Friday, October 31, 2008

Agricultural season fails in Zimbabwe

I can't seem to find this story anywhere else, but the website Gant Daily has the following about Zimbabwe:

Amnesty International is alarmed over the risk of extreme hunger in Zimbabwe after a failed agricultural season. The economic difficulty of Zimbabweans is worsened by the ongoing political crisis in the country.

AI pointed out most of the victims of political violence after the March elections were subsistence farmers. Some became crippled because of secret police beatings that left them too weak to work in the fields. The bulk of the violent incidents were made by state security forces, AI said.

Simeon Mawanza, Zimbabwe researcher of AI, told BBC, "Every day that passes without a political solution, the living conditions for ordinary Zimbabweans become more and more desperate... If we think the food situation in Zimbabwe is bad now, just wait until the end of this year, when half of the popularity is likely to need aid."

Another threat to the country is a cholera outbreak after its first victim from Harare died Thursday, while 20 other natives were hospitalized. Outside the capital city, 27 people have died from cholera, a highly infectious intestinal ailment spread by bad food and water.

Taxing the earnings of the developmentally disabled

The province of Ontario has been working on ways to alleviate poverty despite tough economic times. But government admits it may slow down the work.

In looking into ways that government policies can be changed to eliminate poverty. A group has decried a government policy to tax the earnings of the developmentally disabled who find work. Also, half of the unemployed benefits are taken back.

As the Canadian Press reports, Liberal party leaders say these taxes condemn the developmentally disabled to a life of poverty.

The government takes back half the earnings of disabled people who find a job while collecting up to $999 a month under Ontario's disability support program, said NDP critic Michael Prue. The disabled have a hard enough time finding work that pays a decent wage without being punished for trying to better their lives, he said.

"We find this heinous," Prue said.

"What in effect it does, is it said that if you are born with a developmental disability, you for all times are destined to poverty - there's no way out."

Those who receive the benefit actually receive an additional $100 a month if they find work, said Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews.

But the province deducts 50 cents from the monthly benefit for every dollar the recipient earns, she said.

"It's not a pension, like if you have a disability, you'll get it," Matthews said.

"It's a needs-based program, so there are asset tests and so on."


Of the nearly 250,000 people receiving assistance under the Ontario Disability Support Program, about 28,000, or 11 per cent, had employment earnings, up from eight per cent, or 16,273, in 2003, said Thomas Chanzy. About 41,500 recipients have a developmental disability.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A commentary on what comes after the year 2015

A lot of focus is put on the year 2015, because that is the year that the Millennium Development Goals were supposed to be met. But, were at the half way point from the millennium and most of the goals are not half way to achievement.

So it's clear that the work is going to continue well beyond the year 2015. What is the world going to do at that point?

We came across a good commentary that addresses this issue in The Guatemala News. The commentary was written by Jean-Michel Severino who works as CEO of the French Development Agency.

It is now halfway to the target date of 2015 for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - the ambitious blueprint, backed by the entire development community, for development in the world's poorest countries. In the wake of the global financial crisis, which is about to hit the developing world, it is time to ask the right questions about the international community's commitment to achieving these goals.

Sadly, we know that most countries will not meet the objectives by 2015. And the global food and financial crises threaten to stymie recent progress. If the global poverty reduction target is met, it will be due to high growth in emerging countries such as China or India rather than to a decline in absolute poverty in the neediest countries.

This is worrisome, because it is a symptom of two more significant ills. First, the international community seems to be suffering from schizophrenia: whereas all countries solemnly affirmed their commitment to the MDGs, few have provided the means to achieve them. The reality is that aid increased only slightly over the 2000-2006 period: because of massive debt write-offs, the substantial increase in official development assistance did not translate into new and available funds on the ground.

The MDGs were meant to help international solidarity move from a logic of inputs (how much aid do we give?) to one of outputs (what concrete impact are we aiming for?). But with deliverable aid levels remaining practically constant, and given strong population growth, notably in Africa, the international community has not given itself sufficient means to reach its ambitious targets.

Second, this poor performance shows how short-sighted the international community can be. Global responsibility to assist developing nations goes far beyond the MDGs - in both time and scale. The pace of sustainable development is necessarily slow. In areas such as health or education, the acceleration needed to meet the targets in many countries would be faster than anything we have witnessed in history. While more action is needed to accelerate progress, a failure to achieve the MDGs by 2015 would not mean that they are worthless, or that aid is inefficient. Achieving these goals is an important step on the slow path to lasting development.

