Wednesday, November 30, 2005

[Comment] The poverty of American cities and French suburbs

From The Christian Science Monitor

Big-government solutions pull poor people in, and push employers out.

By Patrick Chisholm |

A hurricane exposes the poverty of America's inner cities, and the champions of big government make political hay out of it. Riots lay bare the underclass in Paris's suburbs, and the French are astounded that such a thing could exist in their country.
Bill Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, and others seized on the New Orleans issue to blame the Bush administration for causing or exacerbating that city's poverty. This took an amazing amount of chutzpah, considering that New Orleans and Louisiana are longtime strongholds of their own political party.

In fact, Democrats have long controlled almost all of America's inner cities. The Brookings Institution recently ranked the 50 largest cities in the United States according to their concentrations of poverty. A quick check reveals that the 10 cities with the highest concentrations of poverty have Democratic mayors, with the exception of New York City (whose Republican mayor is something of an anomaly in a Democratic-dominated city). By contrast, the few Republican big-city mayors hail mainly from cities with the least concentration of poverty.

This tells us that there is something terribly wrong with the statist policies that Democrats, and to an increasing extent Republicans, favor. The tragedy of the riots in France, where similar policies prevail, illustrates the same point.

Big-government solutions pull poorer people into certain areas, and deepen their poverty once they are there.

Inner cities are not "natural" locations for poverty. France's situation is instructive: Its high concentrations of poverty are mainly in the outer suburbs rather than the inner city.

The areas of high concentration of poverty are determined largely by the location of subsidized housing. The federal decision long ago to locate subsidized housing projects in America's inner cities prompted many lower-income people to relocate there or to stay there.

A similar thing happened in France decades ago, when authorities decided to erect its subsidized housing projects in the outer suburbs of Paris. They were a magnet for poor immigrants, and they are where many of the rioting youth now live. Unemployment is as high as 50 percent in some neighborhoods.

Subsidized housing areas, be they in the cities or suburbs, in theory should lead to more jobs for the residents of those areas. Labor-intensive businesses in search of low-skilled, low-wage labor should be flocking there, rather than moving their operations to third-world countries.

Moreover, in America, poor inner-city residents are relatively close to downtown business districts, so they should have short commutes and an abundance of potential employers to choose from.

So why is there so much unemployment in America's inner cities and in France's suburbs? It is largely because onerous government regulations dissuade employers from offering jobs to low-skilled people.

Probably the biggest barrier to job creation for the low-skilled is the minimum wage. This problem is most pronounced in France, where the national minimum wage is about $9 per hour. It is a no-brainer why unemployment among rioting Muslim youths is so high: French employers do not consider their skills valuable enough to justify paying them $9 per hour. Not helping the situation are the country's rigid labor laws, which make businesses even more reluctant to hire.

There is a similar phenomenon in America. Minimum wages within cities tend to be significantly higher than the national minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. New Orleans' minimum wage is $6.15. But many city residents do not possess the skills to produce $6.15 worth of goods or services per hour, resulting in much higher-than-average unemployment there.

And New Orleans' higher minimum wage makes it a less attractive place to locate a labor-intensive business. Why not instead set up shop outside the city, where the minimum wage is a dollar lower?

Just getting permission to set up a business in New Orleans, as in most big cities, is typically immensely difficult. The resulting scarcity of businesses means a scarcity of jobs for inner-city residents.

Business owners face a tortuous system of licenses and regulations. A case in point is New Orleans-area entrepreneur Wayne Porter. He has been trying for years to get a business license in New Orleans, to no avail. By comparison, it took him about two hours to get a business license in Gainesville, Fla.

According to Porter, large, wholesale-type businesses have largely moved out of the city. They prefer the more business-friendly environment of neighboring Jefferson Parish.

He attributes New Orleans' oppressive business climate to cronyism and special-interest politics. "Powerful groups can influence, to the detriment of the majority, the outcome of everything from sewerage rates to the way that utility rates are distributed or property taxes are collected, as it may affect their narrow needs," he notes. "The greater the sway of people of influence, the less need for competition or openness of the regulations of business."

So the solutions advocated by the champions of big government produce a pull/push effect: the poor get pulled into certain areas, and employers get pushed out. Poverty deepens.

Unless that cycle is broken, expect a continuation of poverty in America's inner cities, and additional manifestations of discontent among France's underclass.

[Uganda] Poverty levels still high in Uganda

From The Daily Monitor


According to the Human Development report released recently, poverty levels have continued to rise, from 35 percent in 1998 to 38 percent in 2003. The gap between the rich and the poor has also widened

Rose Namayanja sits in front of her one roomed house in Makerere, Kivulu - one of the notorious slums of Kampala - not sure of what the day holds. With her two daughters, she lives every other day not sure of what to eat.

Like many people, Namayanja lives in abject poverty. Despite improvements registered in recent years, most people in Uganda continue to live in poverty. According to the Human Development report released recently, poverty levels have continued to rise.

Poverty levels increased from 35 percent in 1998 to 38 percent in 2003, with the Eastern region registering the highest increase in poverty from 35 percent in 2000 to 46 percent in 2003. This was attributed to increased cattle rustling in Karamoja and spread out effects from the LRA insurgency in Northern Uganda to the eastern districts in Teso.

The gap between the poor and the rich has further widened with the poor becoming poorer and the rich getting richer. Ugandans' income inequality increased from 39 percent to 43 percent. The report says this was partly due to the poor performance of the agricultural sector over the last two years.

"It is imperative that interventions to improve livelihoods focus on rural areas and specifically agriculture on which most people depend," the report says. Human development index (HDI) rose from 4.7 in 2000 to 0.508 in 2003, according to the report.

HDI measures the countries' average progress in human development. Based on HDI, Uganda is ranked 144 out of the 177 counties in which the study was done.

The central region had the highest HDI with Kampala and Wakiso leading the rest because of better education infrastructure and better income opportunities.

The Northern region had the least HDI mainly because the insurgency in the area hinders attainment of social service goals such as children going to school, the report notes. Districts of Kotido, Nakapiripirit and Moroto still lag behind in all indicators of human development. These districts are characterised with low literacy levels and poor access to clean water. In the western region, Bundibugyo continues to record the lowest levels in human development.

Registered success
There was a general improvement in education among Ugandans. In 2002, 68 percent of the population aged 10 years and above were literate compared to 54 percent in 1991, which represents a significant increase in literacy.
The increased literacy rates were due to improved enrolment - due to Universal Primary Education - and adult literacy programmes.

Adult literacy rates increased countrywide of which the highest increase was registered in the Northern region. The current enrolment rate stands at 79 percent though the government's target was to achieve 98 percent enrolment by 2003.

Life expectancy increased from 43 years in 2000 to 47 years in 2003 due to improvement in the delivery of health services and success in the fight against HIV/Aids.

More needs to be done
Despite successes registered in the fight against HIV/Aids, other health indicators such as infant mortality and maternal mortality rates have not improved, the report notes.

With 3.4 percent average population growth rate per annum, Uganda has one of the highest growth rates in Sub-Saharan Africa higher than the region's average population growth rate of 2.1 percent.

This exerts pressure on the environment and reduces the per capita benefits from economic growth.
"To maintain balance between the environment and human development, population growth has to be controlled," the report says. Ugandans now pay more taxes than they did 10 years ago. For instance, tax revenues have increased from 7 percent of the GDP in 1991 to 12 percent in 2002.

Despite this, the fiscal deficit has continued to widen reaching 12 percent of the GDP in 2002 because of high public spending rate at 24.6 percent of the GDP. Increased government expenditure is not marched with domestic revenue.
"The expansion in government expenditure was mainly funded by an increase in donor aid flow, especially in social services such as UPE. "The government should increase revenue generation to finance human development and environmental management," the report says.

"While Uganda generally recognises the importance of human capital for sustained economic and social development, it has not yet fully exploited its use, so it remains classified as a poor nation," the report says.

While, Uganda is well endowed with environmental resources initially, the amount and quality of the country's natural resources is on the decline, the report noted.
The main causes are population pressure and some policy failures. "Uganda enjoyed rapid economic growth during the last 10 years, this growth has put significant stress on the country's natural resources; The quality of the environment on which most poor people depend is declining, which limits the livelihood opportunities forcing people to over rely on fewer resources," the report says.

Significant natural resource degradation takes place in South Western Uganda, Central and Eastern Uganda on account of population pressure. Northern Uganda households are confined in internally displaced (IDP) camps, unable to access and make use of natural resources.

"All these regional inequalities pose serious challenges to interventions aimed at raising household incomes of the poor and undermine human development," the report says.
Around 1890, Uganda was covered with about 108,000km of forests and woodlands, which has since reduced to 49,000km. It is estimated that 550 to 700km of forestland is lost annually.

The report notes that agriculture is the primary cause of forest degradation. And since 70 percent of forest areas are privately owned, the decision to convert them into agriculture is easily made. "Climate change and environmental degradation have led to food shortages and increased pressure on available land and water resources in Karamoja region," according to the report.

Despite legal and institutional frameworks Uganda put in place to ensure environmental conservation, it is not yet where it should be in terms of sustainable development.
While presenting deliberations at the launch of the report, James Tumwebaze, the coordinator of sustainability watch said, "Uganda still lacks strong political will to combat degradation."

