Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Architects of change target child poverty

from The Sydney Morning Herald

For the AIDS orphans of a Malawi border town, local clay and sand are the building blocks of a sustainable future, Steve Meacham writes.

Construction workers in southern Malawi have a traditional way of building homes. They'll dig a big pit, shape bricks by hand, cover them with wood - and set fire to the primitive kiln.

It's simple and it works but unfortunately, says a Sydney architect, Sam Crawford, it's also environmentally unsound.

"The kilns use a huge amount of timber, so they have to cut a lot of trees down. And it is really unnecessary," he says. "Timber and firewood are scarce resources in Malawi. Deforestation and soil are major problems throughout the region."

That's why Crawford, a board member of the Australian volunteer group Architects Without Frontiers, was keen to use another brick-making technology in his design for an educational youth centre in Thyolo, an AIDS-afflicted town near the border with Mozambique.

The centre's three pavilions, serving about 1100 children, will instead be built using bricks made from clay and sand that is readily available near the site and dried in the sun.

The locals were reluctant at first, even when Crawford told them research showed sun-dried blocks were more durable than wood-fired bricks. But they came around when they realised their centre would not only save trees but be a monument to sustainability.

"One of the directors over there said he was very excited about the building being not just an education facility, but an education in the way it is built," Crawford says.

The Malawi project is one of 12 being developed in 10 countries by Architects Without Frontiers. Based on the highly regarded Medecins Sans Frontieres, the non-profit organisation was set up by Dr Esther Charlesworth in 1998 and now has about 120 members. Three of the latest schemes - including Crawford's Malawi centre - feature in a new exhibition, Without Frontiers, which opens in August at Customs House. Many - like the biodegradable waste pits being built in Nepal - have a green dimension.

Crawford joined Architects Without Frontiers last year, having already committed himself to helping the photographer Claude Ho develop the educational youth centre in Thyolo.

Ho had spent three months in Malawi documenting the medical work being done by Medecins Sans Frontieres and thought something should be done to relieve the grim existence of children orphaned by AIDS.

Crawford, 35, a father of four, had flown to Malawi and been shocked. "I've travelled the world a lot, but it was my first time in sub-Saharan Africa. I had never seen poverty like it."

About 23 per cent of Thyolo's adult population have AIDS, leaving vast numbers of children without fathers (in Malawi "orphans" may still have mothers). "Where an orphan once would have gone to live with relatives, now those relatives don't exist any more," Crawford says. "They're often left destitute."

One journalist asked Crawford why poor children should get an architect-designed building when what they really needed was food or money. His answer? "Poor people need art and poetry just as much as rich people. Not that what we are doing is poetry, but we are providing them with something more than just the basics. Architecture has as much to offer poor people as it does to rich people."

Yet from the beginning Crawford's team realised "that a building designed for a small community based organisation in a very small rural town … should not draw attention to itself. Cutting-edge design produced by someone from an alien culture seeking to bolster his or her reputation is not called for".

Instead "we're not going to use any technology that is not available in town. Local materials save on transport costs and emissions. We're not importing anything, except for the tin roofing. That's a key thing that is often missed when people talk about the environment."

At first Crawford wanted to use thatch for the roof. "But the tradition of making good quality thatch has been lost, and the locals weren't keen for us to use thatch because that is associated with the rich tourist resorts on Lake Malawi." Instead, they have agreed to use thatch as the insulating material beneath the tin roof.

So far, about $145,000 has been raised towards the project, which will eventually cost up to $200,000 - "about a tenth of what it would cost in Australia", according to Crawford.

The centre will include the region's best library, training rooms and a youth club. Nothing fancy, says Crawford. "Just somewhere the orphans can go at the weekend to escape their misery and play table tennis."

Without Frontiers shows at Customs House, Circular Quay, from Thursday to September 23. www.architectswithoutfrontiers.com.au.

Porous border between poverty and hope fuels rich trade in migrant misery

from The Guardian

Unofficial deportations, extortion and poverty thrive in Thai frontier town

Ian MacKinnon in Mae Sot

The Guardian

Two trucks with cages crammed with Burmese migrant workers halt abruptly beside the Thai-Burmese frontier's river landing stage. Detainees, standing and sitting, are pressed hard against one another and the wire mesh that is their temporary prison.

The deportees appear resigned to their fate. When the doors fly open, 140 men and a lone woman file out and down steep steps on the Thai side of the border to a waiting barge. No guards are needed. Fifteen metres across the muddy, fast-flowing Moei River they are back in their native Burma.

Uniformed men herd them into a bamboo stockade of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, a rebel splinter group that has made peace with the Burmese junta. To win their liberty back in their homeland, each must pay the equivalent of £25, a vast sum for impoverished labourers.

Each year up to 100,000 deported migrants pass back this way. Social workers believe the DKBA is in league with corrupt Thai immigration staff who get a cut of the profits from these unofficial deportations.

Burmese people-trafficking preys on the most desperate of people, fleeing conflict and poverty. It is a small part of a vast murky trade that buoys the Thai economy. At least 1.5 million Burmese work in Thai construction, fisheries and agriculture, filling poorly paid jobs shunned by Thais. Just a third are legally registered, leaving a million vulnerable to raids, deportation and extortion.

In a safehouse in Mae Sot, a Thai border town awash with Burmese migrants, Moe Swe shelters those rescued from the DKBA's clutches and others who fled abusive employers. It is a perilous business. He briefly fled Thailand himself two years ago, after receiving death threats from powerful vested interests.

"We suspect the Thai officials get money from the DKBA for the deported migrants," he said. "There are 20 landing stages on the river, but the workers are only released at the one known as Pier 999, opposite the DKBA's so-called reception centre."

Two hundred garment factories and thousands of farms in Mae Sot thrive on cheap labour that floods across the porous border. Some of the 100,000 migrants here have work permits, but many do not. A squad of armed Thai border police last week staged a 4am raid 20 miles outside the town in Waylay village, a collection of bamboo shacks without running water or electricity. Half the 100 inhabitants, without work permits, ran. Four were caught and immediately deported.

Wai Lin Oo, 18, heard no warning. It was a costly mistake. His mother Khin Thet, 40, rescued him by slipping across into Burma herself, but had to pay nearly £10 from the family's meagre savings for a day-pass to bring him back.

With other villagers, he scrapes a living planting roses, earning £1 a day - half the minimum wage. Yet he is luckier than 11-year-old Win Htat Thu who gets work erratically laying chemical fertiliser around the roses without any protective clothing.

Daily swoops

"We came because we hadn't enough money," said the boy, who receives no schooling. "But here there's not enough either; just enough food. If any of us gets sick, there's no money for medicine."

Bangkok's building sites and factories are the most lucrative workplaces. Although migrants there are paid as little as their rural cousins, the work is steadier, giving greater opportunity to earn. But getting a work permit is a minefield. Just 485,925 are registered, leaving a million Burmese working illegally. Hundreds are caught in daily swoops and held in Bangkok's immigration detention centre before being taken to Mae Sot, fuelling the corrupt trade in deportations from Pier 999 - whose suspicious operators did not welcome prying eyes.

"No pictures," hissed one, as the Guardian watched the caged trucks arrive and unload their human cargo, the fifth and sixth shipments of the morning. "Who are they and what do they want?" whispered another to the Burmese social worker accompanying us, who has seen the trade at first hand.

Years in jail

A month ago the plight of Kyaw Pha Dae, 15, led the social worker to the DKBA camp to buy his freedom. Capture could have cost her years in jail. She found him in the Bangkok detention centre and followed him when he was deported.

Kyaw Pha Dae last saw his family a year ago after he was sent to work on a Thai fishing boat in the Andaman Sea. The boy, from the Karen village of Kyat Ma Out, had never seen the sea.

"When I went on the boat I was scared that I would fall overboard," he said, now in the Mae Sot safehouse. "I got seasick too. But I was really afraid after the boat owner dropped me on a pier in Bangkok. I had no idea what was going to happen next."

The flow of Burmese migrants across the lengthy border that cuts through jungle-clad mountains is just one part of the equation. It is mirrored by huge business investments that wealthy Thais have made in Burma.

One fly in the ointment is the drug yaba - a meta-amphetamine - produced in Burmese jungle laboratories and smuggled in vast quantities into Thailand. But the desire for the smooth running of big business ensures tensions never get too strained.

The ousted Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who himself had vast business interests in Burma, invested much political capital trying to bring Burma's rulers into the international fold. But despite his failure, the interlinked business interests keep relations stable and border tensions - on an official level, at least - to a minimum.


Mae Sot is every bit the frontier town, the wild west of Thailand - but with an almost entirely Burmese cast. It is filled with migrants trying to make ends meet, dissidents fleeing the Burmese junta, and its conspicuous "spooks". Markets by the riverside sell every conceivable kind of smuggled duty-free commodity, though cigarettes are the favoured currency.

A Friendship Bridge crosses the Moei river with a checkpoint and the odd car. Spoil from construction has formed river islands that have become disputed territory. But crammed boats ply Mae Sot's numerous piers across the border river, with not an official in sight. The far bank's Karen state is controlled by the Burmese junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council, and the DKBA, which split from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). The state capital, Manerplaw, fell in 1995 to DKBA forces backed by the junta. But sporadic fighting continues as the army attacks the KNLA, driving refugees and migrants across the border.

