ve had some good days and some challenges, but through it all, you can maintain a smile,” said Denmark, who is on her 21st pair of tennis shoes.

A security minivan follows her throughout the journey.

Denmark plans to end her trip in 2012 in Washington, D.C., where she hopes to address Congress and give members a petition asking that they promote new jobs, quality education and opportunity for economics and social stability.

She has more 264,000 signatures so far, Denmark said, and hopes to have 1 million by the time she passes through 49 states en route to Capitol Hill.

Denmark plans to relax and enjoy Naples and then start walking toward Fort Myers.

Over the past few days she has been lodging at Bayfront Inn. Denmark said she used to stay at shelters, but changed to locally sponsored hotels because she needed quiet and resting time.

For information about the walk, visit Denmark’s Web site at

It's the quality of aid, not just the quantity, that is crucial

from Asahi


Irungu Houghton, pan-African director for Oxfam International, the Britain-based group set up to fight poverty, says the quality of aid, not just the amount, should be a key factor in pledges of assistance to Africa. Oxfam Japan has been granted observer status to attend TICAD IV. Excerpts from a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun follow:

Q: What would you like to see achieved at the conference?

A: TICAD is very established as a process to discuss development issues.

Many African citizens expect the decisions that come out of it are going to lead to tangible results in poverty reduction in Africa. So there is an expectation that important decisions will be made.

TICAD IV is happening in a context where, according to Oxfam research, there is a public mandate for Japan to make some bold decisions with regard to Africa. According to an Oxfam survey of 1,000 Japanese citizens, more than 84 percent said that Japan should keep its promise to reduce poverty in developing countries.

The conference is also happening in a context where Japan's place among OECD countries has dropped from being the third-largest contributor to fifth-largest, and that has led to a 30-percent decrease in assistance.

So while it is clear that there is a public mandate for bold action on the part of Japan, the experience of the past year shows that Japan is playing a small role.

Q: Tokyo plans to make a number of key pledges during the conference, including a doubling of aid and direct investment by the private sector by 2012. How do you evaluate this?

A: We aren't only concerned about quantity, but also the quality of aid.

Japan will pledge several forms of assistance, including a plan to support climate change work in developing countries, using $10 billion over the next five years. Oxfam's position is that this is a welcome pledge, but pledges by themselves don't change the lives of people.

There needs to be an emphasis on detail. Will this be in the form of loans or grants? If these are loans, then I think this is probably setting up Africa to return to the level of indebtedness that it faced at the beginning of the 2000s.

Q: The conference is expected to adopt a declaration that emphasizes economic growth, human security and environmental issues. How do you view this?

A: The main concern is that there is not enough reference in the draft document to existing commitments (to support) achieving universal access to medical treatment.

In terms of health, currently the level of assistance is at $14 billion. What is needed is $50 billion, so that leaves a variance of $36 billion.

And we haven't seen a very strong commitment to achieving Millennium Development Goals. The starting point for the declaration has to be reversing the fact that Africa is not meeting any of the MDGs in any substantive way.

This leads us not to be very optimistic about the TICAD process unless one sees a rewording of the document. If (the leaders) cannot change the declaration, then the action plan must be much more specific, by setting numerical targets and also delivery deadlines. That would make the process more reassuring and clearly give the conference a historic perspective.

If not, the average African citizen would be disappointed.

Q: The slogan of TICAD IV is "Toward a Vibrant Africa" and one of the key issues is enhancing economic development. What is your opinion of this?

A: I think it is refreshing to see that the Afro-pessimism of 10 years is disappearing. Africa continues to be on a vibrant search for solutions to its own problems.

If you look at the African continent, over the last five years you can see a reversal of the very poor growth rate. On average, Africa now reports a growth rate of more than 5 percent. Many countries have applied for peer review (by other African nations) on good governance and democracy. We have seen a drastic fall in the number of conflicts. So there is progress in Africa in many ways, not that everything is perfect. Africa is making great steps in terms of trying to change the profile of the continent.

But economic growth is not a precondition for either stability or development progress. I live and work in Kenya, which has recorded in excess of 6 percent GDP growth over the last few years, which is a tremendous turnaround. But that did not stop a breakdown in law and order that started late last year. Up to 300 people died and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. The distribution of that growth is as important as the growth itself.

McKeeva Bush: Poverty line relative

from the Cayman Compass

By Alan Markoff,

Responding to what he called a “misinterpretation of a scientific study for political motives” Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said the National Assessment of Living Conditions report was not intended to measure poverty in the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Bush made the statement in press statement issued Monday concerning the recently released NALC report, which found only a 1.9 per cent poverty rate in the Cayman Islands.

“The NALC report reference to 1.9 per cent as the poverty rate is based on an absolute definition of extreme poverty and is only appropriate to be used for country comparisons,” Mr. Bush said. “The current conceptual interpretation of the meaning of poverty extends far beyond extreme poverty… and it is accepted that relative poverty studies rather than absolute studies are more appropriate.”

Mr. Bush pointed out that what is considered poor in the Cayman Islands may not be considered poor elsewhere.

“Such an understanding of poverty was also articulated by the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee on 29 October, 2007, as they addressed the need to eradicate poverty in the Cayman Islands as a prerequisite to addressing human rights.”

The CIHC stated at the time that poverty was evident “when people are not able to achieve the standard of living that is usual for the community in which they live”.

Mr. Bush said the definition of poverty differs between developing countries and developed countries.

“As suggested by the NALC team, the Cayman Islands’ relatively high per capita gross domestic product makes it appropriate to assess poverty in line with acceptable methods in North America and Europe.”

Mr. Bush said that in the US and Europe, the poverty line is calculated as a percentage of median income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living.

“Even with the reality that the Government’s permanent financial assistance programme exceeds the absolute poverty used in the NALC, [Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts] still insisted on representing the 1.9 per cent poverty rate as the true picture of poverty in the Cayman Islands in an attempt to improve the standing of his PPM administration,” Mr. Bush said. “Under the UDP administration, the poverty line was established at CI$1,800 per month in 2003. This is a far more realistic poverty line at $21,600 [per annum] as compared to the $3,983 per annum [in the NALC report].”

Mr. Bush said the PPM’s policies to address poverty in the Cayman Islands were “distorted by the disconnect between them and the poor people”.

Although the Opposition said its review of the NALC report concluded it provided worthy information and was sound in its methodology, the faulty results of the study were a result of misinterpretation for political motives.

“Misinterpreted or sinuously used scientific studies are more dangerous than ignorance, as they elevate the position by giving it undeserved credence,” Mr. Bush said.

Turning to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, Mr. Bush said one of the most significant findings of the NALC report had eluded Mr. Tibbetts, or had been intentionally ignored.

“This government has frequently been accused of making the rich richer and the poor poorer,” he said, adding that the NALC report determined that there was significant inequality in the Cayman Islands, especially in the Sister Islands.

“These important findings were suspiciously omitted from the statement by Mr. Tibbetts, leading to our conclusion that his statement and misinterpretations of the NALC report were all politically motivated.”