Thursday, December 29, 2005

[Israel] Holocaust survivors 'in poverty'

From The BBC

A Holocaust survivor's support group has said 40% of survivors in Israel are living below the poverty line, Israel Radio has reported.

Most of the 170,000 people affected emigrated from the former Soviet bloc and now get little financial help.

Zeev Factor, the chairman of the Holocaust Survivors' Welfare Fund, says many survivors get no pensions and have to live off $390 a month.

Israel officially sets the poverty line at an income of $400 a month.

Mr Factor said his fund, which provides welfare and medical assistance, was "running out" of money.

"These people live off 1,800 shekels ($390) [per month] and are today extremely old and many of them in precarious health condition," he told Israel Radio.


Holocaust survivors aged over 65 who arrived in Israel in the last 10 years from eastern Europe have found themselves lacking financial support from both their homelands and Israel, Mr Factor said.

He added that survivors who arrived in Israel after World War II from the West can be entitled to pensions from international Jewish organisations and the Israeli, German, Austrian and Swiss governments.

Israel's parliament approved a bill earlier this month that would give survivors an extra $11 million of support for rent and prescription medicines.

However, the bill will only become law if it passes two more readings scheduled to be held after March's general election.

The Israeli finance ministry says it provides $326 million of support to Holocaust survivors every year.

[UK] Lennox backs Oxfam fight against poverty

From Ireland On Line

Singer Annie Lennox is supporting a campaign by UK charity Oxfam to sign up a million people in the fight against global poverty.

The former Eurythmics star has lent her voice to a TV commercial in which she invites people to phone, email or text in their support for the cause.

The Lennox advertisement aired on British TV network Channel 4 last night, and follows hot on the heels of the Make Poverty History campaign earlier in the year.

Oxfam's Judith Robertson says: "This has been an incredible year and shows us what we can do when people work together for change."

[Bob Geldof] defends new role in Tory poverty policy

From The New Zealand Hearld

By Colin Brown

Sir Bob Geldof has defended his acceptance of a spot on the Tory Party's global poverty policy board, and says leader David Cameron is "playing with fire" by recruiting him.

Sir Bob, who clashed with Margaret Thatcher two decades ago, admitted he may be used by Cameron to reach the "wristband generation" for the Tories. "I know that," he said. "I'm not thick, I am in nobody's pocket. If it's nonsense I will say."

The recruitment gave the Tory leader a publicity coup for a more caring style of Conservatism, and put the Government on the defensive.

Some anti-poverty campaigners protested at Sir Bob accepting the Tory appointment, but he was unrepentant. Geldof said he was "sure I am being used, as much as I'm being used by the Government. But that's my job, to be used, so long as I can help steer the policy towards those who are dying. It doesn't bother me that people say I am being used.

"I don't care who I have to talk to, to get to where we need to be to stop people dying simply because they are too poor to stay alive.

"I spoke to Cameron and he said they are serious about this issue. I said I cannot be a full member of this thing but if you want any advice I will do it. "If the Tories can push the Government further than they might like to go, that is grist to my mill. I've said I'll shake hands with the devil to get to where we need to be."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

[Make Poverty History] campaign closes amid warnings

From Reuters Alert Net

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON, (Reuters) - Make Poverty History, the campaign that galvanized the political agenda in 2005, comes to an end next week hailing its own success, despite warnings that world leaders are backsliding on their pledges.

When Nelson Mandela challenged the Group of Eight rich nations in London's Trafalgar Square in February to eradicate the "obscene inequality" of global poverty, his call acted as a clarion cry.

The campaign's white wristband became a must-have fashion accessory and millions of people took part in marches, vigils and events that reached a climax in Live 8 concerts around the globe on July 2.

And politicians took heed.

Britain, at the helm of the G8 this year, brokered a major increase in aid and debt cuts for some of the world's poorest nations as well as winning a pledge to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"The Make Poverty History coalition came together for a special year of opportunity," campaign chairman Richard Bennett said. "The political decisions made would not have been made without their passionate commitment."

"If governments follow through on their promises, millions of lives that would have been lost could now be saved."

But ActionAid, one of the 540 organisations that made up Make Poverty History, warned that all was not what it might seem and that world leaders were already distancing themselves from some of their loftier declarations.

"It is not enough for politicians to wear white bands," ActionAid director Richard Miller said. "They had the power to turn commitment into reality in 2005 and they failed to rise fully to the challenge."

"Pledges have been half-hearted, and recent backsliding on aid and debt commitments underscores the need for sustained pressure," he added. "This must come from the public."


While Make Poverty History trumpeted the progress on aid, debt and HIV, it lamented the lack of action on reforming world trade to benefit poorer nations.

"The World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Hong Kong could have been a turning point in making poverty history. But the potential for justice for the world's poorest people was squandered," it said on its Web site.

At the WTO meeting this month, ministers from 149 states saved long-running global trade talks from collapse with an interim deal to end farm export subsidies by 2013 but agreed the results were generally disappointing.

Make Poverty History insisted the campaign had energised a new generation who would carry on the fight.

"Although this special year is coming to an end, the campaign has inspired a generation who believe that it is possible to make poverty history," Bennett said.

"Their leaders have the power and ability to do this and all of those who have campaigned this year, including many thousands who have done so for the first time, will continue to urge them to deliver the changes that will make poverty history."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

[Debt Relief] IMF backs poverty debt write-off

From The BBC

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to write off the $3.3bn (£1.89bn) owed to it by all but one of the 20 poorest countries in the world.

It has delayed granting debt relief to Mauritania until it makes "satisfactory progress in a few policy areas".

The write-off follows the Group of Eight debt forgiveness deal which was struck in July.

Earlier this month it was feared the IMF was set to withhold help for up to six of the poorest countries.

Debt-relief campaigners ended up warning some intended recipients that the IMF was set to drop them from the list because their macroeconomic policies did not meet its requirements.

On Wednesday, the IMF dismissed reports that it had been back-tracking as "simply not true".

The multilateral debt relief initiative was agreed by leaders of the G8 industrialised states in July after the series of "Live 8" rock concerts drew attention to the issue.

Anti-poverty trust

The debts owed by the 19 nations will finally be cancelled once the IMF has the approval of all 43 rich countries that have contributed to an anti-poverty trust set up by the Fund.

"So far we have 37 consents. We're quite hopeful we'll get remaining the six in the next few weeks," said IMF spokesman Thomas Dawson said.

They should receive IMF debt relief by early 2006.

Mauritania, meanwhile, is likely to meet the criteria for the write-off "relatively soon", said Mr Dawson.

"Mauritania will qualify for relief and receive it once it demonstrates satisfactory progress on some policy areas that have been identified," he said.

Oxfam, one of the organisations that feared the IMF would go back on its word, welcomed Wednesday's board verdict.

"It's good that the IMF realised that they couldn't wriggle out of promised debt cancellation during a closed-door session in Washington DC," a spokesman said.

"The IMF must now deliver the funding quickly and without any further delay."

Burkina Faso

[Thailand] NESDB-World Bank join forces to solve Thailand's poverty


BANGKOK, Dec 21 (TNA) – The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) has joined hands with the World Bank to outline an approach aimed to effectively solve the poverty problem in Thailand.

NESDB’s Secretary-General Ampon Kitti-ampon on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ian C. Potter, Director of the World Bank’s Representative Office in Bangkok, on preparation of the cooperation program on the poverty analysis and evaluation.

The program is aimed at strengthening the Thai government’s efforts to solve the poverty and boosting technical cooperation, system development and experience exchange.

On the approach to coping with the poverty, he said, the two sides would exchange personnel with each other.

For instance, NESDB officials will be sent to get training at the World Bank and the bank officials will be invited to work in Thailand to exchange the working approach.

Normally, Thailand seeks loan assistance from the World Bank.

Under this program, Thai officials will join hands with the World Bank’s officials to survey the poverty in each area and heed suggestions on ways to solve the problem by community leaders.

After that, they will propose the approach to solving the poverty to the government for consideration.

The joint performance will be incorporated in Thailand's
10th National Economic and Social Development Plan.

The number of the poor in the kingdom has markedly dropped to 7.1 million or 11.3 per cent of the population in 2004, from 23.5 million or 44.9 per cent in 1988.

The country's per capita income last year averaged 1,500 baht per month.

Mr. Potter said efforts to solve the poverty in Thailand need to take time and must be made in a clear and well-managed manner.

[Armenia] Millennium Challenge Account will Allow 6% Reduction of Poverty in Rural Areas

From Pan Armenian

“Implementation of the Millennium Challenge Account is a continuous process,” stated Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy of Armenia Tigran Khachatryan during a news conference in Yerevan over the approval of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Board of Directors of a 5-year program that will provide $235.65 million to Armenia. T. Khachatryan reported that 6 representatives from non-state structures will control implementation of the program. The Millennium Challenge Account goal is rural poverty reduction. The program provides for strategic investments in building of rural roads and irrigation systems, as well as financial and technical assistance to rural economy and agricultural business.