Aids and poverty focus for Brown

from the BBC

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to call for a greater international effort to combat Aids and poverty in a speech at the UN.

Mr Brown wants world leaders to live up to their Millennium promises made seven years ago to tackle a range of issues.

He is currently meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss issues such as Sudan's Darfur conflict.

On Monday, Mr Brown concluded his first formal talks with President George Bush at Camp David, near Washington.

During the talks, Mr Bush and Mr Brown renewed pledges to fight terrorism and seek progress in Iraq.

Ambitious goals

Mr Ban and Mr Brown are expected to discuss ways of dealing with the situation in the Sudanese region of Darfur where 200,000 people have been killed.

Later on Tuesday, an invited audience will hear the prime minister's address at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Aides said he will focus on trying to find practical ways of meeting the ambitious goals set by world leaders in 2000.

Goals include eradicating extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, cutting child deaths and combating diseases.

'Common struggle'

The speech comes a day after Mr Brown's first official meeting as prime minister with President Bush.

He said both nations had duties and responsibilities in Iraq, and that he would seek military advice before announcing any changes in policy.

The president spoke warmly of the "special relationship" with the UK and said he found Mr Brown a warm, humorous man.

But the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson, at Camp David, said Mr Brown did nothing to return those personal compliments - even referring to their meetings as full and frank, which is normal diplomatic code for an argument.

On the issue of Iraq, Mr Brown said: "Our aim, like the United States is, step-by-step, to move control to the Iraqi authorities."

He also denied suggestions that his view of terrorism differed greatly from that of Mr Bush.

Mr Brown added: "We know we are in a common struggle, we know we have to work together, and we know we have to deal with it."

Monday, July 30, 2007

How microcredit loans fight poverty

from Homemakers.com

Explore financing programs that empower women and improve lives.

By Heather Buchan

Around the world, more than 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day and 70 per cent of these people are women. In many parts of the world, poor people in rural areas face considerable difficulties finding employment, leaving them with just two options: work for themselves or starve.

But in order to work for themselves, they often need access to resources to start up a small business. However, because these people lack steady employment and collateral, they can't meet the qualifications to gain access to credit and are unable to get the financial loans they need to begin working for themselves. And so, the cycle of poverty continues.

What is a micro-credit loan?
Micro-loans provide unemployed people, and people living in poverty, with small loans to start up income-generating projects and small businesses, enabling them to escape poverty or at least slightly improve their lives.

Micro-credit is a simple idea: a small loan, with an interest rate that is generally on par with commercial rates, is used to help people -- mainly in developing countries -- who can't secure credit, to set up a small business and generate profit. When the loan is repaid, the borrower is eligible for a larger loan to expand their enterprise. The proceeds from the interest increase the pool of funds available to provide loans to more people. The process of selecting loan beneficiaries varies from organization to organization.

The first micro-credit loans were issued in Bangladesh in 1983 by economist, and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus. Today, there are thousands of micro-credit institutions around the world and more than 113 million impoverished people have received micro-credit loans.

The average individual loan is approximately $150US to fund small business projects such as raising chickens to sell eggs, opening small retail businesses, vegetable gardening, livestock-rearing or buying sewing machines to make and repair clothing. But many say that we can't eradicate poverty without empowering women. Traditionally, there have been few opportunities for women to earn money outside the home in developing nations.

The importance of empowering women
Women have become the focus of various micro-credit institutions around the world because, according to the Microcredit Summit Campaign, more people benefit from a loan that's given to a woman. Since women are primarily responsible for the upbringing of children in these communities, they are more likely to invest their income towards the well-being of their family.

Micro-credit for women has been so successful that women now make up more than 80 per cent of loan recipients. Another benefit is that loans to women also raise their socio-economic status in patriarchal countries where traditionally women are viewed as inferior to men. These loans give women responsibility outside of the home as well as self-confidence and independence.

Josee Verner, Canada's Minister of International Co-operation says micro-credit loans are an important tool in fighting poverty. "Micro-finance gives immediate results for their families. When your family is starving, you cannot wait. You must take action. So these loans provide jobs for women so they can then feed their families," she says.

Minister Verner also points out that micro-loans also provide freedom, liberty and security for women. "This is one of the most concrete results we can give," she adds. By providing women in developing nations with micro-loans, Minister Verner says it also allows them to invest in the future and long-term growth of their country as well. "Loans give women a real place in the economic development in their country. For these women, $150 is huge even though it seems like such as small amount to us," she says.

How you can help
There are hundreds of micro-credit organizations around the world. Here are two that focus on women and are global in their reach:

1. CARE is a humanitarian global poverty-fighting organization that focuses on women in areas including Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, initiates community savings-and-loan programs and provides training to help people start up -- and expand -- small businesses. To donate or learn more about their initiatives, go to www.care.org or call 1-800-521-2273.

2. Women's World Banking is a non-profit organization that supports member organizations which provide micro loans and other financial services to millions of impoverished women in 43 countries around the world. To make a tax-deductible donation or learn more, go to www.swwb.org or call 1-212-768-8513.

Agoa has 'failed' to achieve anti-poverty goal

from the East African

Special Correspondent

The trade programme that gives preferential access to the US market for African exports has proved disappointing in several respects, critics charged as a conference reviewing the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) took place in mid-July in Ghana.

“When Agoa was initially crafted, there was a great debate as to whether it would be a tool for real, broad, sustained growth and poverty reduction for all of Africa,” commented Congressman Donald Payne, an African-American Democrat. “I must say seven years later, Agoa has not lived up to that promise. “Noting that development of agriculture is widely regarded as key to Africa’s economic growth, Congressman Payne said, “Agoa benefits to that sector have been minuscule.”

Sindiso Ngwenya, assistant secretary-general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), used the same term in suggesting Agoa has done little to advance African agriculture. “Africa’s agricultural exports to the US have so far been minuscule, accounting for less than one per cent of the total value of exports,” Mr Ngwenya said during an inquiry into Agoa’s effectiveness recently convened in Washington by Congressman Payne.

Part of the problem lies in the restrictions the United States places on farm imports from Comesa countries, Mr Ngwenya added. At present, he noted, Kenyan farmers are allowed to export only three kinds of vegetables to the US out of the 15 they grow for the export market.

US officials attending the two-day Agoa forum in Ghana acknowledged that Agoa’s potential has not been fulfilled in regard to Africa’s agricultural sector. But the US is investing substantial resources to help build Africa’s agro-exporting capabilities, noted Jendayi Frazer, the top Africa official at the State Department. Ms Frazer pointed out that $394 million was invested in such capacity-building programmes last year.

The Assistant Secretary of State for Africa was also upbeat in her assessment of the Agoa forum in Ghana. Ms Frazer said it was “very positive” because it had brought together a variety of constituencies and “was very much focused on practical steps to realise the total benefits of the Agoa legislation.”

At present, however, Agoa remains primarily a means of enabling African oil to enter US markets without duty charges. Oil represents more than 80 per cent of Agoa imports to the US, with only a few African countries benefiting from this form of trade access.

“Unfortunately,” Mr Ngwenya of Comesa said, “This industry has little impact on hunger and poverty alleviation, and instead — in some parts of Africa — has been associated with frustration, tension and in some cases civil conflict. “

Agoa’s sponsors had envisioned major gains for African textile industries — at least in countries such as Kenya with a history of textile production. These advocates pointed out that textile exports had initially served as an engine propelling economic growth in rapidly developing Asian countries such as South Korea, India and Taiwan.

Agoa has indeed created thousands of jobs in Kenya and a few other countries that have been shipping clothing made with Asian fibres to the US. But the end of the international textile quota system two years ago has eroded some of those gains. Exporting giants such as China have been able to sharply increase their clothing sales to the US, thus seizing market share from African countries.

Kenya has lost an estimated 5,000 of the 30,000 jobs it gained as a result of Agoa. Uganda has seen far more limited benefits for its fledgling textile sector, while Tanzania has gained almost nothing from Agoa’s textile provisions.

“Quite obviously,” commented Stephen Hayes, head of the US Corporate Council on Africa, “The 2005 decline in non-oil Agoa trade was largely due to the inability of African countries to successfully compete with fast-growing competitors such as China after the ending of quotas on textiles and apparel.”

Without Agoa, however, US trade with Africa would be much less dynamic than is the case today.

Florizelle Liser, the top US trade official for Africa, noted at the session convened by Congressman Payne that African non-oil exports to the US had more than doubled during Agoa’s lifespan — from $1.4 billion in 2001 to $3.2 billion in 2006. She specifically cited export gains for Kenya, which, Ms Liser said, now include fresh-cut roses, preserved pineapples, sport fishing supplies, nuts and essential oils.

Agoa has also been of considerable political value, Ms Liser and Mr Ngwenya agreed, noting that many African countries have developed closer ties with the US, partly as a result of the trade programme. Agoa has also helped spur some African nations to adopt political and economic reforms that have benefited their populations, Ms Liser added.