Thus, by focusing on the (arbitrary) date of 2015, we fail to perceive the fundamental change that the MDGs represent. By aiming for targets that are far out of reach of the poorest countries' public finances, the international community has agreed to substitute itself for those states in providing essential social services through long-term financial transfers.

The current global inequalities in living standards are close to those that existed within our own societies over a century ago. Globalization has generated a new global market, but also global risks that beg for collective management. No single economic space has ever been created without the parallel establishment of solidarity mechanisms to handle these risks and care for those left behind.

Paying to get married when you are already broke

Bangladesh has a practice of a marriage dowry. In order to have their daughter get married, a family will pay money to the family with the prospective husband. The dowry is illegal in Bangladesh, but is still widely practiced.

A new study was conducted to determine the causing factors of poverty in Bangladesh. A release on the study was found on the website Science Daily.

The research found that those households with lower levels of education, that owned less land, had fewer assets and had many young children and elderly relatives, faced the most difficulty in escaping poverty.

The custom of paying a dowry to the future husband’s family when a daughter is married is illegal in Bangladesh, but is still practised by most families living in rural areas. Payment is normally upwards from 20,000 Taka (around £190 or $313 U.S.) and since typical earnings are only 100 Taka (94 pence) per day, this can be a major contributor to poverty for many families with daughters.

Dr Davis found that medical expenses involved in the care of elderly relatives were also a common issue for families living in poverty.

“Some families face a ‘double whammy’, having to pay wedding expenses and dowry for their daughters at the same time in life when elderly relatives are needing more expensive medical care,” said Dr Davis, who spent several months in the country training and working with researchers from DATA Bangladesh to conduct interviews with families for the study.

“Measures such as improving education, employment and health services could play a really significant role in alleviating poverty in these families.

“The government in Bangladesh has already taken positive steps in increasing the enrollment of girls in schools, which should decrease the practice of giving and demanding dowry.”

World Vision evacuates from Eastern Congo

With rebels approaching the city of Goma, World Vision staff fled the city to the Rwandan border. The staff there say the fighting is making a desperate humanitarian situation much worse. They are demanding that fighting stop and to be given safe access to the people in need.

As noted in the World Vision press release, while the workers in Goma made it, another city staff is being sheltered by the UN.

World Vision's Emergency Communications Advisor Michael Arunga reports from the calm but crowded Rwandan border that a group of eight international World Vision staff have arrived there safely after a high-speed drive from Goma tonight. Another dozen or so World Vision Congolese staff have returned to their families in Goma.

"We heard sounds of gunfire and witnessed scenes of panic near World Vision's Goma office, not long after the United Nation's OCHA issued an advisory this morning on the growing insecurity in Goma," Arunga added.

In addition, some 18 World Vision staff in Rutshuru a town about 70 km (44 miles) north of Goma that was overrun by rebels yesterday are currently being sheltered in a local compound of the UN peacekeeping force MONUC, after plans to evacuate them from the town failed yesterday.

Heavy fighting is being reported within about 6 miles of Goma, with small arms fire along one of two main roads leading out of town. Reports say that rebel forces are advancing on Goma and threatening to overwhelm government troops and a 17,000-strong UN force deployed to halt a return to all-out war.

"We were forced to evacuate given the mounting dangers posed to our staff on the ground," explained Dr. Wilfred Mlay, World Vision's Africa vice president, "But we remain very concerned about the humanitarian crisis faced by people in Goma and Rutshuru. We call on the international community to do all it can to ensure their safety, along with an immediate ceasefire that will allow full access to civilians by humanitarian agencies, including World Vision."

How the global credit crisis is effecting Cambodia

The global credit crisis seems to effect the fortunes of developing nations in two ways. First, aid to those countries decrease. For countries like Cambodia, they depend on aid to meet their government budgets. Later, export sales will slow down. As the rich countries who were hit hard by the credit crisis will have less money to buy goods from the developed world.

Cambodia has had a respectable growth rate in recent years. However, the country has a steep inflation rate of 25%.

As found in the Phnom Penh Post, government officials explained why the credit crisis will keep them from sustaining their growth this year.

GLOBAL financial turmoil and rising domestic inflation likely will keep Cambodia from reaching its poverty-reduction target this year, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh has said, adding that a worsening economy has pushed more Cambodians below the poverty line.

"Every year we have been able to lower poverty by one percent, but the global financial crisis could affect this," Cham Prasidh said.