The program will directly affect 750 thousand residents of Armenia or 75% of rural population. The poverty level in Armenia is expected to reduce 6%. A sum of $67.1 million will be allocated for Rural Road Rehabilitation Project, while $145.67 for an Irrigated Agriculture Project. $5.08 million will be spent on monitoring and $17.79 - on management and control of program implementation. Within the framework of the program 943km roads are planned to be restored, which makes 45% of all rural roads of Armenia. 21 regional irrigation systems are also planned to be restored.

[Israel] Tuition may be raised to pay for 'war on poverty'

From The Jerusalem Post

Finance Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday night considered raising tuition in higher education institutions in favor of funding the fight against poverty.

Former education minister MK Yossi Sarid (Meretz-Yahad) blasted the initiative, saying "Binyamin Netanyahu may have left the government, but he is alive and kicking at the Finance Ministry under the name of Ehud Olmert."

The student organization responded that it was regrettable that the finance minister was trying to build up his election campaign at the expense of the university students, Army Radio reported.

[Bermuda] Does one in five black kids live in poverty?

From The Bermuda Sun

Nigel Regan Chief Reporter

Working a 40-hour week and still can’t make the rent? Maybe that’s because there’s no minimum wage.

Charities say lots of people live hand to mouth but now one of the them, the Coalition for the Protection of Children, is trying to turn the anecdotes into cold hard facts by conducting what founder Sheelagh Cooper calls “the first major study on poverty that has ever been done in Bermuda.”

Some sources, like the World Bank, say Bermuda is among the top five richest countries in the world, but the reality is there are hundreds, if not thousands of families living in poverty, says Mrs. Cooper.

She’s hoping the new study will, for the first time, “establish a uniquely Bermudian poverty line.” But she needs our input.

Families familiar with the Coalition have already been given questionnaires. For the rest of us, forms are available at the Mount Hill Road offices.

Mrs. Cooper said: “Our primary target group are people struggling financially… that’s what a poverty line is really all about —what it requires to subsist and have adequate housing, food and clothing and other basic necessities. But we want to broaden the scope of the study.”

Early findings have produced some alarming results. “Up to 20 per cent of black children live at or below the poverty line. It could be more than that, but that’s our initial estimates,” Mrs. Cooper said. And it gets worse when there are no men around.

“About ' per cent of black children in single female headed households are at or below the poverty line.”

These are only the initial findings; the final study could be much more explosive. Mrs. Cooper draws attention to the fact that the PLP promised to help the working class when it was elected for the first time seven years ago. And while under the current Premier, Alex Scott, it continues to talk about a ‘Social Agenda’, the reality is more and more people are turning up at her doorstep desperate, homeless and broke.

She said: “Addressing the existence of this level of poverty in this community is very difficult for governments to acknowledge, especially this government that rode into power with a specific commitment to the workers and working poor. What we have now is a case of black elitism. My sense is that the majority of the Cabinet members and their colleagues on the back benches have lost touch with the people that elected them.”

As well as collecting basic facts and figures, the study wants to look at the hidden costs of poverty. Mrs. Cooper uses the example of how much it costs a mom with two kids with no transport and no washing machine or drier to do the laundry compared to a middle class mom who has all she needs right in her own home.

She said: “The woman who has no washer or drier at the end of the week has to go to the laundromat. She can’t take the laundry on the bus or on the bike, if she’s got one, because she’s also got two kids. Her only option is to get a taxi, which could cost at least $60.”

There are other examples, too. Mrs. Cooper said: “Many of the women we deal with here have had their electricity cut off because they can’t pay their bills. The repercussions of that in terms of food for any family are enormous because it means they can’t store fresh or frozen goods.

“Women on low incomes can’t buy in bulk either because they can’t afford to put out enough money all at once. These are just some of the hidden costs of poverty that keep women feeling as though they’re always behind.”

There are other, broader factors at play, too, such as the downturn in the tourism industry, which used to be a major wage payer, and the prohibitive cost of housing. Mrs. Cooper said these things combined have created a “significant widening of the gap between the very wealthy and the very poor.”

It’s not just home ownership that’s become a pipedream for many Bermudians, it’s renting, too. “It creates a very hostile and volatile generation of people coming up because they feel completely disenfranchised and alienated in their country of origin — they’re like refugees in their own land,” Mrs. Cooper said.

The study will continue throughout the first part of the new year. Results will likely produce two scenarios, either raise people’s capacity to pay, by legislating a living or minimum wage, or lower the costs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

[Brazil] needs more growth to hit poverty: World Bank

From The Washington Post

By Angus MacSwan
Tuesday, December 20, 2005; 3:59 PM

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's economy needs to grow at a much higher rate to successfully combat the extreme poverty in which millions of its people live, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said on Tuesday.

"I think Brazil can and could do better and I think that's essential for fighting poverty," Wolfowitz said at a news conference in the country's financial capital, Sao Paulo.

Wolfowitz, visiting Latin America's largest country for the first time since he was elected World Bank president in March, said Brazil had made progress but a lot needed to be done.

Extreme income inequalities meant that the benefits of economic growth had not done as much to reduce poverty in Brazil as it had in other countries, he said.

"Real poverty reduction is going to require growth rates higher than Brazil has been achieving," he said.

Around a third of Brazil's 186 million population is estimated to live below the poverty line.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government has pledged to wipe out poverty but is following tight fiscal policies to get the economy on a sound footing rather than throw public money at the problem.

Although the country is enjoying an investment boom, growth under the Lula government is expected to average a meager 2.89 percent -- well below the 5 percent analysts see as a minimum needed to alleviate poverty. The economy shrank 1.2 percent in the third quarter of 2005 from the second.

Wolfowitz said he had excellent meetings with the president and his finance minister Antonio Palocci, architect of the economic strategy. At the outset of his trip -- which took him from the settlements of the Amazon jungle to the slums of Sao Paulo -- he had praised their efforts.

On Tuesday, he lauded the government's "bolsa familia" plan -- a flagship social program that gives income support to 8 million poor families -- as a real success and said it could be emulated in other countries.


Education in Brazil is a problem, though, and the public system needed great improvement and an educated population of all social classes, besides being a social right, could promote economic growth, he said.

Wolfowitz also said Brazil's business environment is a problem. "One of the obstacles to increasing Brazil's growth rates and creating jobs for the poor and resources for investment is the climate for business is a very, very challenging one."

The Lula government is trying to push through tax, labor and other reforms sought by investors but has limited success so far. Bureaucracy is also stifling.

With regard to the Amazon, Wolfowitz said difficulties lay in the path of achieving development and protecting the environment.

The World Bank could help bring together competing interests there as well as foreign governments and other organizations who were interested in seeing social and economic development without destroying the vast rain forest.

"Environmentally friendly growth that includes populations that have traditionally been left behind, who are locked in a cycle of poverty, is possible," he said.

[China] Launches Village-Level Poverty Alleviation Project

from CRI English

China launched Monday a village-level poverty alleviation project with the participation of Non-government organizations (NGOs), opening the poverty alleviation resources to the NGOs for the first time.

At a ceremony held here, the project was jointly launched by the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development (LGOP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Jiangxi Provincial Poverty Alleviation & Development Office (Jiangxi PADO) and China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA).

The LGOP and Jiangxi PADO will provide a budgetary allocation of 11 million yuan (1.35 million US dollars) and entrust CFPA to invite bid among NGOs for implementing the project in 22 key poverty-stricken villages of Jiangxi Province.

In the meantime, ADB has agreed to offer 1 million US dollars financed under the Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund of the United Kingdom Department for International Development.

The CFPA will be responsible for the supervision of the fund allocations and the implementation of NGOs' capacity construction. Besides, the organization will also contribute about 100,000 US dollars in-kind inputs.

About 150 participants from relevant state organs, local governments, NGOs, international organizations, media and academia attended the ceremony.

Addressing the ceremony, He Daofeng, vice president of CFPA, said that the cooperation between government and NGOs is important for the implementation of scientific development concept and building of a harmonious society.

ADB resident representative Toru Shibuichi and deputy director of LGOP Wang Guoliang described this project as "a bold try in promoting NGOs' participation in poverty alleviation."

According to a NGO bid explanatory meeting held by the CFPA following the launching ceremony, 2 or 3 NGOs will be selected through public biding to carry out the village-level poverty reduction project in chosen villages.

A 16-member panel, consisting of experts and scholars from all walks of life, will trace the process of project's implementation, according to the organizers.

"If we succeed in accomplishing the project, we may find a way to improve the management mechanism of domestic poverty reduction funds and promote the subsistence and development of domestic NGOs." said Duan Yingbi, president of the CFPA.

[Time Magazine] ...honors Bono and Gateses for poverty work

from The Columbia Tribune

Time magazine has named Bill and Melinda Gates and rock star Bono its "Persons of the Year," citing their charitable work and activism aimed at reducing global poverty and improving world health.

The magazine said 2005 has been a year of extraordinary charity in which people have donated record amounts in response to extreme natural disasters, from the tsunami in South Asia to Hurricane Katrina, which hit the United States.

"Natural disasters are terrible things, but there is a different kind of ongoing calamity in poverty, and nobody is doing a better job in addressing it in different ways than Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono," said Jim Kelly, Time’s managing editor.

The 2005 "Person of the Year" package hit newsstands today.

Time praised the Gateses for building the world’s largest charity - The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a $29 billion endowment - and for "giving more money away faster than anyone ever has" in 2005.