Uganda still lacks access to safe water in rural poor communities, despite being endowed with water resources. Currently, 47 percent of the rural areas has access to safe water and 65 percent in urban centres.

Despite this, surface water quality has deteriorated during the last two decades. Seven districts of Yumbe, Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Kiboga, Mubende and Kalangala had less than 20 percent of rural safe water coverage. These districts represent 10 percent of the total population. The highest percentage of safe water access was registered in the Western and Eastern parts of the country.

While presenting a speech on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Minister for general duties in the office of the prime minister, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera said, "Without deliberate efforts to safeguard the integrity of the natural resources from environmental degradation, the desired results of the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA) and improving the quality of life of the poor will be difficult to achieve."

The report notes that investing in human development is good for the environment in a way that skilled and knowledgeable people are in a better position to respond to the incentives and opportunities.

[US Census Data] Arizona wages ranked 31st in U.S. Census survey

From The Phoenix Business Journal

When it comes to high wages, Arizona has a ways to go.

Arizona's median household income in 2003, the latest year available, ranked 31st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia at just under $42,000, according to newly released U.S. Census data.

The national median household income was $43,318.

With a median household income of $56,409, Connecticut topped the country in wages, as Mississippi posted the lowest median income at $32,397.

Meanwhile, Arizona's poverty rate in 2003 was among the top quarter of states, with nearly 14 percent of the population living at or below the poverty line, which the Department of Health and Human Services in 2003 defined as $18,400 for a family of four. Arizona also had nearly 21 percent of children ages 17 and younger living in poverty.

Arizona ranks 11th nationally in that category.

[US Census Data] Poverty figures continue to grow

From The Derrick


The latest Census data shows one of eight tri-county residents was living below the poverty line in 2003.

U.S. Census data released Tuesday shows the number of people living below the poverty level continues to grow in most rural Pennsylvania counties.

Most notably, the poverty figures for Venango and Clarion counties have gone up while Forest County registered a slight drop.

The information, however, is not current. The U.S. Census Bureau chose 2003 as the year to compute the statistics.

Nevertheless, the figures point to a stubborn economic problem for this region: nearly one in every eight residents in the tri-county area was living below the poverty line two years ago.

And there have been few economic jolts to the good to suggest that statistic has shifted down.

The persistent poverty level is there despite modest increases in the median household income levels in the tri-county area from 2000 to 2003.

But even with the upward nudge, the median income level didn't crack the $33,000 bar here and that kept it nearly $10,000 below the state average.

All of it reflects the same track as the nation, with the updated U.S. Census report showing the wealthiest counties are in suburban areas and the poorest ones are in rural regions.

In Pennsylvania, not surprisingly, Chester and Montgomery counties, commuter communities both feeding into East Coast cities, list the lowest poverty levels and the highest median household income.

Each of those two counties has a poverty rate lower than 6 percent and a household income level in the $65,000 to $68,000.

The flip side is more contentious as rural as well as metropolitan area compete in the poverty column. The highest percentage of poor people is in Philadelphia County (20.1 percent) but rural Fayette County (15.9 percent) tops the list elsewhere in the state.

The lowest median household incomes in Pennsylvania are listed for two rural areas. The U.S. Census Bureau reports Fayette County at $29,415 and Forest County at $29,407.

All the newest number crunching tells a depressing tale in this area: the tri-county area has a higher percentage of people in poverty than the state level (10.6 percent) and a lower median household income than the Pennsylvania average ($42,952).

Here's a quick look at the newest Census Bureau income and poverty estimates, all pegged to 2003:


The commonwealth lists a 10.6 percent poverty rate, a figure that accounts for all ages, in 2003. A breakdown by age shows 14.9 percent of children between the ages of infant and 17 years live in poverty.

The median household income (defined as the middle value, with an equal number of households above and below that median line) in Pennsylvania in 2003 was $42,952. That is about $1,500 higher than in 2000.

Still, Pennsylvania lags behind the national median household figure. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the national figure is $43,318.


The percentage of all ages in poverty in 2003 was pegged at 13.1 percent, or 7,260 residents. That is higher than in 2000 when the statistics showed 12.3 percent and 6,899 residents.

When the figures are broken down by age, Venango County lists 19.9 percent of its children from infant to 17 years, or nearly one in five children, are living in poverty. That amounts to 2,451 children.

The median household income in 2003 was pegged at $32,900 for Venango County. That is about $400 higher than in 2000.


The Census figures show 12.7 percent of Clarion County residents were considered poor, according to the newest survey, in 2003. That amounts to 4,948 residents. In 2000, the figures were slightly lower at 12.5 percent and 4,943 individuals.

When it comes to children living in poverty, Clarion County had a 16.9 percent rate in 2003, a figure that covered 1,374 young people between infancy and 17 years.

The median income in Clarion County households was tagged at $32,683, about $400 more than three years prior.


The county, the least populated of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, showed a poverty rate of 12.9 percent in 2003. That covered 626 residents. That is actually a slight drop from 2000 when the poverty rate was at 13.8 percent and included 668 residents.

Age-wise, the county statistic jumps dramatically to 22.5 percent with 226 children living in poverty.

Forest County is 66th among the 67 counties in low median household income. In 2003, the county listed its income figure at $29,407, nearly $1,000 more than in 2000 but still more than $12,000 lower than the state median level.


Three surrounding counties all topped Venango, Clarion and Forest in the median household income category.

Crawford County listed $33,914, Mercer County had $35,635 and Warren County registered $36,303.

[Comment] An opportunity to reduce poverty in South Asia

From The Financial Express

It can be done if South Asian countries carry on reforms, make developed countries open their markets


The Doha Development Round of trade talks will be judged by one simple test: does it enable people in poor countries to sell more of their goods overseas, creating more jobs and lifting their incomes?

If the answer is yes, the round will succeed in enabling millions of South Asia’s 400 million poor people to lift themselves out of abject poverty over the next decade and give them and their children a chance to lead a better life. If the answer is no, and the talks end without giving developing countries more opportunity and help to export, then the talks will have failed.

We are approaching a decisive phase in the negotiations, with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting in Hong Kong just six weeks away. The outcome hangs in the balance.

South Asian countries have a unique opportunity to tilt that balance in favour of making the Doha Round a success. India, in particular, has an opportunity, along with Brazil and China, to play a leadership role in the developing-country grouping called the G-20. Since it undertook far-reaching trade reforms in the 1990s and more recently, India has grown rapidly and is now a major competitor worldwide.

India’s export of services alone grew 17% annually in the 1990s. Just as India has much to gain from global trade reforms, it has much to offer in terms of market access, being a large economy with significant agricultural protection (average agricultural tariffs are 40%).

Along with its G-20 partners, India can propose a ‘grand bargain’: liberalising manufactures, agriculture and services in exchange for rich countries, eliminating agricultural subsidies and barriers to trade, and maintaining today’s openness to India’s booming service exports. The result will be a major boost in global economic growth.

But free trade is not a panacea. To maximise the benefits of trade for increasing growth and reducing poverty, South Asian countries need to make progress in their own development agenda.

They need to complement their trade agreements with investments and reforms in education, health, trade infrastructure—better ports, roads and customs—as well as governance, and to ensure that the poor have the means to take full advantage of the new opportunities arising out of greater and better trade.

Bangladesh, as a leading member of the group of least-developed countries (LDCs), has an enormously important role to play. It can show, by example, how increased access to developed-country markets enables a poor country to capitalise on its own reforms and make a difference to tens of millions of poor people.

Thanks to domestic reforms and preferential access to developed-country markets, Bangladesh’s ready-made garments industry has expanded rapidly, employing two million women, and touching the lives of nearly 10 million of Bangladesh’s 140 million people.

Yet, today, Bangladesh’s garment exports to the US face tariffs ranging from 15% to 30%. The US collects the same tariff revenue from its $2 billion of imports from Bangladesh as it does from its $26 billion of imports from France. If Bangladesh got duty-free access to the US, its exports would increase by 90% in three years, creating some 600,000 new jobs. Even if US tariffs were cut on a ‘most-favoured nation’ basis, it would be a major boost to exports. In addition, the international community can help if it makes additional ‘aid for trade’ available along the lines called for at the G-8 summit last July.

Success will not happen if the rich countries see the opening of their markets only in terms of pleasing their domestic interest groups. And it will not happen if developing countries do not reform themselves. By showing the world that they can continue reforming, South Asian countries can, and should, use their leadership roles to get developed countries to open up their markets, ensuring a successful Doha round and a better life for tens of millions of the world’s poorest people.

The writer is chief economist, South Asia region, World Bank

[South Carolina] Despite being oasis of recreation, lake towns have poverty

From The Times and Democrat

By SHIRLEY UPTON, T&D Correspondent

Santee is known as a golfing and fishing paradise. But there are some residents who have neither the time nor the money for recreational pursuits, and their lives are far from paradise.

These people are busy working, worrying and wondering how to pay their bills. If they fish, it’s for tonight’s supper.

Santee officials this year received a list of more than 60 families to receive a Thanksgiving Day meal from the town. These people, who live day to day, are the poor who must stretch every dime for utilities, rent, food and other necessities, with nothing extra for the luxuries others take for granted.