She noted that a required annual review of countries’ eligibility for Agoa includes assessment of progress toward political pluralism, market-based economic growth, reduction of poverty, and protection of human rights. “We in the [Bush] administration take these criteria very seriously, “ said Ms Liser.

She noted that three countries — Eritrea, Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic — have had their Agoa eligibility revoked as a result of human-rights abuses or failure to implement political or economic reforms.

But it is disturbing, said Congressman Chris Smith, that eight Agoa-eligible countries, including Kenya, are included on a State Department “tier two watch list” due to their alleged failure to stem sex slavery and other forms of human trafficking. “In addition to the other human rights assessments that are legislatively mandated as part of the Agoa eligibility process, one would expect the tier placement for trafficking in persons to be a critical consideration,” said Congressman Smith.

Anti-poverty group criticises Govt plan

from the Irish Times

The Government's national action plan for social inclusion is "disappointing" and ignores the needs of migrant workers and asylum seekers, an anti-poverty group has said.

Speaking following a series of workshops around the country last week to assess the National Plan 2007-2013, the Irish branch of the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) concluded that the State plan was "lacking ambition".

Unveiled in February, the plan outlines the Government's commitment to building an inclusive society and, along with the ten-year social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, eradicating consistent poverty by 2016.

It sets out plans to reduce literacy difficulties, target early school leaving, enhance the value of the State pension and help foreign nationals to integrate into Irish society.

However, over 100 community development and anti-poverty professionals attending the meetings in Athlone, Sligo, Dublin and Mallow last week found that migrant groups' needs were being hampered due to the introduction of the habitual residency requirement for child benefit and claimed a "scandalously low level of direct provision for asylum seekers" was also problematic.

EAPN acting co-ordinator Paul Ginnell said: "There is a lack of clear targets throughout the plan, and those that are in place are in some cases recycled from the previous plan, while other targets, such as the elimination of long-term unemployment, have disappeared entirely."

While acknowledging the Government's efforts to build childcare facilities, the organisations said there was no similar level of support for the hiring or training of staff working in childcare.

"The EAPN does welcome the positive elements in the new plan, and the fact that the government is clearly wedded to a process of addressing social exclusion," Mr Ginnell said.

But he added: "The sense we are getting from people working in the community sector is that they see the plan as disappointing and lacking in both ambition and a real determination to address social exclusion as a priority for this government."

Economic Inequalities Affecting Poverty Reduction Efforts

from All Africa

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

Rwanda has progressed in education, gender equality and democratic governance, but a concentration of wealth within the top income bracket is affecting overall poverty reduction efforts, a United Nations report said.

"Soaring inequality is threatening poverty reduction and economic growth," the National Human Development Report 2007 noted, adding that Rwanda's high growth rates have hidden large and growing inequalities between social classes, geographic regions and gender.

Titled 'Turning Vision 2020 into Reality: From Recovery to Sustainable Human Development', the report said to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Rwanda needs a mutually accountable partnership that links aid to national development and public spending to the MDGs.

"The report constitutes a rigorous and objective piece of research, which takes a hard look at the facts without trying to embellish them or tweak them to suit one or the other interest," Moustapha Soumare, the UN Resident Coordinator in Rwanda said.

Disparities cut across all sectors and undermine Rwanda's progress towards the MDGs in all areas

The report, which calls for a new agenda to scale up investment and increase development assistance, was commissioned by UNDP and prepared by a group of researchers from the National University of Rwanda. Different stakeholders from government, civil society and donors participated in its preparation.

"Disparities cut across all sectors and undermine Rwanda's progress towards the MDGs in all areas from health to education and even poverty reduction," Soumare said.

According to the report, Rwanda's recent growth has bypassed the rural poor leading to a concentration of wealth at the top of the income distribution bracket - a situation that could lead the country to exhaust its ability to reduce poverty rates through economic growth alone.

At the same time, Rwanda has been finalising the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The strategy estimates that total investment of approximately US$140 per capita per year is needed for MDG-related interventions. With the extent of poverty and the small size of the private sector, the bulk of these investments would have to come from the public sector.

"Rwanda needs to increase investments in development sectors, mainly in agriculture," James Musoni, Rwanda's Minister of Finance and Economic, planning told reporters during the 26 July launch of the report. He also expressed concerns over high population growth.

According to official statistics, life expectancy in Rwanda now stands at 51 years, partly because of efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS related deaths; while the number of people relying on agriculture is projected to drop from 90 percent to 50 percent by 2020.

"In some sectors progress has been recorded but the target is still to be met," the minister added.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

Peru's Pres Garcia Promises To Reduce Foreign Debt, Poverty

from CECU.de

LIMA (Dow Jones)--Peruvian President Alan Garcia, in his annual state-of-the-nation address Saturday, reiterated many of the goals that his government hopes to attain, including lowering foreign debt levels and cutting poverty.

Garcia said the government's goal is to reduce poverty to some 30% by the end of his term in 2011, from the about 50% level in 2005. The Garcia administration had earlier spoken of reducing poverty to some 40% by the end of its mandate.

The president added that by the end of his term, Peru's foreign debt - as a percentage of GDP - would fall to 13% from some 24% now.

He also said that Peru would have $30 billion in international reserves, by 2011, compared with some $23 billion currently.

Those goals were stated against the backdrop of the strong performance by Peru's economy. The nation's gross domestic product expanded by 8.0% last year, and Garcia was optimistic that this level of growth could be reached this year.

"Last year we grew some 8.0%, and this year we will do it again," Garcia said, adding that growth, which in recent years has been in good part due to rising prices for mineral exports, was now more widely based.

In his speech, Garcia said that Peru has done its part in negotiating a free-trade pact with the U.S. and called on the U.S. Congress to approve the deal, already approved by the Peruvian legislature.

"Peru has done what it can do, now it is up to the U.S. Congress to complete with its part," he said.

In his speech, Garcia said that Peru was a nation with "profound problems and conflicts." Garcia added that a lack of resources and of management skills needed to solve problems had limited advances in the first year of his government.

But he said that the government would continue to increase public sector spending on investments, and to work towards a greater decentralization of government services and spending.

"The state has changed. It has decentralized spending. This is a quiet revolution," he said.

Political analysts have noted that while the economy remains robustly healthy, with low inflation, the nation's political structure remains fragmented. Many politicians, including those in Congress and local governments, held in low esteem by many Peruvians, the analysts.

Despite the strong economic growth, Garcia's popularity has declined to a 32% approval rating in mid-July from some 63% about a year ago, according to pollster Ipsos Apoyo Opinion y Mercado.

Pollsters say the decline is tied in part to the perception that the government hasn't done enough to solve the many social problems that continue to afflict the Andean nation.

Garcia, leader of the social democratic Apra party, took office for a five-year term, winning in a close run off vote against nationalist Ollanta Humala, who wanted to radically overhaul Peruvian society.

Garcia was previously president from 1985 to 1990, in a term that ended with Peru beset by economic and social problems.

Garcia's speech on Saturday was markedly different than those given in his first term.

Peruvian newspapers noted that in a state-of-the-nation speech 20 years ago, Garcia said the government would nationalize the nation's banks. That measure failed. Garcia has since then adopted more orthodox free-market economic policies.

New Spirit Will Free Africans From Poverty, Says Mbeki

from All Africa

Business Day (Johannesburg)

By Wyndham Hartley
Cape Town

There was a new spirit growing in Africa which would see the continent's people free themselves of the "evil spirits which defined Africans as nothing more than mere objects of charitable kindness", President Thabo Mbeki told the annual meeting of the African branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on Friday.

In a tough Africanist speech, Mbeki welcomed the creation at the recent African Union (AU) summit of the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

He said $625m had been put into the fund, raised exclusively in Africa. "We are confident that within the next 12 months the capital base of the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund will reach $1bn. We, as Africans, are making the firm statement that we are ready to rely on our resources to finance our own development, focusing in the first instance on the critically important infrastructure projects already elaborated by Nepad."

He said he had felt the "palpable presence" of a new spirit in Africa and believed that it and the lighting of the flame of peace in Côte d'Ivoire would "serve as a symbol of the determination of the African masses, truly the wretched of the earth, to free themselves from all the evil spirits that have had a free run over the face of our continent for far too long, stripping us of our dignity and imposing on us the humiliating condition that many in the rest of the world have come to treat us as being nothing more than mere objects of charitable kindness".

In a sharp criticism of colonialism and western interference in Africa, Mbeki said that after the wave of independence in the 1960s, "a combination of factors that brought about numerous crises in our countries ensured that our continent was placed under de facto trusteeship, with programmes and policies for Africa's development drawn-up by people who were not only not African, but were in many instances those who had been colonial masters.

"To defeat this neo-colonial stranglehold, we have developed our own path of development, as reflected in the constitutive act authorising the establishment of the AU, and the AU development and reconstruction programme, Nepad."

He said these were formidable instruments to address poverty and development in Africa.

Mbeki urged the gathering of African parliamentarians to take seriously their responsibility to ensure the success of the AU and all its elements and institutions.

He said MPs should exercise oversight of the African Peer Review Mechanism of the AU, which was critical for setting benchmarks for governance .