While Cambodia continues to post impressive economic growth estimated at around 6.5 percent, roughly a third of the population are still living on less than US$1 a day.

Cham Prasidh, speaking Tuesday at a gathering of industry and trade officials, said that one percent of Cambodians - around 140,000 people - have fallen below the poverty line this year.

However, the Asian Development Bank, in an update of its 2008 economic outlook assessment released in September, presented a dramatically higher figure, saying, "preliminary evidence suggests that as many as two million people may have slipped below the poverty line, in addition to 4.5 million already in poverty".

Some officials fear the global market turmoil could impact the ability of donors to continue doling out massive aid packages to poor nations like Cambodia, which depends on international funds for a significant percentage of its national budget.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Clinton Global Initiative heads to Hong Kong

There's a meeting here, a meeting there. We tell you about quite a few meetings on the News Blog.

But most of these meetings are a lot of talk and no action. Sometimes there is a pledge for action, but no one is held to their pledge. We are seeing that all too clearly now.

Former US President Bill Clinton had that same frustration while he served as President. That's why with his Clinton Global Initiative the meetings go a step further.

Clinton insists that no one attend the meetings unless they pledge to aid the poor. If that promise isn't kept, they cant come back for the next meeting.

After years of holding Global Initiative talks in New York, they now expand to Asia. Reuters Michelle Nichols details a press conference that the former President held to announce the Hong Kong meeting.

Bill Clinton says the global financial crisis likely will hurt fundraising at his first philanthropic summit in Asia, but the former U.S. president still hopes to encourage a culture of giving in the region.

His Clinton Global Initiative is a summit that gathers heads of state, celebrities, business leaders and humanitarians in a bid to tackle issues of poverty, energy and climate change, healthcare and education.

Four annual meetings have been held so far in New York where nearly 1,200 pledges have been made to take action worth $46 billion aimed at improving more than 200 million lives in 150 countries.

While continuing to hold annual meetings in New York, the initiative is also branching out to Asia and will hold a summit in Hong Kong on December 2-3 to address the region's problems in education, energy and climate change and public health.

"Yes there will be some problems with the economy probably, but I hope that the exercise will serve to swell the ranks of nongovernmental action throughout Asia," Clinton told a news teleconference.

"It may cut down on how much money we can raise but I'm not so concerned about that right now," he said. "The main thing I am trying to do is increase this feeling of civil society."

An anti-poverty document unveiled in South Africa

South Africa is still trying to press on with poverty elimination. A series of meetings are going on now to come up with the governments strategy.

The South African government unveiled a new strategy document that provides plans to work on.

The South African newspaper theIndependent On-Line did a good job of detailing what the paper says.

Central to this is ending intergenerational poverty through improving the economic situation of households.

Critical elements of this includes maintaining overall economic growth, including through substantial investment in economic infrastructure and appropriate fiscal and monetary policies.

Government support will be targeted at measures to create economic opportunities on a mass scale, including through land reform and agrarian development, support for growth in sustainable, labour-intensive formal activities, and a substantial expansion in public employment schemes.

Thirdly, measures will be instituted to enhance the incomes in cash and kind earned from informal activities, the bulk of which takes place in agriculture, retail and services.

Interventions include expanding opportunities for employment and self-employment, providing quality education and skills and health care, promoting access to assets, including social capital, and promoting social cohesion.

Leaders tried their best to get everyone in on the act today. With sppeches aimed to remind everyone that a group effort is needed to reduce poverty. Deputy President Baleka Mbete was quoted by the South African paper The Times.

"What we are saying is that while government accepts the responsibility to address poverty in our country, it cannot on its own be able to achieve the eradication of poverty without the help of other players in society," said Mbete.

She was speaking at government’s draft anti-poverty strategy meeting held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The discussion document aims to eradicate poverty by creating economic opportunities and enabling communities and individuals to access these.

She said one of things government realised was the need to address problems facing particular groups in society like women and the youth.

Mbete called on all South Africans including civil society and business to get involved in empowering the poor and getting them involved in the economy.

Analysis of state income taxes on families in poverty

For many years, the federal government here in the states has not charged income tax to families in poverty. But about half of the states still do charge income tax to single parent families.

One of our favorite think tanks the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a dizzying array of stats and figures, so I will let them hand them to you in our snippet.

But let's highlight the point of all this. Not charging income taxes to those in poverty will help them get out of it. Also, it will make finding work more appealing. If they don't have income taxes, it will help offset the other costs of work, such as daycare or gas.