“There are different degrees of poverty,” Santee Mayor Silas Seabrooks said, “the have-nots, the will-nots and the cannots.” He pointed out that there are a large number of elderly people in the Santee area, some of whom have a difficult time with their limited resources, especially when it comes to buying necessary prescription medication.

“Sustaining life for an elderly person on a fixed income is difficult, but these folks came along during the Depression, and are used to making do,” Santee Town Administrator Donnie Hilliard said. “They have no alternative but to pay exorbitant fees for gypsy cabs to Orangeburg because there’s no public transportation.”

Seabrooks would like to see an additional senior complex in Santee, and Hilliard would like to see seniors subsidized in a communal-type environment where services would be available for them to make their lives easier.

“I realize that some seniors do not want to leave the homes they’ve lived in for many years,” he said.

Hilliard said the retired person living solely on a Social Security check of about $650 a month cannot make ends meet. Even those who receive additional pensions are often strapped for cash when unexpected expenses arise, and they have to depend on their relatives or their churches for temporary help, he said.

The working poor are also in a bind because they hold low-paying jobs because of their lack of education and training.

“People whose earnings are above a certain level cannot get any government assistance even though they don’t earn enough to cover their expenses. Help is only available for the very poor,” Hilliard said. “Some people are in worse shape financially when they do work for low wages because they lose government benefits.”

The population that can, but will not, work is a problem with no easy solution. Hilliard believes that a lot of young men are not lazy but hide their shame at their lack of marketable skills by projecting a macho image.

Seabrooks believes parents must be held accountable for the behavior and actions of their children. “The system has done all it can, but some of the parents don’t care,” the mayor said. “You must tell and show a child you love him and support him. Parents have to discipline their kids — this is part of loving them. If more parents would send their children to Sunday School, they would have less problems in the regular schools.”

Lamenting the loosening of standards for student conduct and appropriate dress in the schools, Seabrooks said, “One of our mistakes was taking discipline and prayer out of the schools.”

Seabrooks would like to see a program reinstated that was in Santee a few years ago. Community pastors, in conjunction with the police department, counseled both at-risk children and their parents.

“I would like to see this program offered again because it proved to be very successful,” he said.

“Poverty affects society as a whole, and we need to remedy the root cause,” Hilliard said. “Young people must be prepared to be members of society and get along in the world. This is too much responsibility for teachers alone.

“Parents must partner with teachers to make their children successful. Teachers are not respected like they used to be, and parents often are in denial of the wrongdoing of their children.”

Police Chief Robert L. Williams focused on the young and able-bodied who simply do not want to work as another cause of both poverty and crime.

“It’s a problem getting some people to work,” Williams said. “There are jobs available, but they are not willing to work for the prevailing wage and not willing to perform the type of work they are qualified to do.”

“I find that older people who are still working take greater pride in their work and are more dependable. Some of the younger workers just don’t seem to care. They will take off from work at the slightest ache or pain and have a poor work ethic,” the police chief said.

Elloree Town Administrator John Singh, commenting on poverty in his town, said, “Most poverty can be attributed to bad luck and bad situations. The scary thing about poverty is that it can happen to anyone, and it’s difficult to get out of.”

He said that typically the poor have limited educations and, therefore, cannot get high-paying jobs or afford child care. “If a working mother has a sick child, she has to choose whether to miss work or take care of her child. Some irresponsible employees don’t show up for work in an emergency and don’t bother to call their employers.”

Poor people have trouble navigating the system, Singh believes. “They do not have adequate resources to get help or the transportation to get to jobs and services. And, unfortunately, some of them who are knowledgeable use that knowledge to abuse the system,” he said.

[Yemen] Chewing qat blamed for Yemen's poverty

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer


SAN'A, Yemen -- The writer winked conspiratorially, shifted the golf ball-sized bulge in his left cheek and tapped his temple gently.

"Qat is good for the mind. I can't stop writing once I start. But the next morning I read what I wrote and tear it up straight away," chuckled 35-year-old Hatem Bamohriz, nibbling yet another leaf of the mild narcotic.

To many government and aid officials, qat has ceased to be funny: Yemen's government is making another push to cut the use of the rubbery green leaf with amphetamine-like qualities that is blamed for many of this country's ills, from widespread poverty to growing health problems.

But there is little progress. Up to 90 percent of Yemeni men are now believed to chew qat daily, and growing numbers of women and children are also chewing, the World Bank says.

"Qat is a disease, and I hope for the day that they'll take it away," said Samra Shaibani, spokeswoman for the World Bank, a leading anti-qat campaigner. "But if they do, there would be a revolution because the people have little else and rely on it so much."

Qat is a centuries-old social custom that stimulates mental activity, long conversations and tall tales in this tribal-dominated nation at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Qat chewing is ubiquitous - as common in Yemen as wearing a curved dagger on the belt.

Historical records show qat in regular use in the 15th century when Sufi Muslims - a deeply mystical sect - chewed the qat leaves during prayer and meditation. As time passed, ordinary Yemenis increasingly took up the practice at special celebrations.

But now, many experts have come to believe it's at the root of Yemen's 40 percent unemployment rate, its status as the poorest country in the Middle East and its growing national health problems.

Critics blame qat for everything from the country's low economic productivity to excessive water use to irrigate the qat crop. Some blame it for eating disorders and high cholesterol rates.

"Qat is the No. 1 socio-economic problem of the country," said Khaled al-Shaq, a communication officer for the United Nations Development Project in Yemen. "It manifests all the frustrations of Yemen."

Under intense international pressure to improve its ailing economy, Yemen's government released a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper recently that targeted qat, particularly as a waste of precious water.

In the San'a region alone, nearly three times as much water goes to qat production as is consumed by the population.

Government leaders from President Ali Abdullah Saleh on down also have announced they have given up the habit, hoping others will follow their example.

But many complain that Yemeni authorities are not committed to combatting qat because the crop is such a moneymaker for senior officials and influential tribal leaders.

"Yemenis always avoid talking about it, because behind it is a big group of people running qat businesses and making millions," said Dr. Hashim el-Zain, country director for the U.N.'s World Health Organization.

So far, there is little progress.

At about 1 p.m. each afternoon, most Yemeni men stop work, scour crammed street-side markets for the choicest bundles of qat and meet friends in cushion-filled salons or on grubby street corners for their daily chew.

The plant is grown and used legally in Yemen, where its production is a major source of employment and income - particularly for powerful tribes with vast tracts of land.

Many farmers tilling the terraced plots, carved into towering mountainsides or on flat, humid coastal plains, grow it instead of food crops.

Nothing else is in such great demand or can be harvested year round, making it a good cash crop for farmers, said 44-year-old British writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith, who has lived in Yemen since 1982 and chews qat daily.

What's more, Mackintosh-Smith said, qat cultivation eases the population strain on major cities by keeping farmers in the countryside.

Beyond that, old habits - despite the hardships they may cause - hang on stubbornly at the languorous tip of the Saudi peninsula.

"I have been chewing qat since I was 15," said Sheik Abdul Ghani Mahfouz Shamili, a 61-year-old San'a trader. "If I have work, maybe I won't chew. But if I have no work, what else can I do but sleep and chew qat."

[US Census Data] Student poverty levels drop; educators say data hide truth

From The Modesto Bee

by Adam Ashton

Northern San Joaquin Valley students are less likely to live in poverty than they were 10 years ago, census figures show.

The percentage of Stanislaus County students living in poor families dropped from 23.1 percent in 1995 to 19.2 percent in 2003, according to the Census Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, released Tuesday.

Neighboring counties experienced similar trends, with student poverty dropping from the mid-1990s but rising slightly since 2001.

Educators said new residents lured by new subdivisions are behind the overall trend. They cautioned that valley schools continue to have relatively high numbers of English language learners and pockets of extreme poverty.

"The San Joaquin Valley is not the garden spot of California," said Mo-desto City Schools Superintendent Jim Enochs, comparing poverty levels in large valley districts with their urban counterparts along the coast.

Santa Clara and San Mateo counties had poverty rates for children ages 5 to 17 of about half of Stanislaus County's 2003 rate.

But in the Modesto City district, the rate was still at 30 percent in 2003, down just 2 percentage points from 1995.

The estimates are released annually and based mostly on median-income projections.

The declining valley rates sometimes equate with a drop in federal funds for schools. The Manteca Unified School District stands to lose $300,000 in federal Title I funds for low-income students this year, Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said.

She also said the census figures mask the number of students whose parents work jobs and commute for more than an hour each day. Some of those families are barely above the poverty line, she said.

"Just because families don't meet that poverty level doesn't mean they're not in need in some other way," she said.

Several districts reported adding Advanced Placement courses over the past 10 years but said they did so to improve opportunities for students, not because they were catering to wealthier students.

"We continue to change our curriculum based on the demands for our kids outside of high school, not necessarily where they come from, but where they're going," said Ed Felt, assistant superintendent at the Turlock Unified School District.

Report 'doesn't reflect reality'

Many of the most significant declines in poverty took place in smaller communities that have grown significantly in the past decade. Districts in Ceres, Empire and Patterson all saw student poverty decline by more than 8 percentage points from 1995 to 2003.

The 167-student Valley Home Joint Elementary School District had a decline of more than 20 percentage points, down to 4.5percent in 2003.

Valley Home Superintendent Gary Hudson said the economic report "doesn't reflect reality in the school."