"It is obvious that we have a lot of work ahead of us," Mbeki said.

"All of us are obliged to take action to implement the provisions of the African Convention on Terrorism. Not all our countries have passed the necessary legislation to make the convention operational," he said.

The association could work with the Pan African Parliament to prepare model legislation on terrorism to be made available to all African parliaments . This would help to ensure "compatible legislation that brings the African Convention on Terrorism into force in all our countries."

Half of Iraq "in absolute poverty"

from Al Jazeera

Up to eight million Iraqis require immediate emergency aid, with nearly half of the population living in "absolute poverty" according to a report by Oxfam.

About four million people are lacking food and "in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance," said the report, released in Amman on Monday.

"Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment," the report said compiled by Oxfam and the NGO Co-ordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI).

The report also says two million people within the country are currently displced, while more than two million are refugees.

Most of those refugees have fled to Jordan and Syria.
'Grim picture'

Said Arikit, a spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq, told Al Jazeera the report painted a "grim picture".

"Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings," he said.

"The government of Iraq is definitely the authority in Iraq and it bears responsibility for the welfare of its people."

Iraqi services have been left in crisis as most of those seeking refuge are professionals, according to the report.

"The 'brain drain' that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country."

The entry of Iraqi refugees to neighbouring countries has placed a growing strain on health, education and social services in the two countries.

Ration crisis

Only 60 per cent of the four million people who depend on food assistance have access to rations from the government-run public distribution system, down from 96 percent in 2004, the report said.

The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent since 2003, while 80 percent lack effective sanitation.

The report said children were the hardest hit by the fall in living standards, stating child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent currently.

"Despite the constraints imposed by the government of Iraq, the UN and the international donors can do more to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce unnecessary suffering," the report said.

One recommendation called for the government of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, to decentralise the distribution of aid to local authorities, and make it easier for civil society organisations to operate.

Deaths fall

Meanwhile in Iraq, officials from the US military say they have seen a drop in US troop deaths in July.

In April, the number of US soldiers who died was 104, increased sharply in May when 126 servicemen died, and decreased slightly with 101 troops dead in June.

For the month of July, at least 69 US soldiers have died, about half the casualties in May.

Iraq's police say the number of civilian deaths also decreased by 36 per cent, from an estimated high of 1,900 in May to 1,342 in June.

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, said: "The sheikhs and the tribes and the leaders have banded together and made a decision to oppose al-Qaeda and that has resulted in a substantially improved security situation."

Despite what appears to be at least a temporary let-up in both military and civilian deaths, many say there will be no security without a stable Iraqi government.

Romney says free trade needed to combat Latin American poverty

from the Boston Herald

By Associated Press

MIAMI- Free trade is key to ending Latin American poverty, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Saturday while courting support from the Cuban-American and growing Venezuelan-American communities.

"Trade lifts all nations that participate," Romney said when asked how he would end poverty and other conditions that have given rise to leaders such as Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, who has been a close ally of Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, noted that the Bush administration had sought free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Peru, but the Democratic-controlled Congress failed to approve them.

"We’d like to see more agreements, not fewer, to improve the economic well-being of our neighborhood," he said.

Later, Romney criticized Democrat Barack Obama for saying last week that he would meet with the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, Syria and Cuba.

Romney told 350 people at a Seminole County GOP fundraiser Saturday that the next president should meet with friendly nations first.

"Surely the next American president would want to reach out to our friends around the world, particular here in our own hemisphere," he said, specifically mentioning Colombia and Mexico. "We want to reach out to these people, re-establish our relationships and trust."

Obama was asked during a debate last week if he would meet - without precondition - with the leaders of Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Venezuela. The Illinois senator said he would.

Romney said he would not restore relations with Cuba until it had free elections, political prisoners were freed and individual rights were restored.

South Florida’s Venezuelan-American community holds far fewer votes than its Cuban-American counterpart. But it is growing, has cash and has a strong influence in South Florida’s Spanish-language airwaves. More than 80,000 Venezuelans live in Florida, roughly half of all Venezuelans in this country, according to the U.S. Census.

Romney said Chavez’s push to nationalize some Venezuelan industries has cooled international interest in Latin American investment, and the U.S. must show its commitment to the region.

"Following 9/11, we understandably focused our attention on the Middle East and have not paid enough attention to our interests in the region, our own hemisphere," he said.

Romney also spoke to veterans of the ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion at their small museum in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood and promised to seek out their intelligence expertise on Cuba if elected president.

But it wasn’t his foreign policy as much as his opposition to abortion and emphasis on family that supporters said they found attractive.

"Everyone talks about family values, but Romney has demonstrated them with his five sons and his long marriage," said Adam Roig, 51, who works in medical technology.

Meanwhile, both Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will miss a live national televised debate Sept. 17 sponsored by CNN.

As part of an arrangement with the video-sharing Web site YouTube, questions for the debate would come from the online video community, an element Romney seems uneasy about.

"I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman," Romney said earlier this week, referencing a Democratic event held in South Carolina on Monday that included a question about global warming from a snowman.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Donors pledge $400 mln to tackle poverty in Guinea

from Reuters

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Foreign donors have pledged more than $400 million to tackle poverty in Guinea, aimed at boosting electricity, sanitation, water and food supply in the West African country, the government said on Wednesday.

With the support of the World Bank and the European Union, Guinea organised a two-day donors conference in Paris, which ended on Wednesday, to raise funds for a four-year Poverty Reduction Strategy (SRP).

"Based on preliminary indications, financing pledges for the implementation of the SRP for 2007-2010 exceed $400 million," the government statement said.

"Certain partners have said they will consider providing further funding in the near future."

Guinea contains almost a third of the world's proven reserves of bauxite -- the raw material for aluminium -- but the majority of its people continue to live below the poverty line, amid economic mismanagement and high inflation.

A survey by Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked the former French colony as the most corrupt country in Africa last year.

Reclusive President Lansana Conte, who has ruled Guinea for 23 years, was forced to appoint a consensus prime minister after crippling general strikes by opposition unions earlier this year in which 137 people were killed.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lib Dems unveil anti-poverty plans

from the BBC

The Liberal Democrats have unveiled plans which they say would lift five million people out of "relative poverty" and end "dependency culture".

The party plans to introduce incentives for working, saving and studying.

It also says it wants to remove higher earners from the Tax Credits system and cut the number claiming means-tested benefits by 10 million by 2020.

The party promised to tackle "causes", rather than "symptoms", of the UK's "massive inequalities".

Labour's "spread of mass means-testing undermines incentives to work, save and even form stable families", Lib Dem children, schools and families spokesman David Laws said.

'National disgrace'

"Under Gordon Brown, Britain remains a society of massive inequalities of both income and opportunity.

"It is a national disgrace that Britain is the developed country where your chances in life are most dependent on your family background rather than your own abilities and hard work."

He also criticised the Conservatives under David Cameron for a "great leap backwards to the failed policies of Victorian Britain".

Mr Laws added: "The Liberal Democrat vision is of a society of genuine opportunity where, instead of treating the symptoms of inequality, we treat its causes - poor educational opportunities, unemployment, bad housing and unstable families."

The anti-poverty proposals included a "pupil premium" where £1.5bn extra would be targeted at children with the greatest need from the poorest backgrounds.

Tax credit reform

The Lib Dems also promised to reform tax credits, and raise Child Benefit by about £5 per family per week, which they said would take 150,000 children out of poverty

Job Centre Plus would be replaced with a new agency, called First Steps, which the Lib Dems said would be a "single one-stop-shop for all benefit and tax credit claims".

Other proposals are for employment support to be outsourced to the private and voluntary sectors and for a single working-age benefit to be introduced.

The Lib Dems say they would also immediately restore the earnings link to the basic state pension and eventually introduce a citizens' pension.

An Independent Commission on Public Sector Pensions would be established "to ensure that they are fair and affordable," the party added.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

N.Y. Kids in Terrible Poverty

from The New York Post


uly 26, 2007 -- One in 10 kids in the state live in extreme poverty, slightly higher than the national rate of 8 percent, according to a study released yesterday.

"The child-poverty rate didn't improve even though the economy supposedly got better," said Laura Beavers, one of the authors of the 2007 Kids Count study.

"It's the most widely unequal as it's ever been. People are working, but they're not making a lot of money."

One bright spot for New York was a decline in high-school dropout rates since 2000, the last year the survey was conducted.

The number of kids quitting the books dropped by 33 percent.

The state ranked 18th in the nation in the survey, which measures indicators like family income, high- school dropout numbers and low birth rates.

The study was conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore nonprofit group.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nobody should die of malaria, says Clinton

from the Daily News

FORMER US President Bill Clinton declared in Dar es Salaam yesterday that no person should die of malaria, the major tropical killer disease for which simple remedies exist.

Speaking at the launch of an Artemisinin based Combination Therapies (ACT) pilot programme, minutes after he arrived in the Tanzanian capital, Mr Clinton said the cost of drugs will be subsidised by 95 per cent to make even the poorest of the poor afford treatment.

“No one should die of malaria. We are here to save people from dying of malaria,” he insisted in an open address to thousands of people at Pugu Kajiungeni on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.