Some states levy income tax on working families in severe poverty. Nine states — Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and West Virginia — tax the income of two-parent families of four earning less than three-quarters of the poverty line ($15,902). And six states — Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, and West Virginia —tax the income of one-parent families of three earning less than three-quarters of the poverty line ($12,398).

In some states, families living in poverty face income tax bills of several hundred dollars. A two-parent family of four in Alabama with income at the poverty line owes $423 in income tax, while such a family owes $409 in Hawaii, $325 in Oregon, and $258 in West Virginia. Such amounts can make a big difference to a family struggling to escape poverty. Other states levying tax of more than $200 on families with poverty-level incomes include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Montana. At the other end of the spectrum, a growing number of states offer significant refunds to low-income working families, primarily through Earned Income Tax Credits.

Between 2006 and 2007, states’ tax treatment of poor families improved in a number of states, but worsened in others. Twelve states implemented measures to shield more low-income families from the income tax or to reduce the taxes they owe. Alabama, Arkansas, New Jersey, and West Virginia — which in 2006 levied some of the highest taxes on low-income families — made major improvements in 2007.

Unfortunately, a number of other states increased income taxes on poor families, though by smaller amounts. The reason for these tax increases is that provisions designed to protect low-income families from taxation — including standard deductions, personal exemptions, and low-income credits — were not increased to keep up with inflation.

Future years are set to bring continued improvement. A number of states have enacted reforms that will reduce taxes on low-income families in the near future. Between 2008 and 2010, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia each will improve their income tax treatment of the poor. If these changes were in effect in 2007, the number of states taxing poor families of four would have been 15 rather than 18, and the number taxing poor families of three would have been 11 rather than 15.

States seeking to reduce or eliminate income taxes on low-income families can choose from an array of mechanisms to do so. These mechanisms include state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) and other low-income tax credits, no-tax floors, and personal exemptions and standard deductions that are adequate to shield poverty-level income from taxation. Some states go beyond exempting poor families from income tax by making their EITCs or other low-income credits refundable. These policies provide a substantial income supplement to families struggling to escape poverty, and they are relatively inexpensive to states, since these families have little income to tax.

The link to the full study can be found here.

Food price inflation causing 'devastation' across Asia

A new study confirms the effect of increasing food prices in Asia. In fact, the authors of this report say it is "devastating" the continent.

Experts from universities in Britain and India, as well as officials from the United Nations authored the report.

They say that rising prices of rice and wheat are slowing the economy of Asia. The rising prices are also increasing the income inequality in the continent. This could cause social unrest and will increase the numbers who are starving by 3 billion people.

India ENews provides the following quotes and stats from the study:

"Food price inflation is the most regressive of all taxes and is causing devastation across the whole continent of Asia," said Katsushi Imai of the University of Manchester's Brooks World Poverty Institute.

"Rising food prices have played an important role in the acceleration of inflation across Asia and the Pacific region during 2007, and especially during the early months of 2008.

"This has important effects on people's lives in terms of basic subsistence and it's the poorest, the landless and women, who suffer the most.'

He said that the most extreme effect is on malnutrition: according to new World Bank figures, the malnourished will increase by 44 million to 967 million people by the end of 2008 - and that is largely down to food price inflation.

The team says rising global per capita incomes, increasing demand for meat and dairy products and developing food markets have resulted in global demand outpacing domestic production capacity.

The team recommended a review of World Trade Organization rules on trade barriers; a re-examination of subsidies and tariff protection of biofuel production in light of their effects on food security; and regional procurement of food aid by government agencies to reduce transportation costs and boost local agricultural markets.

The annual Jeffrey Sachs student lecture aimed at rich nations

Every year Jeffrey Sachs presents an annual lecture for the student body of Columbia University. Sachs is a professor at Columbia and directs the University's Earth Institute and it's Millennium Villages project. The villages are a sort of test lab for how to pull people out of poverty.

Jeffrey Sachs used this years student lecture to lament the fact that the rich nations are not hearing the cries of the poor, and the millions of people who stand up for them. He especially singled out the Bush administration.

The Columbia Spectator's Maureen Stimola reports that Sachs says that people in the Villages cannot escape poverty without aid.

Sachs stressed the need for more outside intervention. A major difficulty, he said, is the “poverty trap,” a phenomenon brought on by extended periods of extremely low productivity. Villagers often cannot escape the “trap” without aid.

But with five years of “investment, investment, investment, and community involvement with a holistic approach,” a base of economic productivity can form, he said. The following five years will be devoted to institutionalizing the project, and involving villages in business on a larger commercial scale.