He said half of the district's students receive free and reduced meals through a federal program, a fact that hasn't changed in six years. He said he worries the new statistics could cut into the extra federal money his district receives to help its poorest students.

One big district showing marked improvement in poverty levels was the 11,000-student Merced City School District. Student poverty declined there from 45 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in 2003.

Lee Andersen, Merced County's superintendent of education, said the area's changing economic picture likely came from new homeowners buying property and commuting to other cities for work. Some Merced County cities nearly doubled in size since the 1990 census.

He said the improving socio-economic status of the county's students could set the stage for higher academic achievement.

"You're generally going to have kids coming to school more prepared to deal with curriculum and the school environment," he said. "More kids from middle-income families will have preschool, and generally more kids from middle-income families will have parents who had longer and more successful academic experiences."

Henry Escobar, superintendent of the Livingston Union Elementary School District, said he noticed an improving financial scene in his community when he started evaluating families for a federally funded free and reduced-price meal program.

"We're happy for our families, and we're happy for our community to see that our socioeconomic standing is improving," Escobar said.

Carol Whiteside, president of Modesto's Great Valley Center, tied the improving poverty levels in local school districts to rising employment and homeownership rates. She said districts now face a challenge in getting those students into college.

A 2003 report from the California Postsecondary Education Commission showed 19 percent of Stanislaus County students completing courses to enter a public university compared with 35percent statewide.

"The correlation between economic well-being and adult achievement is pretty direct," Whiteside said. "It helps in terms of adult education and in terms of work force preparation.

"It's good news, but it isn't good enough news that means we can stop worrying about it," she said.

[Sierra Leone] Donors pledge $800m to fast-track poverty reduction

From Relief Web

Consultative Group meeting in London agrees greater support for the government’s poverty reduction strategy and better donor coordination

Press Release No:2006/177/AFR

LONDON, November 30, 2005 - Thirty of Sierra Leone’s development partners expressed their confidence in the government’s plans for poverty reduction in one of the world’s poorest countries with aid promises for 2005 – 2007 totaling $800m, after two days of talks in London this week.

Three key themes of the discussions were food security, employment - particularly youth employment - and governance. Development partners also agreed plans to improve the effectiveness of aid programmes through greater donor coordination and more focus on the government’s own poverty reduction strategy.

UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone Victor Angelo said: “The many countries and multilateral organizations represented at this meeting have recognized the tremendous progress achieved by the government and people of Sierra Leone in the short period since the end of the civil war – and given a significant vote of confidence to the government’s poverty reduction strategy.”

Co-chaired by the Government of Sierra Leone, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) the United Nations and the World Bank, the Consultative Group for Sierra Leone met in London on November 29 & 30. President Ahmad Kabbah and Vice President Solomon Berewa led the Sierra Leone delegation.

Since ending its civil war in January 2002, Sierra Leone has re-established security and begun the process of restoring public services. An annual GDP growth rate averaging about 7% over three years since 2002 emphasises how far the country has progressed, with the IMF predicting future growth of 6-7% per year. A key achievement was the successful completion of the first local government elections in 32 years in May 2004.

Half a million children have been enrolled in primary school since the abolition of fees in 2002. Child mortality rates, though still among the world’s highest, are in steady decline with child immunisation rates almost doubling between 1997 and 2004. Nevertheless, just over 70% of the country’s more than five million inhabitants still live in poverty, on incomes of less than $1 a day and Sierra Leone retains the dubious distinction of featuring 176th out of 177 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index.

At the opening of the Consultative Group meeting, UK Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn said: “Our commitment to Sierra Leone remains strong. The country has made significant progress in rebuilding the general machinery of government and in introducing reforms to help sustain peace, stability and encourage further economic growth.

“The Government has demonstrated its commitment to combat corruption by creating an Anti-Corruption Commission and introducing new procurement rules. But more work is needed to tackle corruption and ensure that services reach the poor, progress which is essential if the Poverty Reduction Budget Support Programme is to be realised.”

President Kabbah responded in his address: “I am fully aware that the biggest concern for many of our development partners is the level of our commitment to fighting corruption and the manner in which we are able to provide demonstrable results in this area. We welcome this concern and wish to assure the donor community and our people that we take the fight against corruption very seriously.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, World Bank Country Director for Sierra Leone Mats Karlsson welcomed the constructive outcome of the talks: “We have made substantial progress here and demonstrated a real commitment to turning a fragile success into a robust one.”

[UK] Welsh poverty falls to UK average

From The BBC

Poverty rates in Wales have fallen faster than those in England or Scotland in the past decade, according to a social policy research charity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation study found poverty levels are no worse than the average for Britain as a whole.

But it says one in four children, up to 170,000, still grow up in a poor family, with 250,000 households in "deep poverty".

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the study showed "major challenges" ahead.

"This important independent research shows that we are seeing significant improvements in an individual's life chances in Wales, but there remain some major challenges which we must continue to tackle," he said.

The report compiled official figures on health, housing, education and poverty to conclude that 640,000 people in Wales were living in poverty, including 120,000 pensioners and 350,000 working-age adults.

It found that a third of homes with children living below the poverty line were in the south Wales valleys, while another third were in Cardiff and the rest of south Wales. More than half of those children live with lone parents who are mostly not working.

The parents of the youngsters in the south Wales valleys were more likely to be unemployed due to long-term ill health than anywhere else in England and Wales.

Other counties with areas of above average rates of long-term ill health were Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Ynys Mon.

The study found unemployment had almost halved in a decade to around 60,000, with a further 95,000 people wanting to work but prevented due to sickness, disability or lone parenthood.

It said low pay, especially among women, was an increasingly significant cause of poverty, with more than a third of poor households including an adult who was working - a figure that was not lower than in the mid-1990s.

'Roots of poverty'

Report author Peter Kenway said: "Nearly four in 10 of the people who are in poverty in Wales are in households where someone is doing some paid work and this in-work poverty has not declined at all during a period when jobs growth has been fairly strong.

"In the short-term, the answer is higher pay at the bottom, and many of these low-paid jobs that are the cause of in-work poverty are in the public sector, and higher benefits.

"In the long-term, one has got to look both at the quality of jobs and also at the level of qualifications.

"In a way, for us, of the most disturbing statistics is the one that shows that, of 24-year-olds, a third do not have adequate qualifications to cope in the labour market as it is now.

"Unless something is done about that, in some sense, the roots of poverty in the future will not have been dealt with."

[Joseph Stiglitz] Nobel economist launches poverty research institute

From The Guardian

Europe and the United States have reneged on an understanding to help developing countries by cutting agricultural subsidies, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz said today.

Speaking at the launch of the University of Manchester's Brooks World Poverty Institute of which he will be the chairman, Professor Stiglitz said he was "deeply pessimistic" that forthcoming World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong would reach agreement.

"People say that talks reach agreement at the 11th hour but Cancun and Seattle came out with nothing," he said. "The US and the EU had made a tacit bargain that world trade talks would deal with issues like financial services and intellectual property rights in return for sorting out textile quotas and agricultural subsidies for the benefit of developing countries."

A former economic adviser to President Clinton and vice-president of the World Bank, Professor Stiglitz, who is now a professor of finance and economics at Columbia University, said that policies of the western democracies were being driven by special interests. Subsidising American cotton farmers was harming 10 million sub-Saharan farmers, he said.

A strong believer that aid and trade must go hand in hand, Professor Stiglitz is the first of the "iconic appointments" which the recently merged University of Manchester has pledged to make in a bid to make itself a world-class institution.

The new institute is funded by a £1.3m donation from Rory and Elizabeth Brooks. It will carry out research on all aspects of poverty and in February is due to hold an international conference on the results of the Hong Kong trade talks.

Professor Stiglitz said research could lead to changes in government policies by exposing what was happening. "It's one thing to be subsidising well-off farmers but once you start seeing the consequences of that in Africa you start rethinking policies and hopefully changing them. That is an area where research can have a political impact."

Winner of the 2001 Nobel prize for economics, Professor Stiglitz said that as an economist he was attracted to Manchester, the city that gave birth to the idea of free trade and the university's efforts to be a catalyst for development in the north of England.

"The notion of trying to create an intellectual centre in the north to help stimulate development - as an economist I find it an extremely interesting idea. The issue of poverty is one of the big global issues so that made it more enticing for me," he said.

Manchester already has more than 70 people working on development issues in poor countries and recently launched the chronic poverty research centre, explained David Hulme, who was also present to launch the Brooks Institute.

He said the university was working with partners in south and west Africa, and Bangladesh and India, trying to understand the causes of poverty and work out policies to combat it.

Professor Hulme said the idea of giving poor people cash rather than food and seeds was an example of recent thinking. Instead of disrupting local markets with an influx of free food, giving families cash could tackle hunger and help develop the productive capacity of the local economy as well, he said.

He also expressed anger that the "duplicity" of Europe and the US in protecting their own farmers with high subsidies while urging free trade on the rest of the world.

[US] ‘An obsession with possession’ -- Poverty and crime linked, but people still responsible for actions, police say

From The Times and Democrat


When Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams thinks about the links between crime and poverty, he thinks back to the time when he had to repossess an elderly woman’s wood stove. During the Christmas holidays, deputies were sent to her home to seize the stove from the woman and her grandchildren. The payments for the stove were behind, and, at the time, deputies were charged with enforcing the civil statutes. The stove was collected during the bitter winter, and returned to the owner’s business.