Contemporary America’s most iconic president turned philanthropist, Mr Clinton has formed the Clinton Foundation for HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) to combat the killer disease which has no cure, Tuberculosis and malaria.

The scheme could finally serve as a model for treating malaria in Africa as a whole, where people die basically of poverty and neglect. Malaria is caused by parasites carried by mosquitoes which in other parts of the world have been genetically altered not to transmit the disease.

An ACT dose sells for 300/- (dollars 25 cents) in government hospitals and dollars 10 (about 12,500/-) in private chemists, which is colossal amount for a majority of persons living under two dollars a day. The former president checked out drug prices for first hand experience from three pharmacies and said it was important to engage the private sector in the war against disease.

However, the programme will first be tried out in Maswa district, Shinyanga region and Kongwa district in Dodoma region. It was not immediately clear what criterion was used to pick the two districts.

Earlier, the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Professor David Mwakyusa, said an estimated 100,000 people died of malaria every year in Tanzania, most being pregnant women and under five children.The programme is a joint effort with the government of Tanzania, Population Services International (PSI) and receives support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Students push for Fair Trade products in Portsmouth

from the Portsmouth Herald News

By Susan Nolan

PORTSMOUTH — Two young "manufacturer's reps" will be canvassing the city over the next few weeks, seeking local businesses willing to stock Fair Trade Certified products.

Fair Trade products are those grown or created in third-world countries, for which the workers are paid a fair and living wage. Fair Trade products cut out the middleman and pays farmers and farm workers directly.

Alec Lager and his buddy Sam Bennett, of Eliot, Maine, both college juniors, said they hope to raise Portsmouth's awareness and to create a market for third-world farmers and artisans in the city.

The 2005 Marshwood High School graduates and lifelong friends began in May their mission to create a grassroots organization known as Fair Trade Portsmouth. They began by contacting Fair Trade Certified wholesalers, then put together a line of products — from Guatemalan coffee to Mayan textiles — that could be sold in local stores.

"It's the best kind of (manufacturer's) representative that you can be," said Bennett.

"The umbrella concept behind this is trade, not aid," said Lager.

Bennett agreed. "It's not giving aid. It's allowing them to get a foothold in the world market they would not otherwise have access to."

Both young men believe that Portsmouth is a city that will support the idea.

"There are high ethical standards here, and we feel that the social atmosphere in Portsmouth is really ripe for the introduction of Fair Trade products," said Lager.

Neither college student is making a cent from their mission. Instead, they are hoping to make a difference in the world. While their parents would have preferred them to have summer jobs like other college kids, both Bennett and Lager said their families have nonetheless been supportive.

"I am really thankful," said Bennett.

Their decision to bring Fair Trade products to the area came after each went off to college and realized they had been living in an idealistic "bubble" in the Portsmouth area. They each saw poverty for the first time, they said. For Lager, a Connecticut College student, it was during a biking trip through Thailand that made him realize how good he had it in the Portsmouth area.

For Bennett, it has been during his time at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., that has given him a good look at urban poverty, in the city that has poverty-stricken areas, he said.

The two received permission from the city last week to hold a Fair Trade sale and a jazz festival Aug. 18 on the Vaughn Mall, at which they will have $7,000 of consignment goods from third-world artisans and farmers. They will also show a movie on Fair Trade at the South Church on Aug. 10.

Bennett and Lager said they have created a Web site for Fair Trade Portsmouth but they found a pro-bono Web publication service to put it online. The Fair Trade Portsmouth site will name local businesses who are participating.

"We greatly value the progressive efforts that have long distinguished Portsmouth," said Bennett.

At a Glance

Fair Trade Portsmouth

Address: 270 Rollingwood Road, Eliot, Maine

Phone: 498-7392

e-mail: info@fairtradeportsmouth.org

WEB: www.transfairusa.org or



• Aug. 10 — "Black Gold" movie screening, South Church, 7:30 p.m.;

• Aug. 18 — Fair Trade World Craft Festival, Vaughn Mall, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.


• Spread the word about ethical consumerism.

• Ask for Fair Trade items where you shop.

• Donate: Help with events, rentals, advertising and fees.

Zambia Seeks to Alleviate Poverty Among Refugees

from the Voice of America

By Danstan Kaunda
Lusaka, Zambia

A project called the Zambian Initiative Development is alleviating poverty among refugees and communities near refugee camps. It has helped over 600 thousand people, some of them asylum seekers. VOA English to Africa’s Danstan Kaunda reports from Lusaka that Zambia is home to more than 120 thousand refugees from Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of these refugees fled their countries because of conflict.

The Zambia Initiative is funded by Denmark, Japan, Sweden and the United States. It’s designed to help not only refugees, but also the communities near the refugee camps.

The community benefits through rural infrastructure development, such as rehabilitation and construction of schools, health care centers and the training of farm extension officers.

The refugees themselves are trained in skills like carpentry, clothing design, crafts, food processing and natural resource management.

The Zambia Initiative has also helped remote health centers acquire ambulances and motorcycles.

Immanuel Mulenga is an official with the Zambia Red Cross Society, one of a number of NGOs offering training to about 40,000 refugees. He says, “The essence of educating these people [refugees] with skills is to make them useful so that when time comes for repatriation, they can be useful back home [country of origin] and could contribute to the reconstruction of their countries. We do not want to keep them here illiterate [and uneducated].”

Kelvin Shimo is an official with the UNHCR. He says it has started providing start-up funds to some refugees who have applied for resident status in Zambia, “Refugees here are involved in various income generating ventures. They are also in terms of micro-financing, which they [refugees] use in their small businesses. These income ventures [include] the selling of merchandise… Some have gone into agricultural produce, selling of tomatoes, onions, while others [refugees] are making art and crafts which they sell.”

In observance of this years’ World Refugee Day, some refugees took part in a weeklong arts and crafts exhibit in Lusaka where they sold their goods, including traditional hand-made crafts, pictures and clothing for both men and women.

Other crafts ranged from small hand-made baskets to garden seats made of woven fabric costing about $54 US.

Forty-seven-year-old Zampwena Babela of Congo was there. He is one of the few asylum seekers with a temporary work visa in Zambia. He says, “Some of the things [exhibited] here, I just buy from other people [refugees in the camps] because they lack money. And other things I buy from international traders who come from South Africa and other countries. And then, I re-sell them out at a profit.”

There are over 120,000 refugees in Zambia; about 75,000 are in camps, and the rest have been resettled within the country. More than 70,000 have also been resettled in their home countries.

Alabama's ranking falls in national Kids Count study

from Everything Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A national report on the health and well-being of children and teenagers shows Alabama's overall ranking declined.

The annual Kids Count report, released yesterday by Voices for Alabama's Children, measures each state's progress on ten statistics, including infant mortality, poverty rates, single-parent families, teen death rates and low birth weight babies.

The report ranks Alabama 48th this year — dropping five spot from its best ranking of 43rd last year.

The study said Alabama recorded increases in several categories including number of children living in poverty; the high school drop out rate; and the percentage of children living in poverty. However, the state did see a slight improvement in the teen birth rate.

Rural Poverty Reduction Gets a Major Boost

from All Africa

The Namibian (Windhoek)

By Absalom Shigwedha

A FOUR-YEAR project aimed at reducing poverty in rural areas was launched in Windhoek yesterday morning.

The project is a partnership between the Namibian Association of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations (Nacso) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).

It will be known as the Community-Based Natural Resource Management Enterprise Support Project (CESP).

The project aims to train 12 conservancies and community management groups in basic business management and tourism skills to help them manage their organisations in a professional manner.

The other objective will be to expand rural enterprises and create jobs by supporting existing businesses and nurturing new ones.

Launching the project yesterday, Environment and Tourism Minister Willem Konjore said it was important to focus on rural enterprises and conservancies, as they offer an ideal vehicle to support programmes addressing social problems.

"It is important that they have the required expertise and skills to make the necessary and constructive contribution to our economy," said Konjore.

The project is funded by VSO and the European Commission (EC) to the tune of 750 000 euros, while Nacso is the implementer.

The Head of the EC delegation to Namibia, Dr Elisabeth Pape, said the project would reinforce Government's Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme, through which rural communities benefit from natural resources in their areas in a sustainable manner.

She said although Namibia was blessed with unique wildlife and landscapes, they would be useless if people did not benefit from them.

Pape said if people were allowed to benefit from natural resources, they would have the will to preserve them.

The CESP project will cover all the regions except Khomas and will have 18 000 direct beneficiaries and 89 000 indirect beneficiaries.

Drought, disease, poverty hitting southern Africa

from Reuters

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Drought, AIDS and chronic poverty in the landlocked southern African states of Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe are putting hundreds of thousands at risk of hunger, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.

"You have got very severe drought in three countries, some of the worst harvests on record in Swaziland and an incredibly high levels of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho," John Holmes, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, told reporters.

"This is occurring on the basis of very vulnerable populations to start with," he said.

Carol Bellamy, the former director of UNICEF, the U.N. children's fund, in 2002 used the phrase "perfect storm" in relation to several southern Africa countries -- drought, environmental degradation, near starvation and AIDS sapping the strength of the working population.