The foundation has saved at least 700,000 lives in poor countries by investing in vaccination programs, donated computers and Internet access to 11,000 libraries, and sponsored the biggest scholarship fund in history, the magazine said.

Time said Bono’s campaign to make rich countries address the debt of poorer ones has had an equally impressive impact on the world.

In 2005, "Bono charmed and bullied and morally blackmailed the leaders of the world’s richest countries into forgiving $40 billion in debt owed by the poorest," the magazine said.

Bono has earned a remarkable number of political allies around the world and in Washington, where he has courted politicians from both major parties, Time said.

"Bono’s great gift is to take what has made him famous - charm, clarity of voice, an ability to touch people in their secret heart - combine those traits with a keen grasp of the political game and obsessive attention to detail, and channel it all toward getting everyone, from world leaders to music lovers, to engage with something overwhelming in its complexity," it said.

Monday, December 19, 2005

[Africa] Unemployment deepening poverty in Africa, says UN report

From Business Day

AFRICA’s record unemployment is undermining growth and deepening poverty, the United National (UN) said in a report released today.

The continent saw unprecedented economic growth of 5.2% in 2005, but people are worse off due to a lack of jobs and higher rates of poverty than ever before, said the report released in Addis Ababa.

“Job creation lies at the heart of the poverty battle,” said Augustin Fosu of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa.

An estimated one in 10 Africans who are able to work are jobless, according to the annual report, which this year was titled “Meeting the Challenges of Unemployment and Poverty in Africa.”

Among young people, who make up more than half of Africa’s 860 million people, the situation is even worse, with one in five estimated unemployed. The UN said the real figures may be even higher.

Many young Africans searching for work try to emigrate to the West -legally or otherwise - making Africa’s joblessness a wider problem.

More than 350 million Africans live below the $1 a day international poverty threshold, most living on just 65 US cents a day, according to UN statistics.

Though the rate of 5.2% was a record for the continent, growth must climb to over 7% a year on average to significantly affect poverty, said Fosu of the Economic Commission for Africa.

“Sustained growth is precisely what is necessary in order to increase employment and reduce poverty,” he said.

“As long as people are kept from participating in the economy as productive agents, people will continue to benefit only sparsely (from) whatever growth is actually achieved.”

African governments need to address widespread youth unemployment and tap the global market to create decent jobs, the UN said.

Lawmakers must also relax barriers that hamper the growth of the private sector.

Today in Africa, most people are employed in sectors such as agriculture, which provide only seasonal temporary employment, and rarely lead to income security.

Friday, December 16, 2005

[Georgia] European Commission Allocates EUR 3 m For Poverty Reduction In Georgia

From Prime News

Tbilisi. – Presentation of EUR 3 m program for Poverty Reduction in Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe Javakheti was held in the Office of European Commission to Georgia on Friday.

The above regions were chosen for implementation of the project as they are suffering both economic and ethnic minority problems, Ms Adriana Longoni, Head of Operations of the Office of the European Commission to Georgia said at the presentation.

The program will be implemented by MercyCorps in Samtskhe Javakheti and AccioncontraelHambre in Kvemo Kartli. The program provides for the measures that would promote agriculture in these regions, implementation of the system between the agricultural producers and consumers and promotion of tourism and small businesses.

The Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia and the Office of the European Commission to Georgia will monitor implementation of the program.

[Comment] World's poor missed the show

From The Toronto Star

Carol Goar

Cast your mind back to early summer. Live 8 concerts were taking place around the world.

Big-name actors and musicians were leading a global finger-snapping campaign to drive home the message that poverty kills a child every three seconds. Oxfam could barely keep up with the demand for its white Make Poverty History bracelets.

As the leaders of the world's richest nations gathered in Gleneagles, Scotland, for their annual summit, British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed to make action on Africa — home to 34 of the world's poorest 50 countries — the centrepiece of the agenda.

Two days later, the leaders emerged from their luxury hotel with a three-point plan:

# They would double their aid to Africa by 2010 and aim to donate 0.7 per cent of their national income to the world's poorest countries by 2015.

# They would write off the debts of the world's 18 poorest countries.

# And they would eliminate all forms of agricultural export subsidies, allowing developing countries to compete in world markets.

Item one was always a polite fiction. The participants knew that Canada and the United States had no intention of making a long-term aid commitment. Ottawa did, however, make progress on its 3-year-old plan to double its foreign aid by 2009 (bringing it up to 0.32 per cent of the nation's income).

Item two was a re-announcement. The debt-relief plan had been unveiled a month before the meeting by the finance ministers of the eight summit nations. Ottawa has delivered on its share of the package.

The fate of item three year will be clear by Sunday.

Politicians and negotiators from 148 countries are in Hong Kong trying to hammer out a deal to give poor countries a foothold in the global trading system.

The prospects don't look good. No one expects a comprehensive agreement to cut agricultural tariffs and subsidies. At best, the meeting will produce a modest pact, offering the world's least developed countries limited access to industrial markets. At worst, it will end in total collapse, like the World Trade Organization's last ministerial gathering in Mexico, two years ago.

To complicate matters, farmers from developing countries are more afraid of success than failure.

They fear that any deal would bring in a flood of agricultural imports from Europe and the United States, destroying their livelihoods. Even if the rich countries agreed to scale back their subsidies — which they are far from doing — African farmers wouldn't be able to compete with their mass-produced rice, sugar, cotton, poultry and dairy products.

What's more, delegates from developing countries doubt that Western governments would end their farm support programs; they'd just find a way to reconfigure them.

Canada has a certain sympathy for African farmers. It is fighting to protect the agricultural marketing boards that shield its dairy, egg and poultry farmers from cross-border competition.

But it is firmly on the side of the Americans when it comes to demanding that developing countries open their borders in exchange for cuts in farm subsidies and tariffs.

Having one foot in both worlds might seem to make Canada a good mediator between the two camps. But, according to trade experts, it has the opposite effect. Canada's rich trading partners regard its stance as hypocritical. The developing countries see it as an unreliable and self-interested ally.

What it most frustrating for the leaders of the Make Poverty History campaign — who are less visible but no less committed than they were in July — is that trade reform has the potential to free Africa from its reliance on global charity.

But it would require some adjustments in thinking.

Free traders would have to acknowledge that chopping tariffs and subsidies alone won't level the playing field for struggling African farmers.

Rich countries would have to recognize that poor nations need a chance to build viable local economies before being thrust into the global marketplace.

Canada and other industrial powers would have to open their markets to exports from poor nations without seeking immediate reciprocal access.

And global trade negotiators would have to appreciate that tariffs are a vital source of funds for some African governments. In Ghana, for instance, they provide 26.8 per cent of tax revenues.

As 2005 winds down, the hopes of early summer have faded.

This won't be a breakthrough year for Africa. At best, it will be a year of grudging, incremental progress.

Thousands of citizens raised their voices in solidarity with the world's poorest people. But their governments chose not to make history.

[Microcredit] Can Technology Eliminate Poverty?

From Business Week

Grameen Bank Founder Muhammad Yunus thinks so. And he explains why changing the world is a lot more fun than just making money

As a leading microfinance pioneer and advocate for the world's poor, Muhammad Yunus has continued developing innovative approaches to alleviating poverty since granting his first loan in 1976. Since 1983, Grameen Bank, of which Yunus is founder and managing director, has lent $5.3 million to borrowers in Bangladesh, spawning replicated programs in more than 100 countries.

Even as his ideas spread around the world, Yunus has remained firmly dedicated to alleviating the burden of poverty in his home country through a growing variety of means. For example, in 1997, Yunus helped found two companies: GrameenPhone (for profit) and Grameen Telecom (nonprofit), which brought mobile-phone technology to the villages of Bangladesh. Out of those companies Yunus developed the Village Phone Project, where women borrowers would take a loan to buy a handset and solar-powered charger and function as their village pay phone, providing the women with substantially increased income.

Yunus recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi about his purpose in life, how technology can be used for ramping up microfinance, and his next challenge in helping the poor. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

How would you describe yourself?
Sometimes I describe myself as a stubborn guy. If I feel in my gut that something is the right thing to do, I do not give it up. Every time I try to do something, people say it can't work. People said GrameenPhone wouldn't work, that people in the villages have no money to pay for it, and that they will be scared to death if a voice speaks to them through that little gadget.

Grameen Bank was officially founded in 1983, though you started making loans in 1976. Why did you start?
My mission is to create a poverty-free world. I believe that human beings are created to contribute to all other life forms, including their own. But poor people too often spend their lifetime just taking care of themselves because the struggle has been so hard for them. I strongly believe in the unlimited potential of all human beings, not just a privileged few. All kids, when they're born, represent the same unlimited potential in any circumstance.

Poverty is absolutely meaningless and unnecessary in the world. It was just indifference to poverty that created and sustained it. It's not created by the poor. It's created by the system. Once we fix the system in the right way, poverty will disappear.

I'm encouraging young people to become social business entrepreneurs and contribute to the world, rather than just making money. Making money is no fun. Contributing to and changing the world is a lot more fun.

Why do you target the poorest of the poor?
I get very upset when people say [the poorest] people don't have the entrepreneurial ability, initiative, and skills to use loans, so they need some other kind of intervention like subsidy, handout, or charity.