“I took the stove out of the house,” said Sheriff Larry Williams, referring to the 1979 incident, when he was a deputy. “But I sure didn’t want to take it.”

Later, Williams and several other deputies bought food to take to the elderly woman. When they arrived, smoke was wafting from the chimney.

“I said, ’You stole it?’” Williams said, referring to the wood stove, which looked remarkably like the one Williams had removed earlier. “And she said, ’No, I took it. I didn’t steal it.’”

The stove, when repossessed, had been placed outside of the business. The woman had simply retrieved it.

“That’s one of the cases where I saw poverty, and I saw crime,” Williams said. “Here, this older lady had her back against the wall. And I was wondering how she got that stove back.”

Law enforcement officials say there is a definite correlation between poverty and crime, but poverty is no excuse for crime.

“I think there is a definite correlation. Certainly it’s not an excuse, but I think poverty has, frankly, created a level of desperation and hopelessness,” Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Chief Wendell Davis said.

Also, there is a flash and cash image which is deemed to measure an individual’s level of success.

“We tend to be very materialistic,” Davis said. “By society focusing on materialistic gain, we have created the desire to obtain possessions, even if it means doing so by illegal means.”

While there is no evidence to suggest that a person in poverty will commit a crime, officials across the board say there is an unmistakable connection between the two.

“There is definitely a correlation with poverty and crime,” 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe said. “All you have to do to see a correlation is the majority of our defendants on our docket are handled by the public defender’s office.”

The public defender’s office represents indigent patients, based on poverty guidelines.

Pascoe said that on Nov. 7, a defendant stood before the court stating he did not qualify for a public defender’s services. He said his disability check amounted to about $700 a month.

Of the 119 answering roll call in General Sessions court during the October term of court, 16 acquired their own private attorney.

Another 18 of had not retained an attorney of any sort as of the start. That left 85 defendants, or 71 percent of October’s docket, who qualified for a public defender.

Since Oct. 1, the public defender’s office has added 123 new cases to its plate. And that number doesn’t reflect the new juvenile cases dished out to them in the same time period.

“They have enough to be saying grace over,” Orangeburg County Clerk of Court Lisa Mizzell said.

The statistics

When State Law Enforcement Division figures for the state are compared with those of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for South Carolina, it appears to bear out that poverty, while not necessarily a cause of, can be considered at least a factor in crime statistics.

The unemployment rate for South Carolina in 2001 was 5.6 percent, which rose to 6 percent in 2002. And the percentage of violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) rose 4.2 percent in the same time period.

When the same figures for 2003 and 2004 are compared, unemployment climbed from 6.8 percent to 7 percent, while violent crime during that period dropped.

But when non-violent crimes committed during the same time period are factored in, it would appear the crime rate for the state rises with the unemployment rate.

As the jobless rate rose from 2002 through 2004, the combined violent and nonviolent South Carolina crime rate rose .1 percent, .7 percent and .7 percent for the three years compared.

“If you get to a level of hopelessness, you have a tendency to think there are no viable options aside from cutting corners and being involved in things you know are wrong,” Davis said.

Law enforcement officials aren’t blind to the fact that there is a certain level of crime committed simply out of necessity.

But officials say that poverty doesn’t give any right to entitlement.

“That’s no excuse,” Pascoe said. “Many people grow up and went on to commit no crimes.”

Officials point out that some cars bearing the flashy rims and expensive paint work are often seen parked in front of dilapidated homes in need of repair. It’s the image of wealth and rebellion against authority that a person dealing in narcotics seek, police say.

“What they don’t seem to realize is this isn’t a long-term career,” Davis said. “Certainly, we will catch up with them.”

Root of the problem

Most law enforcement officials say it’s a vicious cycle.

Pascoe said when he gives a lecture, he’ll ask an audience their opinion as to the causes of crime. Invariably, drugs and domestic violence are offered.

But the solicitor said the seed for a criminal inclination was planted long before it grew into drugs or domestic altercations.

“It starts when they’re kids because the vast majority of violent criminals in our adult court started out as juveniles,” he said. “Most of them started out with shoplifting and petty theft.”

But the desire to steal isn’t inherited or a gene people are born with, Davis said. Combined with the perception that possessions equal success, a person is taught at an early age to covet material gain, the police chief said.

“What you have is an obsession with possession,” Davis said.

Pascoe said it’s a vicious cycle. Somewhere along the line, he said, a man stole as a means to support his family. That petty theft grew until it became more serious, an armed robbery. Someone may have been killed in the attempt.

And a child sees his or her parent end up in jail or worse, Pascoe said, creating a feeling of hopelessness that leads to crime being seen as a normal way of life.

“What we need to do is attack the juvenile problem, by attacking it twofold,” the solicitor said. “First, deal with the violent juvenile offenders and, second, we have to have a good rehabilitation program for juveniles.”

The violent juvenile offender program would be aimed at “juveniles who like to carry guns and shoot people,” Pascoe said..

“Indeed, we’re going to look into waving them into General Sessions court,” Pascoe said. “If they’re old enough to be carrying a gun, they’re old enough to be treated as an adult, in most cases.”

The rehabilitation program in the 1st Circuit began has begun in Dorchester County.

“I’ve already started the church mentor program in this circuit,” he said. “And we’re in the process of lining up Orangeburg churches to help steer children away from crime. I haven’t met a pastor or minister yet who wasn’t excited about the program.”

Officials agree that if juveniles are given an inward reason for change, crime in the future can be deterred.

“Poverty may cause crime, but God can end it,” Pascoe said.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

[Pakistan] Wants U.S. free trade deal to cut poverty

From Reuters India

By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan needs a free trade agreement with the United States to help fight poverty that fuels extremism, a top Pakistani official said on Tuesday.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff "feels very strongly the very strong political ties between Pakistan and the United States should also include economic ties," Pakistan Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan told reporters before a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.

"(Musharaff) feels that in order to remove poverty, which is essential for curbing extremism in that part of the world, Pakistan needs market access and the United States being one of the largest trading partners should give that access to Pakistan," Khan said in Washington.

Pakistan, a close military ally of the United States, is one of several countries seeking a free trade deal with the United States. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who is believed responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, is thought to be hiding in the mountainous, remote border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Musharaff asked U.S. President George W. Bush to begin free trade talks at a New York meeting in September, repeating a request he first made in 2004, Khan said.

Pakistan already is negotiating a bilateral investment treaty with the United States, which could be a stepping stone to a free trade deal. The two countries should set a deadline for finishing those talks next year, Khan said.

More than 85 percent of Pakistan's exports to the United States are textile and clothing products, which Khan acknowledged would present a problem in negotiating a free trade agreement. Most U.S. textile groups are opposed to any reduction in their tariff protections.

"The entire trade and economic relationship between the United States and Pakistan should not depend upon the issue of textiles. It should be looked at as a restraint which both the governments should resolve to remove rather than a stumbling block that nobody dares to climb," Khan said.

The U.S. State Department's warning for Americans not to travel to Pakistan also is hurting economic ties between the two countries, Khan said. Pakistan is looking forward to a possible visit by Bush next year and hopes he will bring a high-level business delegation with him, he said.

[UN] celebrates tourism -- with reservations

From The National Business Review

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is warning about the dangers of over-active tourism even while celebrating the role tourism plays in the global transfer of wealth.

Noting that tourism is the primary source of foreign exchange in all but a few of the least developed countries, Mr Annan said that while the sector can play an important role in helping people lift themselves out of poverty, there are pitfalls to be avoided.

"Indeed, international tourism is one of the few ways in which the least developed countries have managed to increase their participation in the global economy," he declared in a message to the 16th session of the UN World Tourism Organization, delivered in Dakar, Senegal, by the UN Resident Coordinator there, Alberic Kacou.

At the same time, he stressed that tourism must be managed carefully to prevent a wide range of harmful effects that are becoming all too visible in many popular destinations.

"These include destruction of natural heritage through overbuilding; ever higher demands on scarce water and energy resources; damage to ecologically fragile areas caused by irresponsible development; threats to indigenous cultures; exploitation of workers; organized sex tourism, and - most tragic of all - child sex tourism, which affects millions of children each year," he said.

[UK] Charity targets poverty

From The Scotsman

A charity aimed at helping poverty-stricken Scots living in London has been launched.

Actress Blythe Duff, of Scots police drama Taggart, and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith opened the ScotsCare charity at the organisation's headquarters in Covent Garden.

A tenth of the estimated 340,000 people of Scottish origin in greater London live in poverty, face chronic illness and loneliness, or a combination of all three.

ScotsCare aims to help them on a number of levels, ranging from giving funds to those with chronic illnesses or in poverty to visits by specially trained volunteers to the lonely or elderly. It also aims to give grants to students unable to study without financial aid.

Speaking before the launch, Ms Duff said: "This is a very special charity for people of Scottish origin who fall into need in London and I am delighted to support their wonderful work."

Mr Duncan Smith, who was born in Edinburgh, said: "As a Scot in London, I feel particular concern for my fellow countrymen who have fallen on hard times in London and it is wonderful that ScotsCare will help alleviate their suffering. ScotsCare is typical of the sort of community groups and charities we work with at the Centre for Social Justice, which I set up in Lambeth."