Sach’s concerns come at a time when the project is entering what he calls a “critical, big-money phase.”

“Highly cost-effective solutions are abound,” Sachs said, “but the poorest of the poor can’t afford them, and the richest of the rich are often blind to them.”

Even so, the effects of the initial investments are already evident.

In the 12 existing Millennium Villages, locals have seen a rapid increase in agricultural productivity. Relatively low-cost bed nets have effectively stalled the spread of malaria. And with the advent of these successes, Sachs said they are arriving at the second phase of the project.

Sachs predicted that with more extensive “official aid” from economically successful nations, such as current sponsors Japan, Korea, and Norway, the project will be able to reach a level of self-sustainability.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A new method to measure poverty

Methods to measure poverty usually just take into account what people spend or earn. But Nicky Pouw has developed a different method to measure poverty.

Pouw a researcher based in the Netherlands, uses what people own instead of what their earn to measure poverty. They hope this measurement can help predict food shortages accurately.

Here is how a story in Phys Org explains the new methodology:

Development planners and policymakers in developing countries need accurate information about the poverty of the population. The risk of food shortages or other poverty-related problems is an ever present threat. This is certainly the case in rural Uganda where there is a lot of poverty among smallholder farmers. However, the usual method of assessing poverty in terms of expenditure often fails to work here, as the farmers frequently produce for their own consumption.

Therefore in order to make statements about the economic status of the population in these regions, Pouw developed a method for measuring possessions instead of expenditure. She itemised the different categories of possessions in the rural areas of Kabarole, Mpigi and Kapchorwa. In this system each category has its own hierarchy. For example, in the case of sustainable household goods, the priority of most households is the acquisition of basic goods such as chairs, a table, a bed, blankets and a mattress. The more luxury goods such as a fridge, TV or car are only acquired once the basic needs have been met. Pouw applied a similar highlighting to the other categories, namely clothing, housing quality, food consumption, land ownership, agricultural equipment and livestock.

Some differences were observed in terms of what people consider to be valuable. For example, female farmers were found to attach more value to certain agricultural equipment than male farmers and some Ugandan cultures consider it inappropriate for a woman to own a bike. In addition, the most important basic requirements were equally spread over the three regions, with firstly the welfare characteristic sustainable possessions, followed by agricultural equipment and thirdly clothing.

The research did a lot to clarify the type of poverty that prevailed in the regions concerned. Whereas in Kapchorwa district the farmers mainly suffered from a shortage in housing, land and sustainable possessions, people in Kabarole had relatively little clothing and in Mpigi there was a relative deprivation in food consumption. This type of information can be of immediate importance for development planners and policymakers at the district level. It reveals the most pressing problems in a given area at a certain moment in time. For example, the information about food consumption can be used as an early warning system for food uncertainty. As soon as households only have maize and beans to eat, this can be a sign of imminent food shortages.

Kenya fails to resettle citizens after election violence

A report that comes a human rights group says that Kenya is doing a poor job in resettling people who were displaced after violence.

Riots broke out earlier this year after Kenya' election. Over 283,000 people had to flee their homes due to the violence. 80 percent of those people still live in the refugee camps.

However, the government of Kenya says that only 5,000 people remain in camps, and they are being taken care of.

According to the Associated Press' Tom Odula, the background over the current state of Kenya's displaced is a storied one. Our snippet comes from the Oregon Live.

In May, the government began its resettlement program following a power-sharing deal President Mwai Kibaki signed with his then rival, Raila Odinga, to end the violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives. Odinga became prime minister under the deal.

Deep divisions over poverty, land, ethnicity and other issues became exposed during the postelection violence and saw businesses lose up to $1 billion. The tourism sector, a key foreign exchange earner for Kenya, saw reservations plummet within days.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission report said there are allegations of corruption in a compensation program for the displaced people and that the government is trying to force people out of the camps by blocking aid agencies from reaching them.

The human rights group prepared the report after five months of research and monitoring the government program. Other organizations have also said the government has downplayed the number of people in the camps and closed many camps irrespective of whether people are ready to return to their homes.

The government has constantly denied this.

Poverty summit for Illinois

A summit has been called in Illinois by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The first "Illinois Poverty Summit" will talk about ways to help the people of the state out of poverty.

Earlier this year, Governor Blagojevich signed a law that created a state poverty commission. The commission is charged with creating a plan that will reduce poverty in the state by 50 percent.