To prove them wrong, I said "let's exclusively reach out to the poorest, and who could be poorer than the beggars?" So we started the beggars program, called the Struggling Members Program. When we started, we thought maybe we'd have 4,000 or 5,000 beggars in that program. Now we have 55,000 beggars in that program just in Bangladesh and just in Grameen Bank. Instead of begging door-to-door, the loan allows them to buy some ribbons or some candy and sell it door-to-door.

How far has the Village Phone Project spread?
Now, there are nearly 200,000 telephone ladies all over Bangladesh, and that number keeps increasing. So state-of-the-art mobile technology has reached the very poor people, and it's a very good source of income for them. If a poor woman gets hold of one mobile phone in the village, then this is a sure bet that her entire family can move out of poverty in two or three years.

Friends or enemies, critics and admirers across the board all admire Village Phone because it has brought telephone connectivity everywhere in Bangladesh, not just in the cities.

What other doors has the Village Phone Project opened?
We are moving toward widespread Internet connectivity and toward automatic remittances of money through telephones. Kiosks are being set up for Internet connectivity -- very few so far, but it is possible.

When we took the mobile phone to the villages, 70% of people didn't have electricity. To charge the phones, we decided to use solar energy, and it has now become very popular in Bangladesh. We created a whole separate company called Grameen Shakti [Energy] that sells solar panels and other renewable energy sources across the country. This is probably the largest commercial solar energy distribution company in the whole world, because it sells 1,500 solar-energy home systems per month on a commercial basis. It's a for-profit business, and it works very well without subsidies.

What's your motivation for continuous innovation?
I'm not a salesman of microcredit. My patient is poverty. If microcredit does not work for poverty, I have no business with it. I feel that it has an important contribution to make, but I'm not going to stop here. I've got to find every single piece that works for poverty alleviation. I'm not promising that every business will be as successful as everything else, but I'll keep trying.

Which technologies are most important for scaling up microfinance?
Everything -- it's a question of how you bring it into use with poor people. The technology is moving very fast, so the possibility of creating a poverty-free world is so much higher now than a few years ago. The smart card and the ATM can be very effective, but today the ATM is developed for city folks.

What's the newest Grameen company?
We just completed a deal with the French company Group Danone to set up a food company in Bangladesh. It will be called Grameen Danone Food Co. We have a need for healthy baby food, because children born to poor families often become sick as soon as they stop sucking their mothers milk. I talked to Group Danone, who were very interested and willing to work with us. We are making a good formula that is extremely cheap so that poor people can afford to buy it and feed their children. Together, we'll also process and market milk products and eventually fruit items.

What are your biggest successes?
At first, I didn't think that what I did had any significance in a broader context. I was just trying to solve a local problem. But…Grameen has been adopted in hundreds of countries all around the world -- rich and poor alike.

Today, there are many different variations of microcredit. But I'm glad that it's drawing attention. In Bangladesh, where nothing works and there's no electricity, microcredit works like clockwork. It's fantastic.

Where is microcredit most widespread?
The hub of microcredit is Bangladesh and Asia. Of the nearly 100 million families that have been served by microcredit, nearly 90 million are in Asia. When you look at Latin America, on the other hand, there might be 5 million families served.

In Latin America, most of the microcredit programs are donor-driven. USAID and other organizations fund them, and that's how they came into being. Asian microcredit banks were NGO-driven, which helped them become more sustainable.

What's your next big mission?
I'll address health care in a very comprehensive way. We're creating a series of hospitals for eye care, for the cataract operation. Along with hospitals, we'll establish safe delivery units to help mothers deliver their babies safely.

Also, telemedicine with videoconferencing has started. It's not very successful yet, because people don't know how to make use of it. Someone in a rural area can go to a kiosk and have a consultation with a doctor in Dhaka instead of coming all the way to Dhaka for the consultation.

These will all be for-profit enterprises, but in the social profit way. No one will be getting rich off of them. I call them non-loss companies.

Do you think you'll go into politics someday?
I don't know. I've thought about it because people keep asking me that question. In politics, everyone says they will support you, but you never know. I don't want to take that chance. I think what I'm doing is so much more effective, steady, and successful than being in politics.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

[Poverty Link To Terrorism] Saudi Prince: Terrorism Not Caused by Poverty

From Arutz Shava

"Osama Bin-Laden is one of the richest people [in the world]," said Prince Turki Bin Talal Bin Abdel Aziz, taking a maverick stance within the Muslim world.

In an interview with the London-based Arabic-language A-Sharq Al-Aussat newspaper, the Saudi prince said he does not accept the thesis that poverty is one of the causes of terror attacks.

Prince Turki is the personal representative of Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, chairman of the AGFUND regional developmental institution.

The thesis that poverty breeds terrorism is a familiar claim, though not necessarily backed up by facts. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after his recent visit to the U.S. that "poverty is one of the major reasons for terrorism," while Hamas Gaza leader Mahmoud a-Zahar has said, "It is enough to see the poverty-stricken outskirts of Algiers or the refugee camps in Gaza to understand the factors that nurture the strength of the Islamic Resistance Movement."

The chief of Jordanian Army Intelligence, referring to problems such as militant Islam, said, "Economic development may solve almost all of our problems... The moment a person is in a good economic position, has a job, and can support his family, all other problems vanish." Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton has said that "forces of reaction feed on disillusionment, poverty and despair.

Research shows the opposite, however. A graduate student at Princeton found that among Palestinian terrorists, those who came from poor backgrounds were relatively fewer by far than the number of poor in the PA population as a whole, and were also significantly more educated.

Researchers Alan Krueger and Jitka Malechova examined the backgrounds of some 130 Hizbullah suicide bombers between 1982-1994, and found that these terrorists were more educated and better off economically than the general Lebanese population.

In what is possibly the most famous study on the topic, Harvard economist Alberto Abadie researched terrorism in almost 200 nations (NBER Working Paper No. 10859), and concluded, "In the past, we heard people refer to the strong link between terrorism and poverty, but in fact when you look at the data, it's not there."

The Saudi prince who has now publicly adopted this approach also said in his interview that the solution does not lie in education. "Terrorism does not nourish its values from public education," he said, "but rather from a unique doctrine that it developed for itself. Terrorism has its own educational system, its own concepts, its own books and its own message."

[WTO Talks] WTO protests puzzle free trade poster child Hong Kong

from Reuters Alert Net

By John Ruwitch

HONG KONG, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Want to learn a thing or two about free trade? Read the works of renowned 18th century economist Adam Smith, or simply visit Hong Kong.

That advice from the city's last British colonial governor is being drowned out this week by the chanting and yelling of thousands of anti-free trade protesters who have converged on the southern Chinese city for a meeting of world trade ministers.

The demonstrators have taken over a city park and are marching daily through the streets denouncing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and globalisation.

Shouts of "People before profit", "No tariff cuts" and "Down with the WTO" echo through the city that prides itself on being one of the world's major financial centres and a poster child for laissez-faire capitalism.

"Most people in Hong Kong don't understand what they (the anti-free trade protesters) are doing. This is not in their culture. They like free trade," said K.K. Cheung, a 68-year-old retired construction engineer.

Though the territory was handed back by Britain to Communist China in 1997, it has been allowed to keep its freewheeling business ways.

Hong Kong got its start on the road to wealth as a hub for British traders and merchants in the 1800s, and took off from there. Then, as now, its position as a middleman and gateway to China ensured it prospered from the world's seemingly insatiable demand for exotic and cheap Chinese goods.

Many of the city's nearly seven million people or their ancestors arrived here with nothing, fleeing poverty or the communists in mainland China. Rags to riches tales are common, and the city is consistently rated as one of the most open economies on earth. It has one of the busiest container ports in the world, with nearly a half million vessels visiting last year, and is home to the second biggest stock market in Asia after Tokyo's. Taxes are among the lowest in the region.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton called Hong Kong "Exhibit A in the case for global interdependence and its benefits".

Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's chief executive, said the city "is in a better position than any other economy to speak up for free trade and open markets".

The colourful processions denouncing freer trade may seem out of place in a city that owes its fortunes to the unfettered exchange of goods, but some say there's no contradiction and on the streets there is a good deal of sympathy.

"Hong Kong is one of the examples that can be used as a reference point," said Mabel Au, coordinator of the umbrella group that is organising protests this week, the Hong Kong People's Alliance on WTO.

"But we don't think this should be one size fits all."

During the protest marches shop owners have shut their doors along parade routes for fear of trouble from the protesters, who have been disrupting traffic, banging drums and even brawling with riot police near the convention centre where world trade leaders are working on a pact to lower trade barriers.

But many bystanders have also lined the streets to watch the marches and on Thursday some found themselves choked up as hundreds of South Korean farmers made their way slowly down city streets taking three steps, denouncing the WTO, then kneeling down and bowing.

"I want to cry. It's so sad," said Angel Ng, working at a shop selling fruit drinks. "There should be a better way, a more equitable way."

K.S. Ho, a civil servant, gave a thumbs up to the protesters from South Korea, who say opening their country's market to imported rice will put them out of business.

"I am very, very sympathetic to them. They have a just cause," said Ho. "Hong Kong has been on a free trade course, but Hong Kong should support them because they suffer from the WTO."