The charity's chairman Wylie White said: "It is a sad fact that the lure of London turns sour for some young people and unfortunate older people face heart-rending problems with chronic illness and poverty. ScotsCare will provide a helping hand for those whom the system overlooks in the best traditions of Scottish fellowship."

First and second generation Scots in the greater London area qualify for help but the charity does not discriminate on grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation or personal background.

ScotsCare is a trademark of the Royal Scottish Corporation, a charity which has helped more than a million people.

It traces its origins to the Union of the Crowns in 1603 when King James VI of Scotland moved to London to become King James I.

[UK] Disabled people ‘twice as likely to live in poverty’

From Ireland On line

The National Disability Authority has claimed that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty than able-bodied people.

In a report published today, the authority also said disabled people were two and a half times less likely to have a jobs, while children with disabilities were three times more likely to leave school early.

The NDA said the figures underlined the importance of providing the supports needed for people with disabilities to live a full life.

Monday, November 28, 2005

[Make Poverty History] Activists say world leaders broke vows on fighting poverty

From The Taipei Times

Monday, Nov 28, 2005,Page 6

World leaders have broken promises made at the G8 summit last summer, according to a leading member of the "Make Poverty History" campaign.
A report by Save the Children says that governments have failed to "listen hard enough to their public" and concluded that "the leap forward demanded by Make Poverty History campaigners has not been delivered."

Matt Phillips, author of Did World Leaders Make Child Poverty History? and head of public affairs at Save the Children, said: "Make Poverty History was unequivocal in what it was demanding; long-run eradication of poverty. But we have a generation of leaders who aren't willing to [deliver] that."

He said the campaign saw 10 million people wearing the white band, 250,000 taking to the streets of Edinburgh and 540 organizations coming together to push for an end to world poverty: "The politicians had a mandate to do much more than they did."

All the efforts were focused on persuading the heads of the world's richest countries to give more aid, slash debt and promote fairer trade for the world's poorest. Bob Geldof pronounced G8 the most important summit Africa had ever seen.

"On aid, 10 out of 10. On debt, eight out of 10," he claimed.

Phillips criticized governments for failing to use two key opportunities in September -- the UN Millennium Summit and the annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF -- to make the "rhetoric" of G8 a reality.

The report highlights progress, such as a clear timetable for EU countries towards giving 0.7 percent of national income in aid and debt cancellation for 18 countries by the World Bank, IMF and Africa Development Bank. But it says there were more than 60 countries needing debt cancellation and the agreement to remove "damaging economic policies" as a condition for debt cancellation and aid had not been followed through.

Phillips said the UK led many of the agreements and was the strongest advocate of change at G8. However, it had been too quiet in subsequent meetings. John Hilary, director of campaigns for War on Want, said G8 delivered two out of 10 on aid and one out of 10 on debt.

"We feel we have been deceived by the government," Hilary said.

The prime minister's office at Number 10 Downing Street, said it was too soon to expect major changes and insisted the prime minister was working tirelessly to turn the words into reality.

One of Prime Minister Tony Blair's advisers said: "He asks almost every day where we have got to in taking the G8 commitments forward. He is focused on delivering promises."

Film director Richard Curtis, one of the main organizers of Live8, said critics should not ignore the successes of this year.

"Make Poverty History did make people aware that this was a political issue, not just a charitable one," Curtis said.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

[Canada] pledges $4.3 billion to lift natives from poverty

From The Seattle Times


The Associated Press

KELOWNA, B.C. — Canada on Friday pledged $4.3 billion in a landmark deal with Indian and northern Inuit communities to help lift them from the poverty and disease that has plagued their neglected reserves for more than a century.

The agreement commits federal money over the next decade for widespread improvements in housing, health care, education and economic development for the nearly 1 million aboriginal peoples of the North American nation, namely Indian tribes known as First Nations and Inuits, the aboriginal Canadians of the northeastern and Arctic territories.

Prime Minister Paul Martin and the premiers of Canada's 13 provinces and territories announced the agreement after a two-day summit with five native organizations.

"Aboriginal Canadians have no desire for more rhetoric; they have needs and those needs demand attention. It's as simple as that. We all know that there are serious problems in too many aboriginal communities and it's heartbreaking to hear the stories of lost promise," Martin said after the conclusion of the two-day summit in Kelowna.

Canada's native reserves are dramatically short of housing and safe drinking water, their high-school graduation rate is just more than half the national average, and life expectancy is five to seven years lower than for non-aboriginals.

The infant-mortality rate is 20 percent higher among First Nations, suicide rates are threefold and teen pregnancies are nine times higher than the national average.

Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, praised the agreement and said he would demand that federal officials follow through.

"We will close the gap in the quality of life between our people and other Canadians. That will be our legacy for the coming generations," he said. "We have conquered our own cynicism. We've seen how far we can go in just two days; imagine how far we can go in 10 years."

Earlier in the week, the Canadian government proposed another $1.7 billion in payments for aboriginal victims of sexual and psychological abuse during forced Christian schooling.

Some 100,000 children were required to attend residential schools over the past century in a futile and painful attempt to rid them of their native cultures and languages and integrate them into Canadian society. The legacy of sexual abuse and isolation among these children has long been cited by Indian leaders as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reserves.

Among other pledges in Friday's final agreement:

• Close the educational gap so that by 2016, the high-school graduation rate for aboriginal students is the same as other Canadians.

• Change housing policy to improve access to emergency shelters and improve the ability of natives to own homes off their reserves.

• Reduce infant mortality, youth suicide, childhood obesity and diabetes by 50 percent in 10 years by doubling the number of aboriginal health-care workers, improving delivery and access to provincial health care and establishing preventative health measures on native reserves.

Some worry, however, that any progress made at the conference could vanish as early as Monday, when opposition parties in Parliament are expected to topple Martin's minority government in a no-confidence vote, forced after he refused to call early national elections.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

[Canada] Many Ontarians relying on food banks: report

From CTV

The Ontario Association of Food Banks says the number of food bank users has risen by an "alarming" 21.5 per cent since 2001, and more people are relying on food banks to feed their families.

The association released its Hunger Report at Queens Park Wednesday.

The report shows Ontario children make up half of the food bank recipients. There are more working poor and new Canadians who rely on food donations.

In the Greater Toronto Area an estimated 175,000 people use food banks each month -- half of those are new Canadians.

The study found the number of Ontario immigrants living below the poverty line has gone up from 25 per cent to 36 per cent between 1980 and 2000.

The association is calling on the province to step up efforts to reduce poverty in Ontario.

"More than ever before hunger is a daily tragedy for a growing number of Ontarians. A total of 338,563 Ontarians were served by food banks each month in 2005," association chairman Sandy Singer said.

"We need to see hunger and poverty not as a moral imperative and a matter of social justice, but as an issue of development, health and economic success," Singer added.

By comparison, the number of residents using food banks in two other provinces has decreased significantly.

The report shows Alberta saw a 16.6 per cent decline between 2001 and 2005, while Quebec saw a 9.1 per cent decline.

The Globe and Mail reports Ontario's benefit rates for a single parent with one child under 12 fell to $957 a month between 1995 and 2001. The rates were increased by three per cent by Premier Dalton McGuinty -- the first such increase in a decade.

More than half of the province's food bank users are on social assistance.

The first food banks opened 20 years ago as a stop-gap measure to provide an emergency supply of food to those in need in major cities.

Most users only visit once a month.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

[Pakistan] Poverty level would come to 17 % during next 10 years

From Geo TV

KARACHI: Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr. Ishrat Hussain said that poverty level would come to 17 percent during next 10 years if economic development ratio consistently remains between six to eight percent.

Talking to Geo TV the Governor said that 33 percent population of Pakistan was living blow the poverty level up till 1999. Talking about Central Bank’s independent policies, he said legal independence is useless if central institution does not have the capabilities to run the vital institution. However, he said that in the first time of Pakistan’s history license of any commercial bank was canceled. Three banks were dissolved. And managements of three other banks were changed.

Talking about inflation rate he said the inflation ratio is likely to remain eight percent this year, next year that would come down to six percent and during 2007 that would further come down to five percent.

Dr. Ishrat Hussain is retiring next month after completing his six-year tenure and does not want to hold any government responsibility. However, he is keen to establish an economic research institution in Pakistan.

Monday, November 21, 2005

[U S Budget] National Faith Heads Create New Agenda on Poverty

From The Christian Post

WASHINGTON – National interfaith leaders are taking joint steps against the House approved budget cuts with a larger unifying mission to battle against poverty. More religious groups have entered the political sphere to speak up against cuts for the poor and to impose a proactive vision to overcome the rising poverty in America.

Some 45 national faith leaders convened for the one-day Faith Summit on Poverty hosted by Call to Renewal and Sojourners on Monday to create a new agenda on the prevalent issue of poverty. Representatives from World Vision, the Salvation Army, the Center for Public Justice, the Catholic Commission, the Evangelical Covenant Church and other faith groups addressed ways to move forward after the Katrina awakening and campaigned for progress in a racially divided and poverty-stricken nation.

Currently, participants are drafting a Covenant for a New America to advocate improved conditions for the poor and rally greater action as a faith community. The covenant is slated for release in January 2006.