Asked if the situation was approaching a "perfect storm" now, Holmes said, "You could say that," because there there was a triple threat in all three countries, who have suffered from poverty for years.

In Swaziland, with only 1 million people, a third of all people between 15 and 49 are afflicted with HIV/AIDS. The harvest is the worst ever, prompting the government in June to declare a national disaster.

Holmes said that more than 400,000 people in Swaziland will require humanitarian assistance, and requested $15.6 million in emergency assistance.

Lesotho earlier this month declared a food emergency and an appeal will be issued shortly, Holmes said.

The tiny country has experienced the most severe drought in the last 30 years, which slashed the corn harvest by more than 40 percent. More than 400,000 people, or a fifth of the population, need emergency food aid.

In Zimbabwe, where diplomats blame some of the disaster on the policies of its leader, Robert Mugabe, about half of the financial appeals have been fulfilled.

An earlier appeal for $253 million has drawn a response of $123 million with nearly $100 million donated by the United States, Holmes said.

Rate of Michigan kids in poverty rising fast

from The Lansing State Journal

Agencies trying to keep pace as economy declines

Nicole Geary and Susan Vela
Lansing State Journal

Angie Janes' three children weren't supposed to live in poverty.

But they ended up staying with friends and residing in hotels and shelters when their mother became homeless in 2005.

Sarah, 16; Daniel, 14; and Isaiah, 12, now are staying with their father in Grand Rapids while their mother struggles to get back on her feet, working two jobs and staying at a Lansing shelter.

Janes thinks they'll recover from the stress that comes with not knowing where their next meal will come from.

"We always had each other," she said.

Poverty is threatening the future of thousands of Michigan children.

Data from the 2007 Kids Count report, released today, show another year of dire financial conditions for the state's children, despite improvements in such areas as infant mortality and high school retention.

Michigan's child poverty rate rose three times faster than the national average between 2000 and 2005, or by 36 percent compared with 12 percent across the country.

The toll is becoming evident throughout mid-Michigan.

These days, more families need scholarships just to cover Boys & Girls Club annual memberships at $10 a child.

More than 400 kids turned to an Eaton County agency for help with shelter, school supplies or medical care last year.

And the Lansing School District served 532 homeless students during 2006-07, a leap from 180 three years ago.

The list continues as local agencies and schools see more young people living without the most basic needs, bearing the burden of Michigan's alarming childhood poverty trend.

"As the economic situation in Michigan deteriorates, so do families," said Carmen Turner, director of the Boys & Girls Club of Lansing.

She said at least three-quarters of the 1,500 young people who spend time at the southside recreational center qualify for free or reduced lunch prices during the school year. Five years ago, fewer than 70 percent did.

The majority of those children have single parents, Turner said. "They may be working, but they're so below the poverty line that they're affected tremendously."

Kids Count reports 19 percent of Michigan kids were in households earning incomes below the poverty line in 2005, the most recent data available, matching the nationwide average.

But that's compared with 14 percent in 2000. Only four other states experienced more dramatic increases in child poverty: Colorado, Maine, Nebraska and New Hampshire.

To put it in perspective, 36 percent more kids lived in families earning $19,806 or less, the federally established poverty line for two adults and two children in 2005.

That means bringing home a little more than $1,000 per month, then facing an average fair market rent of $685 before other expenses, according to Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Michigan project director for Kids Count.

'Desperate situation'

"It's a totally desperate situation," she said. "Families compensate in different ways."

Nonprofit leaders say those parents often move frequently and use public transportation.

They rely on food stamps, Medicaid and state-funded help with utility bills - Michigan's Department of Human Services now is assisting more people than it has in 27 years with dwindling resources, Deputy Director Jim Nye said.

More than anything, they get stressed.

Kids Count shows 35 percent of Michigan kids live in families in which no parent has full-time, year-round employment.

"It affects everything else for those children. You have more children who've lost hope and may turn to crime," said Barbara Roberts Mason, founder of Lansing's Black Child & Family Institute, which also offers more scholarships to keep troubled kids engaged in summer camps.

"Unless Michigan and our communities do more for families that are having problems, we're going to find more children falling through the cracks," she said.

Rural areas affected

Even in the more rural Eaton County, the SIREN/Eaton Shelter already has served about 187 children this year.

The number will quickly accelerate during the chillier fall months, officials said, when it's too cold to sleep outdoors.

And the economy isn't the only culprit.

What's disheartening for Executive Assistant Cindie Filko is the kids that she sees now are being raised by adults who also grew up without money or reliable shelter. She said the poor children that she works with today have a 30 percent chance of becoming homeless.

"Unfortunately, we haven't seen the cycle broken," Filko said. "It's still continuing from generation to generation."

Contact Nicole Geary at 377-1066 or ngeary@lsj.com. Contact Susan Vela at 702-4248 or svela@lsj.com.

Poverty in Country On the Retreat, Figures Show

from All Africa

Business Day (Johannesburg)

By Mariam Isa

POVERTY in SA declined strongly between 2002 and last year, official data showed yesterday, but analysts remain divided on whether the government will achieve its goal of halving the number of poor South Africans by 2014.

The ratio of households in which one child went hungry fell to 2,4% last year from 6,7% in 2002, while the ratio in which an adult went hungry fell to 2,5% from 6,9%, according to an annual survey from Statistics SA.

Other key living standard measures showed that the proportion of households with access to electricity, water, toilets and waste removal rose significantly during that period, backing evidence that conditions for SA's poor are improving.

"The findings suggest that, in terms of several of the main dimensions of poverty, the situation is likely to have improved over the period 2002 to 2006," said Stats SA.

Analysts said it was hard to say how many of SA's 47,9-million people were poor as the term was relative, depending on the threshold used, and there was no standard measure for SA .

In its February budget, the treasury said that it would introduce an official poverty line for SA this year, based on minimum food needs and essential items, in order to measure the extent and nature of poverty and to monitor the pace at which it was being reduced.

Stats SA is preparing figures with a monthly income of R322 as one proposed threshold, with a final report due in the third quarter of this year.

Rapid growth in social grants -- which had risen an average of nearly 20% over each of the past four years -- got most of the credit for reducing poverty , although employment growth had played a role, said analysts. Grants for old age, disability, foster care and child support amounted to R10,9bn last year. This is about 12% of the total spent by the government and reaches nearly 13% of the population.

"We've seen a strong decline in poverty since 2002, mostly driven by the social grant," said Servaas van der Berg, an economics professor at the University of Stellenbosch. "The jobs which have been created generally don't go to the poor -- there is a long queue for jobs and the poor are at the end of it." Depending on which measure was used, 30%-60% of South Africans were poor, he said.

Standard Bank group economist Goolam Ballim believes that the government will halve poverty and unemployment by 2014, if the economy continues to grow at the robust annual pace of 5% seen over each of the past three years.

"Government policies are working. T here is momentum, better funding and better processes behind service delivery ."

However, Van der Berg said it was unlikely official poverty and unemployment goals would be met by 2014, although he saw a chance if the economy sustained the pace of job creation seen over the past few years. " We will get close, but probably not make it."

Official figures show that about 1,5-million jobs were created in the past three years, but SA is still saddled with a jobless rate of more than 25%, one of the highest in the world.

The percentage of households that used electricity climbed to 81,3% last year from 75,6% in 2002, while the ratio of households with piped water rose to 71,3% from 66,1%, showed Stats SA's figures.

Rate of child poverty rising faster in Indiana

from The Indianapolis Star

Immigrant and single-parent families, joblessness contribute
By Tim Evans

The number of children living in poverty grew nearly twice as fast in Indiana as in the rest of the nation during the first half of this decade, according to a new report on the status of America's children.

From 2000 to 2005, the number of Hoosier children in poverty increased 21 percent, compared with just less than 12 percent nationally, according to the 2007 Kids Count report, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Indiana's increase was the 10th-largest jump among all states.
The report found that more than 272,000 Indiana children, or 17 percent of those younger than 18, lived in poverty. The national rate was 19 percent.

"We are moving in the wrong direction, and we need to find a way to turn that around," said Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and chief executive of the nonprofit Indiana Youth Institute, which worked on the report with the Casey foundation.

"Poverty crushes hope. Poverty crushes aspirations. And kids stop trying because they don't see the adults around them with good jobs, educations and opportunities."
Reasons for the increase cited in the report included:
• Nearly one-third of Hoosiers younger than 19 lived in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment, up 19 percent from 2000.

• Thirty percent of Indiana children lived in single-parent families, up 3 percent from 2000.

• The number of children in immigrant families increased 28 percent, and the poverty rate for those children was 21 percent.

Stanczykiewicz said those family factors are major contributors to the increasing number of children in poverty -- and help fuel a generational cycle that can be hard to escape.

"I'm not saying children in single-parent families are doomed, but there is a statistical correlation to the likelihood of them continuing to live in poverty as adults," he said.

Another factor in the state's growing child poverty rate, according to the Indiana Youth Institute, was the state's unemployment rate, which nearly doubled from 2000 to 2005.

The unemployment rate for Hoosiers with a college degree is about 2 percent, while the rate is nearly 10 percent for those with just a high school diploma.
"As we move into the 21st-century economy," Stanczykiewicz said, "people really need more and better education."