With virtually no natural resources of its own, except for its deepwater harbour and hardworking, entrepreneurial people, Hong Kong has become heavily dependent on international trade.

But not everybody here has benefitted. In a city better known for its shining office towers and tycoons with fleets of Rolls-Royces, one of every four children lives in poverty.

"I think Hong Kong is like any other city that's built by working people, and a few people are taking the benefits," said David Solnit, 42, an activist from Oakland, California, who was wearing a Robin Hood outfit.

Walker Fung, 25, a marshall for the marches, agreed.

"We have grassroots people and they are suffering, too."

[US Budget] Protesters against U.S. budget cuts arrested

From Reuters Alert Net

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - More than 100 religious activists protesting proposed cuts to health care and other social welfare programs were arrested on Wednesday after they staged a peaceful sit-in at a government building near the U.S. Capitol.

Braving wintry weather with temperatures below freezing, the protesters held placards declaring that "budgets are moral documents."

Congress is trying to wrap up its 2005 legislative session this week and a high priority of conservative Republicans is a budget bill that would cut $35 billion to $50 billion over five years from a range of programs, including health care for the poor and elderly and possibly child care, student loans and food stamps.

"Someone's praying Lord, stop the cuts," chanted the protesters before U.S. Capitol Police officers moved in to arrest the protesters, who were camped out at the Cannon building that houses the offices of some lawmakers.

Sgt. Kimberly O'Brien, a spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, said 115 protesters had been arrested and charged with blocking the Cannon building entrance. They were expected to be released later on Wednesday after posting $50 bonds.

Call to Renewal, a network of churches and other religious organizations, was planning "local prayer vigils" in 32 states on Wednesday to protest the budget cuts.

Republicans argue that the spending reductions will help offset the more than $60 billion in Hurricane Katrina aid approved by Congress that otherwise would add to huge U.S. budget deficits. The cuts also are intended to be a first crack at controlling growing "mandatory" programs that take up a huge portion of the U.S. budget.

Democrats counter that the spending cuts would hurt the poor and are simply a way to pay for continuing tax cuts aimed in part at helping the wealthiest Americans.

Even before Wednesday's protests, there were signs that the House of Representatives was stepping back from some of the spending cuts that have so angered Democrats and some moderate Republicans.

Rep. James Walsh, a New York Republican, told Reuters it was looking as if the spending-cut compromise being worked on by negotiators would abandon a House-passed plan for about $700 billion in food stamp cuts. That plan would have excluded an estimated 235,000 people from the aid.

Still unclear was whether Congress would come to an agreement on the spending reductions before recessing for the year.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats were trying to defeat a massive spending bill that would fund most U.S. health care, education and labor programs through next September. They are opposed to the $1.4 billion in cuts to those programs.

The House was expected to pass the bill on Wednesday, but its fate in the Senate later in the week was uncertain.

[Comment] "Palestinian" Poverty - Not Israel's (fault or) Problem

From Isra Pundit

Time and again, we are subjected to tales of woe regarding the plight of the poor "Palestinians", and how, invariably, Israel is to blame for the situation, as the poverty is a cause of the "Occupation", and this is what leads to "Palestinian" hatred and terror attacks against the Jewish State.

Case in point is a recent report by the United Nations:

UN report: Joblessness and poverty on the rise in territories

Economic, social and emotional hardship in the territories - the Gaza Strip in particular - is on the rise, according to a new United Nations report that will be presented at the Donors Conference in London on Tuesday. The report warns that closing the crossings between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank will cause a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the area.

According to the report, the third quarter of the year saw unemployment in the territories hit 28 percent, with the rate in Gaza reaching 35 percent... The rise in unemployment is explained, partially, by restrictions on movement due to closures and roadblocks.

During the course of 2005, UN agencies allocated a total of around $500 million toward humanitarian aid and economic development in the territories. Over and above this sum, up until July, donor countries transferred or undertook to transfer to the territories $134 million for urgent humanitarian assistance.

Let's clear the air on this issue, once and for all.

Can anyone account for the over $634 million that UN agencies have allocated to alleviate the suffering of the "Palestinians" in the "territories" in the year 2005 alone (and the over $1 billion in foreign aid since the early 1990's)?

If history is any indication, very little of this money was ever seen by any poor "Palestinians". On the contrary, at this point, the vast majority of the over $1 billion in foreign aid to the "Palestinians" has either gone into the pockets of corrupt PLO officials, or to fund terror and incitement against the Jewish State.

CAMERA reports:

More than 95 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza now live under Palestinian administration. The PA controls virtually every aspect of Palestinian life – schools, medical institutions, civic and political establishments. Palestinians now have passports, a flag, and a sea port is underway... If “life has become worse under the peace process”, Palestinians can thank Arafat and his lieutenants who have erected a lawless and corrupt dictatorship that subverts basic freedoms and terrorizes its own people.

The fact that Israel is forced to take actions to prevent "Palestinian" terror is not the reason for the plight of the poor "Palestinians". Israel need not waste a single precious Shekel that could be going towards so many more important causes that would benefit the Jewish State, nor should it compromise on matters of security in order to alleviate the plight of these poor "Palestinians" that only comes at the expense of Jewish lives.

Whatever poverty issues the "Palestinians" might be facing, they need only look in the mirror as to where to place the blame. "Occupation"? Hardly.

The sooner the world starts holding the "Palestinians" and their leadership accountable for their actions, the sooner the poor "Palestinians" will be able to find a better future for themselves.

[Cameroon] FAO Beans Against Poverty

From All Africa

Emmanuel Kendemeh

The Food and Agricultural Organisation is assisting 33 farming groups in the North and Far North Provinces.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has been providing food to famine-affected zones in the Northern part of Cameroon and working to ensure food self-sufficiency and fight poverty. Since 2003, FAO has assisted 33 farming groups, trained close 700 women in the North and Far North Provinces in large scale production of cow pea beans (coki beans) known in the area as "Niébé". This is within the framework of the project dubbed, "the training of farmers in the integrated management for the production and protection of Niébé". It is programmed to last two years, estimated at CFA 200 million.

A workshop took place in Yaounde on Tuesday, December 13 to present the final report and to assess the progress of the project since inception. Leaders of farming groups, facilitators of the project and officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development converged during the workshop to assess the path covered and chart the way forward to enable the local population produce the modern variety of cow pea beans in large quantities to boost their economy and livelihood. Activities at the workshop took the form of video projection on the work so far done on the field and talks to build the capacities of the farmers and the project facilitators for more positive results. They learned how to preserve soil fertility for greater productivity, new farming techniques and ways of managing small rural enterprises by introducing farmers to the system of getting access to and managing financial subsidies destined for the project.

Since inception, the technical know how of the local population has been assessed, associations and NGOs in the sector identified and facilitators as well as farmers trained. A test of adaptable variety of seeds has also been done and products to be used in treating the beans tried. All these have been done to enable the farmers analyse the different stages in growing the beans, identify pests and appropriate treatment. The extension phase of the project has been drafted and will be presented to donors for financial assistance.

The Inspector General at the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in charge of Services, Mr Konchou represented the Minister at the workshop. He joined the FAO officials for programmes, Atanga Felicitas to state the importance of cultivating cow pea beans in large quantities so as to alleviate poverty in the areas concerned and boost development.

[Free Trade] African officials: U.S. policy keeps poverty alive

From Rocklin and Roseville Today

BARTHOLOMEW SULLIVAN (Scripps Howard News Service)

KOUMBIA, Burkina Faso -- If all goes well, Dofougo Bognini will make about $935 growing cotton this year.

The 35-year-old farmer is out on his own for the first time, after years farming with his older brothers. On this day, he casts urea fertilizer by hand gently beneath each cotton plant while his wife, Ami, thins out the weakest seedlings, a sleeping baby tied loosely on her back. They farm roughly 7.4 acres. If he had more land, Bognini said in his native Bambara dialect, he'd probably need oxen.

Like almost all cotton in West Africa, the seed in these fields was planted by hand. The plants will be sprayed for insects by barefoot boys with backpack tanks and goggles. The fields will be weeded with short-handled hoes called tabas. And eventually the cotton will be harvested by hand, without the use of defoliants.

This is the way cotton was produced in America before mechanization drove sharecroppers to the cities.

Today, some of the differences between American and African cotton farming are obvious: barefoot boys with oxen, compared with air-conditioned 16-row pickers. Others are more subtle: African farmers claim with some justification that handpicked cotton is freer of the debris of leaves and stems American farmers call "trash," and is in that sense of better quality.

But in one respect, cotton farming in both places is the same. As Stephen Yafa says in his book Big Cotton: "When prosperity and calamity are never more than a heartbeat away, you know you're in cotton country."

The calamity for West African cotton farmers is the grinding poverty they see resulting from unfair and trade-distorting U.S. cotton subsidies. The calamity for American cotton farmers is what would happen if those subsidies went away. The collision of those two forces, and other global cotton issues, is on the agenda of trade ministers from around the world meeting in Hong Kong this week. Four African countries derailed similar talks in Cancun, Mexico, two years ago. The divisive issue was the same: Cotton subsidies.