Tom Allio, Senior Director of the Cleveland Diocesan Social Action office, spoke on behalf of the Catholic Commission saying that they will "redouble" their efforts with phone calls, letters, and visits to battle for the hundreds of thousands of America's poor.

A political consciousness of the impact that such poverty decisions bring on the nation is beginning to unfold, as Mary Nelson of Bethel New Life noted.

The House narrowly approved $50 billion in budget cuts last week, slicing into Medicaid, student loans, food stamps and other benefit programs.

Religious communities have increasingly taken social justice issues to Congress and the United Nations either as a small group-affiliated effort or a large bipartisan interfaith collaboration.

As Jim Wallis, convener of Sojourners and Call to Renewal, stressed, the faith community is driven to get "very involved" with "bold, dramatic action on behalf of the poor."

[Comment] Israel: Poverty Could Be Election Capital

From Business Week

Over the past year, two key Israeli businesspeople and longtime Labor Party backers decided to throw their weight behind a new, if controversial, contender for party leadership -- Amir Peretz. The powerful and charismatic boss of the Histadrut Labor Federation reassured industrialist and investor Benjamin "Benny" Gaon and venture capitalist Erel Margalit that, despite his union credentials, he strongly supported the free market and he viewed Britain's Tony Blair as a role model.

Gaon's and Margalit's support of Peretz raised quite a few eyebrows, but they felt the Labor Party needed a major overhaul and younger leadership if it ever was to return to power. On Nov. 9, contrary to expectations, Peretz, 54, narrowly defeated 82-year-old Labor leader Shimon Peres for the top party job. Now, Israel's political class is reeling. Peretz doesn't support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition government with Labor and has been pushing for new Knesset elections by March rather than as scheduled in November, 2006. The Knesset is expected to vote on Nov. 21 to dissolve itself, which would pave the way for early elections.

"Very Hard Times"
Peretz' challenge comes on top of other troubles for the Likud. The party is divided over the disengagement in the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. And on Nov. 15, Sharon's son, 41-year-old Knesset member Omri Sharon, was convicted of illegal campaign financing charges linked to his father's 1999 campaign. "If the Likud doesn't get its act together quickly and unite, then we are in for some very hard times," says Transport Minister Meir Sheetrit, a Sharon ally.

The Moroccan-born Peretz looks to have a strong chance to make gains on a divided Likud. Opinion polls taken shortly after his victory gave Labor under Peretz a boost. The Likud, which now has a 19-seat advantage over Labor in the Knesset, would see its lead narrow to seven, according to a Nov. 11 poll in the Ha'aretz newspaper.

Peretz focuses more on economic issues than on security, although he does favor immediate negotiations with the Palestinians on a final settlement. "The security issue is losing its importance as the major factor in elections and is being replaced by social and economic issues and corruption," notes Mina Tsemach, a leading Israeli pollster.

Peretz has made a name for himself by battling with his nemesis, Benjamin Netanyahu, over the latter's economic policies. The former Finance Minister, who resigned in August, slashed welfare payments, cut taxes, and sold off state-owned companies in moves to revive Israel's economy.

Buoyed by an improvement in the security situation and an international recovery, the Israeli economy grew 4.2% last year and is expected to grow 4.5% in 2005. But the improvement has not trickled down to large segments of the population. The number of Israelis living under the poverty line tops 20% and continues to rise. Most of the benefits from the boom and from Netanyahu's policies have been enjoyed by workers in Israel's so-called Silicon Wadis, where the country's high-tech industry is concentrated.

Hard Hit
The Likud may thus prove vulnerable in development towns such as Sderot, where Peretz served as mayor in the early 1990s. Established in the '50s in outlying areas, these are largely populated by low-income immigrants from North Africa. Traditionally, they have been a bastion of Likud support. But it's precisely these towns, where unemployment runs well above the 9% national average, that Netanyahu's policies have hit hardest.

Peretz would like to raise allowances paid for children and the elderly and cancel proposed cuts in education, health, and welfare. He wants to exempt workers earning less than $1,100 a month from income, social security, and health taxes, and raise the minimum wage by 30%, to $1,000 a month. Independent economists say his proposals could cost over $2 billion.

Many in the business community are concerned about the possible impact of Peretz' proposals. "If the minimum wage is raised, thousands of workers will be fired, factories will be forced to shut, and production will be transferred abroad," warns Shraga Brosh, president of the Israel Manufacturers Assn. The Likud is already painting Peretz as a socialist out of touch with the times. But his populist views have also put the party on the spot. Only hours after Peretz was elected Labor chief, Sharon announced the government was preparing a plan to combat poverty.

Peretz still faces an uphill battle to win the next election. But his ties with the country's lower-income groups have the Likud worried. With Sharon under siege in a divided party, a belated war on poverty could be too little, too late.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

[Jamaica] Hughes, Salmon differ on poverty ministry

From Jamaica Observer

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Sunday Observer Writer
Sunday, November 20, 2005

Two of the government's senior technocrats have emerged with opposing views on the most cost-effective method of delivering services to the poor.

Dr Wesley Hughes favours the creation of a new ministry to run all poverty alleviation programmes.
But, Dr Jaslin Salmon insists that the job can be done by an executive agency.

"I believe a ministry would create tremendous expenses, which would eat up the meagre resources we have to put into the poverty programmes," Dr Salmon, coordinator of the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NPEP), told the Sunday Observer last week.
"I want to see a less expansive structure, but one that would provide the kind of coordination and integration that we want."

Salmon was responding to Dr Hughes' embrace of a call by academic Robert Buddan for the creation of a Ministry of Human Development under which all poverty programmes would coalesce for better management of service delivery.

Buddan, in a presentation at a poverty alleviation forum hosted by the Office of the Prime Minister at Jamaica House more than a week ago, had suggested that the creation of this human development ministry could help reduce poverty levels in Jamaica to single-digit.
The current levels are 16.9 per cent.

Last week, Hughes, director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica and chair of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) - an agency within the poverty programme network - told the Sunday Observer that he was pleased that Buddan's view coincided with his own.

Buddhan had also suggested the floating of a 20-year bond to seed the ministry.
"I made the call internally some time ago, so I was heartened to hear Dr Buddan making the call as I had not had any discussion about it with him," Hughes said.
However, he made it clear that the idea was still being discussed in government circles.

"My approach is not the only approach," Dr Hughes said. "I know, for example, Dr Salmon has another approach."
Dr Salmon believes that a new ministry would only increase the size of government at a time when it should be reduced. It would also be a costly and complicated exercise, he argues.

"Ministries don't give up positions that readily, and you would get caught up in that battle over whose position is whose, and I don't think I want to see us caught in that," Dr Salmon told the Sunday Observer.

He explained that many poverty-alleviation programmes formed part of the core functions of ministries, and said he saw no need to move these programmes from their ministries.

"There are many functions taking place in the ministries for which they need the people at this point," Dr Salmon said. "If you were to set up a new ministry you would be expanding government; I think we need to contract the government."

Salmon supports the establishment of an executive agency with legal authority to coordinate all poverty programmes throughout the government. "It would have a core of technocrats, who have the authority to tie in with the ministries and some responsibility to sign off on budgetary issues," he said.

Both technocrats were quick to point out that their disagreement on the issue was not contentious, and that they both agreed on the need for greater coordination of the programmes.

"It's an ongoing debate at various levels," Dr Hughes said.
Added Dr Salmon: "We have a common understanding that there is need for a new institutional framework. It's a reasoned dialogue between Dr Hughes and myself."

On the matter of whether the country was spending too much to deliver benefits to the poor, Dr Hughes said it was so about four years ago before the Social Safety Net Reform Programme was introduced, but that was no longer the case.

Last week, the Sunday Observer reported Dr Hughes as saying the delivery of social relief in many instances was greater than the relief. "It can cost $1.50 to deliver a benefit of $1," he had said.

However, he said last week that he was referring to the situation before the reforms were introduced, but did not have the more current figures available immediately.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

[U S Budget] House Budget Bill, with Almost All of it's Low-Income Cuts Intact, Moves on to Conference with Very Different Senate Bill

WASHINGTON - November 18 - On November 17, House leaders made several changes to the House budget reconciliation bill, some of them designed to garner the support of Members who were concerned that low-income families would bear a large share of the bill’s cuts. CBO analyses show, however, that these changes reduce the total level of cuts that most directly affect low-income Americans by only about two percent. The other 98 percent of the low-income cuts remain. The bill passed by the House would impose significant cuts in:

Food stamps: more than 220,000 people would be cut off the program. This includes at least 150,000 people, most of them in working families with children who have substantial work and housing expenses that drop their net incomes below the poverty line. In addition, 70,000 legal immigrants who have been in the United States between five and seven years, primarily working-poor parents and poor elderly individuals, would be cut off food stamps by 2008. The food stamp cuts would total $700 million over five years, according to CBO.

Medicaid: low-income beneficiaries would have to pay more for health care and would receive reduced services; many would end up doing without needed care. A last-minute change by the House reduced the co-payments that the poorest Medicaid beneficiaries must pay. But the House left unchanged the two most serious most serious problems in this part of the bill — the very high co-payments and premiums that beneficiaries just above the poverty line could be charged, and the health care services that states would be allowed to eliminate, including comprehensive preventive care and treatment for near-poor children.