Community groups such as Hawthorne Community Center on the Westside and the Indiana Latino Institute are trying to help address the problem with programs that promote education, job training and financial literacy.

Since 2005, state officials have taken other steps to help low-income families, including beefing up efforts to collect child support and expanding state health insurance coverage for poor children.
Advocates, however, say more needs to be done.

"I think we are chipping away at the mountain, but we still have a long way to go," said state Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, who chairs the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee.

"There is no simple solution. We need more job training, more jobs and better pay, especially for women," Summers said. "We also need to expand the availability of affordable child care so that single parents can go to work knowing their children are safe."

In 2005, according to the Indiana Youth Institute, there were 311,655 children younger than 6 in Indiana whose parents had jobs.

However, institute data show, there were only 138,269 slots available for children in licensed child care -- meaning just one slot for every 2.25 children who needed care.
That has been a problem for Tracey Carter, 21, a single mother from Indianapolis who recently lost her housekeeping job because she couldn't find dependable child care.
"I feel like I'm kind of trapped in my situation," Carter said. "If I could get help, I could do better. But right now, I'm just living day to day and I'm struggling."
Carter said she plans to get into an employment program at the Martin Luther King Center but still faces a day-care obstacle.

"Most of the places I checked out had waiting lists, and it was really expensive, especially for a baby," she said. "To put my son in one of those, it would take up almost everything that I made."

Instead, Carter turned to neighbors and friends to watch the boy while she worked. But repeated problems caused her to miss work and, ultimately, to lose her job.
"I want to work. I want to be in a better position for myself and my son," she said. "But right now it's all I can do just to get by."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Another case of ‘baby sale’ comes to light

from The Statesman

AJPUR, July 23: A poverty-stricken distressed couple in Jajpur has allegedly sold their 20-day-old son to another issue-less couple last week, alleged local Congress leaders. If the allegation turns out to be true, it is second of its kind in the district in a span of fortnight

The couple, however, denied the charge and said they had not taken any money rather they had given their child to another couple. But sale or no sale, the glaring fact was the distress conditions and yet another case of the much hyped social security and food security measures not reaching the most needy people.

It, however, came to fore when Brahabarada zilla parishad member and local Congress leader Mr Bijay Kumar Das made the allegation yesterday.
This incident comes close on the heel of two similar cases in Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur earlier this month.

Directed by the district administration, a team of government officials, including Rasulpur block additional block development officer Mr Upendra Jena, revenue inspector of Banksahi circle Mr Sahadev Sahu and village level worker Mr Chaitanya Hasta met the couple today.

Sk Kamiruddin (37) and his wife Munifa Bibi of Maheswarpur village under Rasulpur block gave their fifth child to Alli Khan (40) and his wife Sohan Bibi (32) of Rekabi Bazar near Baruhan under Jajpur block.

But both the couples have denied of having any monetary transaction on the issue. “We haven’t sold our son. As we were reeling under acute poverty, we donated it to a couple who happens to be a distant relative of ours. We also have made a legal paper in the presence of some eminent persons of our village,” Kamiruddin and Munifa told this correspondent today.

According to the sarpanch of Maheswarpur grama panchayat, the couple has two daughters and two sons besides the newborn one. Sarpanch, Sk. Abula also said that the poverty-stricken couple donated their new-born baby for his better maintenance. Karimuddin, however, claims that no poverty alleviation scheme has reached him. “I am not even included in the BLP list and no Antadyoya card has been issued against my family. We are living in acute poverty and for which my sister is taking care of my elder son,” he told.

“It was not possible for us to maintain a newborn son along with other four children due to poverty,” said a dejected Munifa.

Refuting the allegation of child sale, ABDO Jena admitted that the couple has adopted the baby. “Muslim couple of Alli and Sohan have three daughters and they wanted a son. They also have made an agreement on a non-judicial paper,” he said.

Contacted, Jajpur collector Mr Sanjay Kumar Singh said: “It is not a case of child-sale. However further inquiry is being conducted and the details will be known on tomorrow. We will provide assistance to the couple as per government norms.”

Massive poverty alleviation campaign to involve multiple ministries

from The Jakarta Post

Desy Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As part of its effort to alleviate poverty, the government has launched a new program that is expected to be more successful than previous poverty eradication programs and will not "miss the proper targets".

The so-called Hopeful Family Program or PKH scheme, launched Monday, was designed by the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) and will be an inter-ministry program involving the Social Services Ministry, Health Ministry, Communication and Information Ministry and Education Ministry, as well as the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) and PT Pos Indonesia.

Under the PKH scheme, each family living under the poverty line with a monthly income less than Rp 151,997 (US$16.88) as set by the BPS, will receive direct cash aid of Rp 200,000 per year on top of health and education aid, totaling a minimum amount of Rp 600,000 and a maximum of Rp 2.2 million per year. The funds will be distributed through local post offices.

Seven provinces are to be targeted under the scheme: Jakarta, particularly North Jakarta, East Java, West Java, East Nusa Tenggara, Gorontalo, North Sulawesi and West Sumatra.

Social Services Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah said the program will be targeted at families expecting a new child or with children aged up to 15 years old.

"In the initial phase, the program will be aimed at 500,000 poor families in seven provinces with a budget of Rp 1 trillion," he said.

"Next year we will target an additional 200,000 families."

The seven provinces were selected due to several factors, including high levels of poverty, approvals from provincial administrations to undertake the program and the provinces' preparedness in terms of health and education facilities, he said.

To receive the aid, families should fulfill certain requirements, such as expectant mothers undergoing at least four medical check-ups during the maternity period.

Families with children aged less than one year should take their children to local community health centers to receive immunizations, while those with children aged seven to 15 years should ensure their children complete their education up to junior high school, with a minimum attendance level of 85 percent per year.

If families fail to meet the requirements, they will no longer receive aid. The Social Services Ministry will deploy monitoring teams to ensure aid goes to the right recipients.

Mbeki to push fight on poverty at 'lekgotla'

from The Independent On Line

By Moshoeshoe Monare

President Thabo Mbeki is expected to urge his colleagues to tackle the country's massive poverty problems.

This follows in the wake of the ANC national policy conference, with further impetus provided by the fact that Mbeki's presidential days are numbered.

His ministers, their deputies, premiers and directors-general should expect a no-nonsense and impatient president waiting for them at his guesthouse in Pretoria, where the July lekgotla is being held.

The waning of his patience has been prodded by the scale of poverty, criticism from the opposition and from the alliance about the insignificant dent his government has made on reducing poverty and unemployment. He is also anxious to preserve his legacy when he leaves office in 2009.

The July lekgotla is a week-long meeting to review the government's progress in its service-delivery programme. The ANC was given the mandate to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014.

It is believed that the main concern is the economic prosperity of the middle class while attempts to reduce poverty among the working class are not conspicuously successful.

Therefore, a comprehensive poverty programme and a direct intervention in the second economy, co-ordinated from the Presidency, are likely to take priority.

While the government and ANC rejected the Basic Income Grant, supported by Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mbeki's policy unit is spending sleepless nights trying to come up with a workable social security programme that will pull the unemployed and the poor into the mainstream economy.

Mbeki has since announced a R400-billion government outlay - aimed at infrastructure improvement and creating labour-intensive employment - at the launch of the ANC's elections manifesto last year.

However, so far Mbeki is frustrated by the hurdles that prevent his generous spending translating into prosperity and economic growth being shared particularly with the poor.

He has already shown his unhappiness with telecommunications parastatal Telkom, which has not moved much on reducing the cost of telephony, the main impediment to attracting investment and reducing the cost of doing business in South Africa.

And the performance of the department of trade and industry - crucial to the implementation of policies that would nudge shared growth - has not been too impressive.

Mbeki also expressed his unhappiness at last year's July lekgotla that the public works department, which is responsible for the labour-intensive infrastructure programme, was not effectively driving this programme and demanded a restructuring of the department.

This is crucial to his pet project announced in 2005, the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative, which is aimed at impacting on all economic activities to ensure that the targeted 6 percent GDP growth trickles down to the so-called second economy.

Poverty Key Hurdle for Education in Continent

from All Africa

The Nation (Nairobi)

Increased poverty in Africa is a major hindrance to the development of education systems, a regional workshop was told yesterday.

The seminar heard that most poverty reduction strategies developed by most governments only focused on access and quality of education by students but not the need to change teaching methods to counter increased poverty.

The result was that there was little information on what improving the teaching methods can do in the war on poverty, Mrs Christine Panchaud of Unesco's International Bureau of Education said.

"The specific links between the curriculum and poverty has been less explored in spite of various agreements between education specialists and their respective governments about their influence on improving the living conditions of communities," said Mrs Panchaud.

She said there was therefore an urgent need for countries to reorganise the curriculum geared towards enabling children from poverty stricken areas to learn the necessary skills that would improve their chances of prosperity.

She was speaking at a regional seminar on Poverty alleviation, HIV and Aids and Inclusive Education at a Nairobi hotel. "

The five-day seminar, organised by the Kenya Institute of Education in collaboration with Unesco's International Bureau of Education, drew participants from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.