In this part of French-speaking West Africa, they call cotton "l'or blanc" (white gold). It's by far the most important export commodity and largely sustains the entire region's wider economy. In Burkina Faso, which expects to surpass Mali to become sub-Saharan Africa's largest cotton producer this year, cotton represents 50 percent of the value of all exports. If the price of cotton on the world market increases, that increase can be passed along to farmers, and the fate of millions in small villages will improve.

One way to raise the world price of cotton, government trade and agriculture officials here say, is for the United States to end subsidies paid to American cotton farmers and traders. They say the subsidies only disguise the fact that America can't grow cotton nearly as cost effectively as Africa can, and that's indisputable.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 22,000 American cotton farmers will receive government payments totaling $4.281 billion this year. According to a recent report by the United Nations, that subsidy is "equivalent to the market value of the crop and more than U.S. aid to sub-Saharan Africa."

The subsidies, say African officials such as Burkina Faso's Minister of Commerce, Benoit Ouattara, have the effect of creating overproduction that suppresses the world market price, keeping the price for cotton grown by African farmers low and extending their crushing poverty.

"It is impossible for us to understand," he said.

In Benin, the fall of cotton prices in 2001-2002 resulted in an increase in poverty from 37 percent to 59 percent of the population, according to the UN.

Farmers here say that if the United States supports free trade, it should let African cotton compete against an American crop not shielded from the vicissitudes of market pricing. And since 2003, when the Cancun trade talks stalled over the issue of cotton subsidies, their plight is being taken seriously.

In an interview in his office in Bobo Dioulasso, Celestine T. Tiendrebeogo, the director general of Sofitex, the largest of the partly privatized cotton companies in Burkina Faso, used a Biblical metaphor to describe the African strategy.

African cotton countries are like the widow who kept demanding justice from the pitiless magistrate in the Gospel of Luke, he said. The judge, like the United States, couldn't be moved by compassion, but finally relented, exhausted by her relentless pestering. He said Africans can't count on compassion either, despite their just cause, but will use a policy _ he used a French term, "emmerdant," meaning annoying _ to bring an end to the subsidies.

Since the Geneva-based World Trade Organization declared that some U.S. cotton policies are trade-distorting last year and again this spring, the process of dismantling them has begun. Certain export marketing guarantees were suspended by the USDA this summer, and Congress has been asked to do more trimming before the end of the year. But many in Africa are skeptical.

"The U.S. government has acknowledged the wrong it has caused our farmers with the subsidies," Burkina Faso's Agriculture Minister Salif Diallo said. He said he's hopeful substantive changes are afoot, but couched his conviction that an end to subsidies is inevitable in moralistic terms.

Of course, not all of the cause for falling world cotton prices can be attributed to American subsidy payments. China is a huge producer and consumer of cotton and can affect the world price. The falling value of the dollar hurts, too, because the world price is set in dollars; some African leaders said it should be priced in euros. And cotton subsidies for European farmers are exceptionally high, with no imminent change expected. But because the United States is the largest cotton exporter, its effect on the world market is profound.

Third World African agriculture is a world away from the modern techniques used by cotton farmers in the Mid-South. In Benin, they've decided not to use genetically modified cotton seed designed to protect against boll worms or withstand chemical herbicides before 2007, said Pascal Houssou, sub-director of Benin's ministry of external trade. Part of the reason is that farmers are growing traditional subsistence food crops, like cassava, corn and ground nuts, in adjacent fields. Burkina Faso allowed Monsanto to set up test plots in 2003, but genetically modified cotton is not yet grown by farmers commercially, as it is elsewhere in Africa.

In the dusty, diesel-smoke-laden Burkina capital of Ouagadougou, Francois Traore, president of the 60,000-member Union Nationale des Producteurs de Coton, is arguably one of the most powerful men in the country; the union has an ownership stake in private cotton companies.

Traore, 53, who looks out for 325,000 cotton farming households, deplores the multinational corporate interests that hold down the price of cotton his people depend on to live.

In an interview, Traore talked about the culture of the Sahel, the desert region that gets just enough rain to produce cotton. He said hand-harvesting produces a "beautiful" fiber that mechanical pickers can't copy. And he said fairness demands that the hard work done by farmers sweating over their small plots should be rewarded with a fair price.

Comparing the interests of labor and capital, he said African slaves produced much American capital, and it's time for more of it to be invested in African development.

"We have nothing against the United States," he said in French. "We have no weapons against the United States. We are not terrorists. We just want to live."

Even without translation, his description of American cotton policy is unmistakable: A "catastrophe." The entire Burkina economy has been destabilized by the lower prices for cotton. The result is that some are leaving the sector, contributing to the government's fiscal problems. Ending the foreign subsidies would be "the most humane" thing to do, he says.

Over the past decade, the once state-owned cotton industries of both countries have been turned over to quasi-private companies. It seems fairly obvious that the privatization of the cotton sector wouldn't have come at all if left to the left-leaning governments of both countries. But both countries are dependent on donor aid and have been required to adjust the structure of their economies to repay debts. The process of privatization is hugely unpopular and has led to riots and boycotts.

According to Jocelyn N. Nenehidini, the official national spokesman for Sonapra, largest entity in Benin's cotton sector, farmers threatened to burn last year's crop and refused to plant in 2005 until the government agreed in January to raise the amount it was willing to pay farmers.

Tiendrebeogo said that when the African countries insisted on being heard on the issue of subsidies in Cancun, no one was ready to give in. But when the press in Europe and organizations critical of American agriculture policy looked at cotton subsidies in depth, people began to see, he said, that the payments were a "veritable gachis," a true waste.

"When we raised the issue, the taxpayers in America realized that they were giving $4 billion to only 25,000 individuals; they realized this was a distorted use of public funds," he said. "Beyond the imbalance, the cause at the domestic level _ this wealth distribution _ is a source of robust debate that may embarrass the (U.S.) government."

[UK] Many Britons facing “fuel poverty” this winter, warns MPs report

From VIP News

ONDON - The House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee has warned that gas shortages in this winter will interrupt supply for businesses and could push the elderly as well as disabled people into "fuel poverty."

The report also said that this problem would extend to the next winter as well since the prevailing conditions are unusually cold. "It is very likely that the largest industrial and commercial customers will, if they have the relevant contracts, suffer interruptions, or, if they purchase gas on the spot market, have to pay very high prices for that gas, or both," the report said.

Prices in the country have touched record highs amid worries about a shortage as the winter sets in. Weather forecasters have predicted that this will be the coldest winter in over a decade.

There is a distinct lack of supply from mainland Europe and the domestic production has been hit by the diminishing reserves in the North Sea. Chancellor Gordon Brown's decision to raise the supplementary tax rate, much to the fury of oil traders, will also not help matters.

The report titled "Inquiry into Security of Gas Supply" says that even though major energy suppliers in the country have hiked their bills by 15 percent, the main worry is the lack of supply rather than rising bills.

"If fuel prices continue to rise it will be essential to provide further assistance to the elderly," the report warns. Fuel poverty is a state where a consumer spends more than 10 percent of his/her income to avail warmth in the winter.

The committee urged the government to take steps to open up the European market to ensure steady supplies, "The problem is caused not only by matters outside the control of government, but also by a legacy of slow development of infrastructure, and the lack of a true European market for gas." The committee concluded by calling for the relaxation of emission norms as well as granting licenses so that companies could use alternative fuels for their needs.

[Agriculture] IFAD approves loans, grants to combat rural poverty

From Angola Press

Rome, Italy, 12/15 - The International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD)`s executive board has approved US$204.8 million in loans to support rural development programmes and projects in 12 countries, seven of them from Africa, IFAD has said.

In a press statement, the Rome-based IFAD said the African countries who will benefit from the loans and grants are Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Tunisia and Zambia.

Joining them are Albania, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the Republic of Moldova, it said.

The Board also approved US$11.25 million in grants to support indigenous producers, farmers, farmers` organizations, agricultural research and exchange of information and training programmes, the IFAD statement said.

[UK] Increasing Numbers of UK Disabled Adults Live in Poverty

From PNN Online

Three out of every ten disabled adults of working age are living in poverty in Britain - a higher proportion than a decade ago and double the rate among non-disabled adults. Disabled adults are now more likely to live in poor households than either pensioners or children, according to the latest progress report on tackling social exclusion for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK 2005 by authors from the New Policy Institute shows that many more of the 50 indicators under scrutiny for the past seven years have improved over the latest year than have grown worse. But it highlights particular problems among disabled people, including those who work for low wages as well as those who would like employment, but cannot get a job.

The report finds that:

* One in four people aged 45 to 64 are affected by impairment and long-term sickness, but it is twice as common among the poorest fifth of the population.

* Around 800,000 disabled people between 25 and retirement age are classed as 'economically inactive, but wanting work'. This compares with only 200,000 who are officially counted as 'unemployed'.

* For any given level of educational qualification, a disabled person is around three times as likely to lack but want work as non-disabled people. The rate among disabled graduates (14 per cent) is higher than that for non-disabled adults with no qualifications at all.

* Disability increases the chances of low pay for those people who are in work. This applies at every level of qualification and irrespective of gender or whether jobs are full- or part-time.