These changes would reduce Medicaid by nearly $30 billion over ten years, according to CBO. These savings partly reflect the fact that because of the increases in co-payments and premiums, many low-income people either would not receive health care services or would not obtain Medicaid coverage at all, CBO notes. This, in turn, would result in more emergency room visits and higher emergency care costs, according to CBO, as people’s health worsens due to lack of timely care.

Child support: $24 billion in child support payments would go uncollected over the next ten years because of deep cuts in child support enforcement efforts. By sharply weakening funding for child support enforcement, the bill would undercut one of the government’s principal tools for enforcing personal responsibility on those who father a child. Child support payments would drop sharply — according to CBO, $24 billion that would be collected under current law would go uncollected under the House bill — and as a result, many children would likely be pushed deeper into poverty.

Child care: 330,000 children in low-income working families would lose child care assistance by 2010. The bill requires states to place many more parents receiving TANF cash assistance into work programs. States will have to provide child care for these parents. Yet the House bill fails to provide enough child care money even to maintain the current number of subsidized child care slots for low-income families.
As a result, states would have to shift child care slots from low-income working families that are not on TANF cash assistance to families that receive cash aid and are participating in work programs. By 2010, some 330,000 children in low-income working families would lose their child care subsidies. (This figure is a CBPP estimate; no CBO estimate is available.)

Budget Cuts Will Be Used to Finance Tax Cuts, Not Deficit Reduction or Hurricane Relief

Despite claims by supporters of the House bill, these cuts would not reduce the deficit or help offset the costs of hurricane relief. This is because the House is planning to consider a tax-cut reconciliation bill that would reduce revenues by $60 billion over five years, more than offsetting the total savings in the budget-cut bill.

Moreover, while the House budget cuts would heavily affect low-income families, the centerpiece of the House’s forthcoming tax-cut bill — an extension of the capital gains and dividend tax cuts — would overwhelmingly benefit upper-income households. Fifty-three percent of the benefits of extending those two tax cuts would go to the 0.2 percent of households that make more than $1 million a year, according to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

Unlike House, Senate Achieved Savings Without Sharp Low-Income Cuts

The House’s approach to reconciliation budget cuts contrasts sharply with that of the Senate, which did not include any cuts to food stamps, child support enforcement, SSI, or foster care.

The Senate bill did include Medicaid reductions, but unlike the House, the Senate avoided changes that harm low-income beneficiaries. Instead, the Senate took on powerful lobbying interests such as managed care providers and pharmaceutical companies: the Senate bill reduced overpayments to Medicare managed care plans (as recommended by the non-partisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission) and reduced the prices Medicaid pays pharmaceutical companies for prescription drugs. The House, in contrast, shielded managed care providers and pharmaceutical companies.

The House could have achieved the $50 billion in savings in its final bill while protecting low-income families by:

reducing overpayments to Medicare managed care plans;

lowering Medicaid prescription drug prices (by addressing the high charges imposed by pharmaceutical companies, as the Senate did); and canceling two tax cuts exclusively for high-income people that are scheduled to start taking effect on January 1. The savings just from canceling these two new tax cuts would be more than enough to replace all of the House’s low-income cuts.

It remains to be seen whether the House’s approach of imposing large cuts on low-income Americans or the Senate’s approach of protecting these people from the most severe cuts will prevail in conference negotiations.

Friday, November 18, 2005

[Comment] Education remains ticket out of poverty

From The Indianapolis Star

Our position: Education is key to helping Indiana's poor families find a way out of poverty.

Indiana's numbers are bleak. A 74 percent increase in the number of Hoosiers receiving food stamps from 2000 to 2004. A 30 percent boost in the number of students who qualify for free lunches at school because of low family incomes. A 19 percent rise in the number of students who dropped out of school in the 2003-2004 academic year.

Blame at least some of the sour statistics on the lingering effects of recession. Indiana still has a net loss of 46,000 jobs since 2000. And many of the jobs that have been created don't pay as well as the manufacturing positions that have migrated out of state.

The result, as the Kids Count in Indiana 2005 data book shows, is a sharp increase in the number of families in Indiana living near the poverty line. "The explosion in the numbers for things like food stamps is a clear indication that people are in trouble,'' Charles Warren, research manager for the Indiana Institute for Working Families, told Star reporter Tim Evans.

Warren says that about 40 percent of children in Indiana "are living in families that can't meet their basic needs.''

That number should be a shock to upper- and middle-income Hoosiers, state officials and business and educational leaders. Bill Stanczykiewicz, president of the Indiana Youth Institute, the organization that publishes the annual Kids Count report, notes that children living near or below the poverty line are more likely to suffer from abuse or neglect, develop cognitive skills at a slower pace and experience behavioral problems.

The implications are profound for a state struggling to rebuild its economy and to develop a work force capable of filling high-skilled jobs.
Improving Hoosiers' education level is essential to those goals. But if, as the Kids Count report indicates, a significant percentage of children continue to enter school behind their peers academically and live in families where education is slighted by the struggle to make ends meet, then building a better-educated work force will remain an elusive achievement.

What are the answers? One is for the state, admittedly short on money, to find a way to make early childhood education available to more kids.

Another is for state government to be more aggressive in tapping federal dollars that help poor families. Indiana was 45th in the nation in 2003 in per-capita federal spending on programs aimed at low-income children and families.
A generation of Hoosiers is fighting to pay for the basics of life. They need their neighbors' help in creating opportunities for them to succeed.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

[Israel] Peretz set to fight election on poverty, not peace process

From the Independent

Amir Peretz, the Israeli Labour Party's new leader, plans to force the agenda to domestic Israeli issues and away from relations with the Palestinians in preparation for a general election which could now be as early as the end of February.

Mr Peretz will try to identify growing measures to combat poverty and social deprivation among lower-income Israelis as the key dividing line between himself and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, one of his most senior allies indicated yesterday. The Labour leader, who triggered the election by ending Labour participation in Mr Sharon's Likud-led coalition, said after the Prime Minister, who had planned to go to the country next November, was now "adamant" elections should be held as soon as possible.

Morocco-born Mr Peretz, leader of the country's trade union federation, added: "I will let him decide the date within the period of the end of February and the end of March. Any date he decides is okay with me." Mr Peretz said he hoped a date would be announced before Monday when the Knesset will start dissolving itself. A poll in yesterday's Maariv newspaper shows that, within a week of Mr Peretz being elected and with the campaign still undeclared, Labour's rating has already improved enough to give it five extra Knesset seats if Mr Sharon remains as leader of Likud, 27 to Likud's 38.

If Mr Sharon's main rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, were leading Likud, the parties would tie at 33 seats, a finding which may well increase Mr Sharon's chances of remaining at his party's helm. Mr Sharon is expected to decide in the next few days whether to remain in Likud or form a new party to bypass his right-wing rebels.

Yuli Tamir, the Labour Knesset member who ran Mr Peretz's leadership campaign and is certain to play a leading role in a Peretz administration, said she expected "social issues" to be a dominant part in the campaign. Mr Peretz has already said he wants a near-doubling of the £2.15 an hour minimum wage.

Ms Tamir said approaches to negotiations with the Palestinians were less likely to loom so large because the differences between the formal positions were "small", given that Mr Sharon is formally committed to a Palestinian state and a return to the internationally agreed road-map to peace.

If elected, Mr Peretz, is expected to approve completion of the controversial West Bank separation barrier. Ms Tamir said the new leadership was "very critical" of the policies pursued under Mr Sharon by Mr Netanyahu, the former finance minister, "which in the past few years gave advantages to the very few, the very rich and pushed a significant proportion of the population below the poverty line".

Mr Peretz, a founder member of Peace Now, called last week for early negotiations and said he "would not rest" until there was a lasting settlement with the Palestinians.

But Ms Tamir, when pressed on whether this would not sharply differentiate him from Mr Sharon, said: "At least what Sharon declares he will do is not different from what Amir says he will do. The difference is that Amir will do it, and with Sharon, I don't know whether he will do it or not."

Though Ms Tamir did not say so, Mr Peretz' strategy appears to be to legitimise his position on peace talks among the more hawkish of potential supporters, without also compromising it, by pointing to Mr Sharon's public commitments.

Ms Tamir said Mr Peretz's campaign was "probably the last chance" for Labour to "break out of a close circle" of middle-class Ashkenazy support and reach out to lower-income immigrants including hundreds of thousands from Arab countries who tended to support Likud.

One left-of-centre analyst said Mr Peretz had a chance of emulating Menachem Begin's success in 1977 as Likud leader, when he harnessed just such support to overturn a Labour hegemony seen as fossilised and corrupt. Even Mr Peretz has said he wants to be the "Menachem Begin of the Labour Party".

Ms Tamir ridiculed suggestions that Mr Peretz was trying to return to 1940s socialism, rather "humane capitalism", saying that as US President Bill Clinton had raised the minimum wage. The differences, she said, would be closer to those between US Demo-crats and Republicans.

Ms Tamir also said the Maariv poll showed a jump in support for Labour among Russian immigrants to more than 8 per cent from 2.5 per cent. She said the immigrants were "one of the major audiences we are going to appeal to to make the Labour Party relevant to different groups".