This is the first meeting of its kind to be held in Kenya.

Mrs Panchaud said that instead of forcing students to adapt to the education system, efforts must be made to make the system to be able to adapt to the students needs.

Education Secretary Prof George Godia said curriculum development should be geared towards producing learners who are equipped with relevant skills for development.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mississippi's poverty a draw for politicians

from Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Edwards' visit last week only the most recent of many by national figures.

Associated Press Writer

When politicians want to talk about poverty, Mississippi, especially the Delta, has been a jumping off point.

In 1968, Democrat Robert Kennedy's 200-mile poverty tour included stops in Mississippi. The late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., came through in 1997, followed by President Bill Clinton in 1999.

The latest political figure to launch a poverty tour was Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. The former North Carolina senator said during stops last week in Canton and Marks that he wanted to shine a light on the nation's poor and find ways to end economic stagnation.

These tours reminded the nation, albeit briefly, about the persistent grip poverty has on Mississippi, where 19.9 percent of the population lives below the poverty level, several counties have unemployment rates in the double digits and substandard housing proliferates statewide. However, politicians focus on the Delta.

What tangible benefits has Mississippi reaped from these tours?

In 1999, Clinton pledged $15 million to the Mississippi Delta, part of $46.5 million in community development grants to bolster private investment.

Thanks to Clinton, the region earlier had received millions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives to attract industries. Those incentives led to the creation of some small to medium-sized businesses in the Delta, but big industry development is rare and farming remains the region's main employer.

Wellstone, a progressive Democrat who died in a 2002 plane crash, kicked off his 1997 tour in Tunica County, bringing a busload of news reporters and network television crews.

Again, the nation peered into the lives of poor Mississippians, a few of whom lacked bathrooms in their homes. But they also saw progress. Some residents were now living in three-bedroom homes instead of shacks as a result of good-paying jobs from the growing casino industry.

"A lot of times this notion about a poverty tour is really about raising awareness rather than producing a tangible policy benefit," said John Bruce, a political scientist at the University of Mississippi.

Bruce said this increased awareness can bring about new strategies over time, but "what comes out may be an unrecognizable product of what started."

Bruce said the tours of Wellstone and Edwards were perfect examples of raising awareness.

"(Barack) Obama and Hillary (Rodham Clinton) are being so careful they don't want to make a mistake, and being third, Edwards is able to speak out and make headlines," Bruce said, referring to the leading Democratic candidates for president.

Edwards stopped in Canton to listen to poultry plant workers, who complained about low wages and mistreatment by their employers. The workers, most of them Hispanic, said they had to live in dilapidated or rundown housing because that's all they could afford.

He then went to Quitman County in the Delta and heard a call for more jobs.

Edwards told both groups he wanted to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, provide universal health care and create a savings plan for the low-income.

If nothing else, Edwards gets credit for helping poverty emerge as a top issue in the Democratic campaign. Two days after Edwards' tour began, presidential hopeful Obama gave tackling the problems of poverty more prominence in his speeches.

Obama said his first step would be to attack urban poverty by expanding a New York City program that provides to an entire neighborhood training for expectant parents, early childhood education, and charter schools, among other services.

Obama said he would roll out his anti-poverty initiatives for rural areas in coming weeks, and though he's already stopped in Mississippi earlier this year, it's possible he'll swing this way again.

Women asylum seekers in UK suffer poverty, homelessness

from The Daily Times

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Women who have fled torture, rape and oppression abroad to seek asylum in Britain often end up destitute and homeless as they struggle with a government system geared up to send them back, writes Louise France in the Guardian.

Salima Sekindi, 37, fled Uganda after she was raped and tortured in front of her children when her husband was arrested for suspected involvement in rebel groups. A business friend of her husband’s paid an agent to take her to Britain six years ago. Her asylum case was rejected, and three times she was taken to the airport to leave, only for the decision to be changed on appeal at the last minute each time. Her destitution in Britain has meant she has often been homeless and hungry, and been exploited again. A man who offered her a room took advantage of her situation and she was raped again. “I had no choice,” she says.

Ivy, 41, fled Malawi five years ago with her daughter following threats of forced marriage to her brother-in-law after the death of her husband. She and her 20-year-old daughter sleep in a friend’s living room, hiding Ivy’s AIDS medicine from the friend, and must survive on a weekly handout from the Red Cross: a kilo of rice, a kilo of semolina, two apples, two potatoes and one bag of sugar. Her application to stay was turned down in 2005.

France writes that while Britain is often portrayed as “deluged with migrants”, the number of people applying for asylum has dropped by 24 percent. Most, according to The Destitution Trap, a recent report by Refugee Action, “arrive here through chance, not choice, and most do not understand what seeking asylum means”. The vast majority of asylum seekers who apply to stay in Britain are rejected.

About a third of all asylum seekers are female, yet campaigners argue that the 1951UN Convention on Refugees does not take into account women’s experiences. It states that “a person may be recognised as a refugee owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”. Crucially it misses out the word gender.

Deborah Singer, co-ordinator of the Refugee Women’s Resource Project at Asylum Aid, explains why this is significant: “The convention was written over 50 years ago, during the Cold War, when the classic image of a refugee was a white man crossing over to the west from behind the Iron Curtain. The idea that a refugee might be a black woman from Africa was unheard of.” Thus widely recognised forms of oppression such as rape, or forced marriage, or female genital mutilation are not strictly recognised by the guidelines.

“The sorts of persecution women are fleeing from are the kind a British woman would be protected from,” says Singer. “The criminal justice system has come a long way in treating victims of rape and domestic violence. But if you’re a female asylum seeker looking for the same kind of understanding, you won’t find it.” Many of the women are too scared or shy or traumatised to disclose crimes such as rape. “This is a recognised common pattern among British rape victims,” says Singer, “but these women are expected to talk to an official as soon as they arrive.”

According to Home Office statistics there is a maximum of 283,500 refused asylum seekers in Britain. Unofficial estimates from Amnesty International suggest the figure could be almost double. The New Asylum Model, introduced in April, aims to speed up the process of 90 per cent of applications to six months by 2011. However, there is a substantial backlog of cases and at the current rate of removal it will take at least 14 years to catch up, at a cost of £11,000 per person.

Prior to 2002, asylum seekers were usually barred from working for the first six months while their asylum application was being considered, but after that they could apply for the restriction to be lifted. This is no longer the case. Campaigners suspect that because the government cannot afford to remove all refused asylum seekers it is resorting to making them destitute to get rid of them.

In theory, some refused asylum seekers can obtain ‘Section 4’ shelter and £35 worth of weekly food vouchers - provided they sign up to returning to their countries of origin. In practice, many are not eligible and others choose not to apply for it, seeing it as a ploy to force them to return. Either way, say asylum seekers and charity workers, the support is meagre and hard to access.

Destitution means sleeping in telephone boxes, church porticos, on friends’ floors or on the back seat of the night bus, going hungry or relying on a weekly bag of provisions handed out by charities. Rejected asylum seekers have access to emergency healthcare only, despite the fact that many have illnesses as the result of torture. Some women are handed a bill after giving birth, a bill they have no hope of paying.

Poverty meet rejects panel's methods

from The Times of India

PATNA: The international seminar on poverty on Sunday rejected the Planning Commission method for estimating poverty. It called for reconsideration of the “inherent methodological flaws” in identification of poor households and also favoured the National Development Council (NDC) meet to consider the issue of poverty.

The outcome of the three-day seminar titled “Revisiting the Poverty Issues: Measurement, Identification and Eradication,” was a Patna Consensus agreed upon by the eminent academicians and policy-makers from different research institutions from both in and outside India.

There was a consensus on the point that the 13-Criteria to be adopted for the (below poverty line) BPL census has serious flaws and that both national and state-level estimation methodology should be reconsidered.

“Errors of the present methods pass on the burden of these flaws on the poor through wrongful exclusion of the poor and wrongful inclusion of the non-poor, and even the rich. This cannot be accepted ethically or politically,” the consensus paper said. It suggested that too rigid application of the present methods would penalise the poor and the poorer states.

This is particularly so where state-level BPL census arrives at a percentage of the number of the poor getting the lowest possible score in the 13-Criterion formula that is higher than the official estimate of poverty.

The conference also reviewed issues pertaining to the identification, design, implementation and outcome of various anti poverty strategies and programmes highlighting gaps and key areas of concern. In this context, the conference welcomed an unofficial communication that CM Nitish Kumar had readily agreed to support a social audit - to be conducted independently through a civil society initiative - of the operation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Bihar.

Expressing satisfaction over the conclusions and results of the seminar, Nitish said it will help prepare a new roadmap for the poverty eradication campaign with universal programmes and inclusive growth strategy. “The government will adopt the suggested methodology and recommendations,” he said adding that steps have already been initiated for income and expenditure growth and dignity of the poor.

Deputy Chairman of State Planing Board N K Singh told TOI that since many top academicians and policy-makers are involved in authoring Patna consensus, the centre would be under tremendous pressure to consider the points. He also said the allocation of facilities on the basis of household survey should be made by the Centre as denial of these facilities to them would be a great injustice. “The poverty identification fallacies must be removed,” he added.