Guy Palmer, co-author of the report, said, "Both child poverty and pensioner poverty are decreasing because the Government brought in policies to address them. But poverty among disabled people is high and rising, with little by way of Government policy, thus far, to help. Tackling disabled poverty needs to be made a top priority."

Peter Kenway, co-author of the report, said, "A disabled person is more likely to be either low paid or out of work than a non-disabled person with similar qualifications. The inescapable conclusion is that the labor market discriminates against disabled people. Policies to help disabled people into work will only have limited success unless they focus on changing employer attitudes."

Looking across the 50 indicators, the monitoring report shows that 20 have improved in the past year and 20 have held steady, while four show mixed progress and only two have grown worse. Over a longer, five-year timescale, 18 indicators show improvement, while six have worsened. Other key findings from the 2005 report concern:


* The number of people in Britain who live in income poverty has continued to fall to around 12 million on the latest figures. This is nearly two million below the peak reached in the early 1990s and lower than at any time since 1987.

* The proportion of pensioners in poor households has fallen from 27 to 22 per cent, and the proportion of children from 32 to 29 per cent. However, the proportion of working-age adults without children who are poor is, at best, unchanged at 17 per cent.

* The proportion of children who are in workless households in the UK is the highest in Europe. This is mainly due to a relatively high number of workless lone parent families. Half all children living with one parent are in income poverty.

Low Pay

* Despite the importance of employment as a way of reducing poverty, finding a job does not guarantee an income above the poverty line. Half all children in poverty now live in households where someone is in paid work - most of them in two-adult families.

* Low pay is the main reason for so much in-work poverty. Around five million employees aged over 22 were low-paid in 2005 - defined as earning less than £6.50 an hour. This includes half of all part-time workers.

* Taking part-time and full-time jobs together, two-thirds of all low-paid workers are women. Three out of ten low-paid workers aged 25 and over are employed by the public sector.


* Lack of work and low pay are strongly related to educational qualifications. People in their late 20s with no qualifications run an 18 per cent risk of unemployment, compared with a 5 per cent average. The risks of low pay for this group are 50 per cent, compared with an average of 25 per cent (falling to 10 per cent among graduates).

* The proportion of 16-year-olds in England and Wales who obtained fewer than five GCSEs in 2005 (12 per cent) was the same as in 1999. Three-quarters of 16-year-olds from low-income families failed to get five 'good' passes at grades A to C, which was double the rate for other students.

* In English and Welsh primary schools, the proportion of 11-year-olds reaching level 4 in standard tests for English and Maths has improved, although more slowly since 1999. However, 40 per cent of children from low-income families failed to reach this target - double the proportion among other pupils.


* Deep and persistent health inequalities remain. For example, babies born to parents from manual working backgrounds are 25 per cent more likely to have a low birth weight than those born to white-collar parents.

* Infant deaths are 50 per cent more likely among babies in families from manual backgrounds.

* Death rates among 35- to 64-year-olds for heart disease and lung cancer - the biggest causes of premature death - are around twice as high among those from manual backgrounds as among others in the same age group.


* Burglaries and violence with injury have fallen to half the levels of ten years ago. Even so, unemployed people are three times as likely as average to become victims of violent crime and lone parents are twice as likely as average to be burgled.

* Around 200,000 households were accepted by local authorities as homeless in 2004; marking a 20 per cent increase in the past five years. Most of the rise has been among households without dependent children, who now make up two-thirds of the total

[US] Taking on poverty may help Democrats win over religious voters

From The San Jose Mercury News

Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON - Christian activist the Rev. Jim Wallis told hundreds of religious protesters gathered near the Capitol Wednesday that there was a scandal this December, but it wasn't the conservative-stoked controversy about retailers and others using "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

"The Christmas scandal is the budget out of this House of Representatives, a budget which is an assault on low-income people, on poor families," said Wallis, who was arrested by Capitol Hill police along with 113 other protesters - as they knew they would - for blocking the building's entrance.

Budget legislation under consideration by House members and senators has angered many religious people, who see caring for the poor as central to their faith, because of nearly $50 billion in spending cuts to programs such as food stamps and child care subsidies.

That anger has only been heightened by nearly $60 billion in tax cuts that are under consideration and critics say would largely benefit the wealthy.
So Wallis invoked the Christmas story of Mary who, upon being told she would give birth to Jesus, thanked God for, among other things, humbling the mighty and exalting the lowly. Wallis, leader of Sojourners, a Christian social justice group, did so to claim that Congress' budget violated a central message of that first Christmas.

"They are reversing Mary's priorities," Wallis said. "This budget and the tax cuts fill the rich with good things and sends the poor away hungry. That's why we're here."

For Wallis, a best-selling author who has argued that progressives have been passive and allowed conservatives to exploit faith as a highly potent political issue, the event was another chance to gain momentum in reclaiming the religious high ground in national policy debates. Wallis is the author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It."

In recent years, the moral ground has seemed to be held mainly by the religious right, whose members have placed issues of personal morality like abortion and gay marriage in the spotlight and helped determine elections as a result.

But Wallis and other progressive religious leaders who believe the poor have received short shrift hope that, by emphasizing the religious obligation to help the poor, they can reframe the debate.

At the same time, that might help lift the fortunes of Democrats who voters say are more concerned with poverty than Republicans are, but who have suffered political defeats because their party is perceived as being less hospitable to people of faith. In the last two presidential elections, Democrats lost - by significant margins - voters who considered themselves deeply religious, and this has been an issue many in the party said must be addressed if Democrats are to return to power in Congress or the White House.

"Arousing the nation's conscience is not an easy thing to do, but to the extent it does work I think it will help the Democrats because many of the people who would be influenced by that are likely to vote Democratic," said John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"Some of them may have voted Republican in the last election because of the particular mix of issues, terrorism whatever," he said. "But if these questions of poverty and justice are couched in religious language, they may very well respond," though some voters concerned about poverty might still vote Republican but demand that programs that help the poor not be cut.

"The more you're able to inject your rhetoric, your agenda and your approach with the language of `it's immoral to have people living in poverty in this great country of ours,' the more you're going to be able to fight the slippage that the Democratic Party's been having since the Clinton era in terms of reaching out to middle America," said Laura Olsen, a political science professor at Clemson University in South Carolina.

She cited as a potential model former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who made poverty a central theme of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 before being named John Kerry's running mate. Now considering another presidential run, Edwards heads the Center of Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina Law School.

The appetite for such appeals seems to be growing. A Gallup poll conducted shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck found 75 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the federal government's anti-poverty efforts. And that dissatisfaction has held fairly steady. Four years earlier, 71 percent of those polled felt similarly.
Wednesday's "vigil" in Washington was one of more than 70 held around the country to try to force the Republican-led Congress to back off the spending and tax cuts, according to Sojourners.

At times, Capitol Hill had the feel of a revival meeting in the frigid outdoors as the protesters gathered on the steps of the Cannon House Office Building. "Don't tell us about being faith-based, don't tell us about compassionate conservativism," said Frederick Haynes, pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church, a 10,000-member megachurch in Dallas.

"When our government stands before God Almighty, Jesus will say I was hungry but you cut food stamps," Haynes said. "I was thirsty but you cut Pell grants. When I needed surgery I was not part of your social class so I was denied access."

Along with the Catholic nuns and mainline Protestant ministers, the protesters arrested Wednesday included Christian evangelicals such as Wallis and Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, and Mary Nelson, a founder and former president of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community group based in Chicago.
Evangelicals, long known for being insular and focused on issues of personal morality rather than social justice, have recently been broadening their list of concerns to include poverty. The National Association of Evangelicals, for instance, earlier this year adopted a document that cited as among God's concerns "justice for the poor."

"I know that the God who demands of me that to live out my faith means to stand up for justice and to care for the poor and to walk with and to stand with those who are oppressed, I know that same God is demanding the same thing of our congresspersons ...," Nelson said at a press conference outside the House office building.

"I would issue a challenge to the congresspersons in this building and across the way to say come walk with me in my neighborhood," Nelson said. "Come talk to the folks in my neighborhood and they will tell you that they're working two jobs and falling farther behind. That they have kids who are sick and don't have health insurance. ... Then see if you can with good conscience vote for this budget and these tax cuts that are going to make it even worse."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

[California] Dispute starts on schools' anti-poverty funds

From Sign On San Diego

By Helen Gao

A fight is brewing over how the San Diego Unified School District should allocate $25.5 million in federal anti-poverty funding intended to supplement the education of disadvantaged students.

The central question is whether more of the money should be given to schools with the highest poverty levels.

If the change is made, schools with lower poverty levels would lose tens of thousands of dollars they have come to rely on to pay for everything from extra nursing and counseling services to class-size reduction.

The money is part of $45.7 million in Title I funding the district is expected to receive next school year. About $19 million would be spent on districtwide tutoring, teacher training and other programs. Nearly $1 million would go to qualifying private schools.

The rest is to be sent directly to schools, where teachers, parents and administrators can decide how best to spend the money to improve achievement.

Yesterday, the school board discussed a proposal that would raise the poverty threshold for Title I funding.

Poverty at a school is defined by the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

District staffers proposed the change because the poorest schools also tend to be the lowest-achieving.

But opponents of the change noted that schools that don't meet the higher poverty thresholds – proposed to be raised to 60 percent for elementary schools, 50 percent for middle schools and 60 percent for high schools – still serve significant numbers of poor students.

The district's threshold to qualify for Title I funding is now 40 percent.

The higher thresholds, if enacted, would affect about two dozen schools, including some that are projected to fall short by 1 percent or less. The money the schools have come to rely on would be taken away while schools already are financially squeezed.

But even for the poorest schools, there will be less money next school year. The federal government is expected to allocate $6 million less to the district because the overall poverty level in San Diego is lower than it was in the past relative to other parts of the country, according to census figures.

Jill Molyneaux, president of the PTA at Spreckels Elementary School in University City, said the PTA does not have the ability to raise large amounts of money year after year to cover funding shortfalls.

Molyneaux was among more than 20 parents, teachers and principals who protested the proposed change.

While trustee Shelia Jackson backed the change, a majority of the school board members expressed reservations or opposition.

The board will decide on the allocation formula in January.

Under the current formula, trustee Katherine Nakamura noted, schools with higher levels of poverty already receive more Title I funding per student than those with lower poverty levels. The formula has three funding tiers that award progressively more to schools, depending on poverty.

[Africa] Global Economic Growth Fails to Lift Africans Out of Poverty - ILO

from All Africa

Larry Moonze

THE International Labour Organisation has said severe working poverty is growing in Africa as globalisation has failed to create new quality jobs.

According to the ILO fourth edition of Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM), global economic growth is increasingly failing to translate into new and better jobs that lead to a reduction in poverty.

The KILM indicate that the number of workers living on less than US $1 per day has increased by 28 million in sub-Saharan Africa between 1994 and 2004.

"While the most severe working poverty is growing in Africa, it is declining in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe," states the report. "The total number of working women and men living on less than $2 a day has not fallen over the past decade although at 1.38 billion, it is a smaller share of global employment at just below 50 per cent, a decline from 57 per cent in 1994."

The report emphasises that in many developing economies the problem is mainly a lack of decent and productive work opportunities rather than outright unemployment. "Women and men are working long and hard for very little because their only alternative is to have no income at all," the KILM states.

It states that youth unemployment rates were typically at least twice as high as adult rates and are sometimes much higher. However, the KILM states that in most countries, the illiteracy rates of adults were higher than those of youth suggesting that young people are increasingly better prepared for the labour market.

ILO director general Juan Somavia said half the world's workers still did not earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the US $2 a day poverty line.

"The key message is that up to now better jobs and income for the world's workers has not been a priority in policy-making", said Somavia. "Globalisation has so far not led to the creation of sufficient and sustainable decent work opportunities around the world. That has to change, and as many leaders have already said we must make decent work a central objective of all economic and social policies. This report can be a useful tool for promoting that objective."

The study finds that while in some areas of Asia economic expansion is fostering solid growth in jobs and improvements in living conditions, other areas such as Africa and parts of Latin America were seeing increasing numbers of people working in less favourable conditions, especially in the agricultural sector.

The new KILM paints an in-depth picture of both the quantity and quality of jobs around the world by examining 20 key indicators of the labour market. The KILM covers quantitative topics such as labour force participation, employment, inactivity, employment elasticities, sectoral employment, labour productivity and unemployment, and qualitative issues such as hours worked, wages, employment status, unemployment duration and others.

It states that economic growth was not leading to job creation. "In recent years there has been a weakening relationship between economic growth and employment growth, meaning that growth is not automatically translating into new jobs," it states.

The biennial study found that for every one percentage point of additional gross domestic product (GDP) growth, total global employment grew by only 0.30 percentage points between 1999 and 2003, a drop from 0.38 percentage points between 1995 and 1999.

[Palestinians] UN: Palestinian poverty worsening

From Al Jazeera

By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

Poverty is worsening in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories because of continued Israeli military activities and the closure of border crossings between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, a UN report said.

The report on the Palestinian economy, presented to the Donors Conference in London on Tuesday, said further social and economic deterioration was inevitable unless the Palestinian economy is freed from Israel's stranglehold.

The report said up to 37% of the estimated 3.7 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had trouble getting food in 2004. Another 27% were at risk of running into such difficulties.

The report, prepared by UN economic experts, pointed out that nearly half the Palestinian population was poor, with poverty rate in the Gaza Strip reaching a staggering 65%.

Up to 16% of Palestinians - 550,000 - were living on $1.5 a day, with the likelihood that the figure will rise to 35% if aid is not forthcoming.


The report spoke of continued Israeli repression, especially in the West Bank where the occupation army maintains tight control in population centres.

It cited the demolition by Israel of 253 homes and structures in the West Bank over the past 10 months. As many as 5000 Palestinians are living in closed-off areas sandwiched between the separation wall and the former armistice line between Israel proper and the West Bank, the report said.

Israel has reaffirmed its refusal to allow safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying the Palestinian Authority had to fight "terror" first.

Dan Halutz ,the Israeli chief of staff, was quoted by the Ha'aretz newspaper on Wednesday as saying that Israel would not allow bus convoys to move between the West Bank and Gaza for the time being.

Israel had earlier promised to allow Palestinians safe passage between the two regions by the middle of December.


The report's findings are generally supported by an opinion poll published in the occupied territories on Tuesday.

The poll, conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion in Beit Sahur and covering a representative sample of 1873 respondents, showed that nearly three quarters of Palestinians were worried about the livelihood of their families.

More than 53% evaluated their economic condition as "bad", while two-thirds agreed that the PA has failed to create job opportunities.

According to Nabil Kukali, who supervised the opinion survey, Palestinian society is experiencing a grave but silent economic and social crisis that he said stemmed from the Israeli occupation.

"There is a conspicuous deterioration of living conditions which underscores the desperate need for international support," Kukali told

Kukali, a professor of management at Hebron University, said continued economic deprivation in the occupied territories would eventually lead to anarchy.

Financial crisis

Nigel Roberts, the head of the World Bank mission in the Palestinian territories, blamed Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and flow of goods and services for economic stagnation in Palestine.

Roberts, who is taking part in the London conference, told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper that the Palestinian Authority was no longer able to pay the salaries to its civil servants and employees.

Roberts opposed economic separation between the Palestinian territories and Israel, pointing out that 80% to 90% of Palestinian exports went to Israel.

[Chad] Proposes Change in Poverty Reduction Agreement

From The Voice Of America

By William Eagle

Chad is a proposing to change a two-year-old agreement with the World Bank that requires the government to use most of its money from oil sales for poverty reduction and for a special fund set aside for “future generations.” Chad agreed to the restrictions, and in exchange, the World Bank lent 4.2 billion dollar for an underground pipeline carrying oil to a port in Cameroon. The pipeline began operating two years ago. Now, Chad says it wants to alter the agreement to give it more money to pay civil servants and the military. But the World Bank says it prefers to offer technical help to bring spending under control.

A spokesman for the development group Oxfam says Chad could improve its financial situation with better management practices. Ian Gary is the policy advisor for extractive industries at Oxfam America in Washington, D.C. He says a number of reports “highlight problems in the execution of projects using oil money, [for example] where projects didn’t exist and where there were unexplained cost overruns…. I think there is ample evidence to show money has not been used as well as it should be, and there could be a lot of savings if the government were more strict in financial management.”

He says international donors need to coordinate their approach to Chad: “The World Bank needs to outline the possible consequences [if Chad reneges on the original agreement]. It has a number of options: recall the loans that are outstanding and accelerate the payment of loans [by Chad] to the World Bank. They could also stop the flow of further loans to the government of Chad that are in the pipeline. This would also have a ripple effect with relations with IMF, EU and other donors and might put Chad in a worse financial situation than if they leave the law intact.”

Ian Gary of Oxfam America says the World Bank should have waited until democratic and transparent reforms were made by Chad’s government before signing the agreement to help build the pipeline.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

[Fiji] Poverty level on the rise: Qarase

From The Fiji Times

THE level of poverty in Fiji has increased by four per cent, a survey carried out by the Bureau of Statistics in 2002 and 2003 states.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase revealed this at Sukuna Park, Suva, yesterday while launching the "Walking Out of Poverty" program, an initiative by the Ministry of Women and the International Labour Organisation to reduce poverty.

Mr Qarase said the bureau, with the support of the Asian Development Bank did a survey on Household Income and Expenditure in 2002 and 2003.

"The analysis concluded the general level of poverty nationally, has increased from 25 per cent to around 29 per cent of the population," he said.

"There are, however, serious pockets of poverty in urban areas. But it would appear to be more widespread in rural communities, where cash incomes are low," Mr Qarase said. He said although Fijian families in the rural areas received the lowest levels of income, the survey revealed that non-Fijian families were the poorest.

"There are obviously families with no land on which to depend for their basic subsistence.

"The Government's recent land proposals, rejected in Parliament by the Fiji Labour Party, would have given them new hope of a secure future on 50 year leases," said Mr Qarase.

He said the Government was concerned with urgently addressing the plight of those who were struggling to make ends meet daily.

Mr Qarase said poverty was not just a Fiji phenomenon but was common worldwide and millions of people had difficulty in meeting their basic needs every day.

He said what's needed was for society to be more compassionate about helping those who weren't capable of taking care of themselves.