In told in this article, found in the Lincoln Daily News the summit hopes to kick the commissions work into high gear.

As part of the ongoing effort to help Illinoisans through the tough economic times, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced Monday that his administration will convene the first Illinois Poverty Summit, entitled "Opportunities for Change: Taking Action to End Extreme Poverty in Illinois," on Dec. 9 and 10. The summit will be hosted in partnership with Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research in Evanston. People interested in attending the summit can register online at

The summit, co-sponsored by the Illinois Department of Human Services and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights and hosted with Northwestern University, will bring together leaders and advocates to develop recommendations to bring about a substantive decrease in the numbers of Illinoisans living in extreme poverty.

"With the tough economic times, many families are now in crisis; those in extreme poverty live their daily lives in crisis," Blagojevich said. "The Illinois Poverty Summit will be a positive turning point with regard to the levels of extreme poverty in Illinois."

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, who has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for over 30 years, will serve as keynote speaker in the summit’s opening plenary session. She is the author of the No. 1 New York Times best-seller "The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours" and has released her new book, "The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation." She is also the winner of many awards for her work, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, a Heinz Award and a Niebuhr Award. In 2000, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings.

Capping the minimum wage in Indonesia

The Indonesian government has made a move that could raise the numbers in poverty.

Australian radio reports that the minimum wage in Indonesia has been capped at a rate less than inflation.

The cap is at 6 percent while inflation in the country is expected to be 10 percent.

As the Australian Network notes, industry applauds the move while trade unions are not so sure.

There's concern poverty will rise in Indonesia after the Government decided to cap minimum wage increases to less than inflation.

Radio Australia's Karon Snowdon reports that wage increases for the lowest paid have been capped at six per cent instead of the usual compensation for inflation which is running at about ten per cent.

The national government has set the maximum in the face of the slowing global economy.

The move has been welcomed by industry groups and some but not all trade unions as a way to prevent job losses.

The International Labour Organisation's Director for Indonesia, Alan Boulton says continuing high inflation will cause hardship.

"It could cause quite a lot of people living on a dollar or two dollars a day to fall below poverty lines," he said."

Urging Tanzania to fight corruption

There almost seems to be a direct link between corruption and poverty. We say almost because, we don't know if it's been conclusively proven. But government corruption does slow down economic growth, as it puts money in the pockets of thieves instead of going to help people.

A good place to go to see who has a lot of corruption and who doesn't is the Global Corruption index from Transparency International. Their latest report came out earlier this month. No country is completely free of corruption.

A leader for the Millennium Challenge Corporation went on the record to challenge the corruption in Tanzania. IPP media recorded the statement.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Resident Country Director Karl Fickenscher has challenged the Tanzanian government to seriously fight corruption if ``is seriously committed to reducing poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth.``

Fickenscher says the commitment in fighting corruption in the country ``should be very clear to the leadership in power.``

``If Tanzania's political leadership is seriously committed to reducing poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth, then it must also show its clear commitment to fighting corruption,`` said the MCC Resident Country Director.

Fickenscher said the American people, through the MCC were proud to join with Tanzanians who believe that controlling corruption is an essential prerequisite to building long-term prosperity.

``We know all too well how corruption can undermine poverty reduction and cripple economic growth. It drains funds away from health and education, discourages investment and business development, and reduces confidence in public institutions,`` said the MCC country head, adding:

``Corruption harms development, diverts monies away from much-needed schools, roads, and health clinics. Businesses bear extra costs, undermining their profitability and limiting the number of jobs they can create.``

Monday, October 27, 2008

UN pulls sponsorship from a film about the MDG's

A film that compiles different stories about each of the Millennium Development Goals is making film festivals now. The film premiered in Rome last Thursday.

The film titled '8' gathers eight different film-makers to do a story on a different MDG.

The film is premiering with a little controversy. The United Nations originally planned to sponsor the film, but has now withdrawn it's support.

The withdrawal is due to concern with a story that the UN fears may be insulting to Islam.

News 24 reports on what the story depicts, and why it caused the UN worry.

But it is Indian director Mira Nair's take on gender equality that sparked a row with the United Nations Development Programme, which eventually withdrew its support from the project.

Nair's short film portrays a Muslim woman living in New York who decides to leave her husband and young son because she is in love with a married man.

"In April 2008, the UNDP came to us and demanded that we pull Mira Nair's film or they would withdraw their logo from the project. They said it risked insulting Islam," French producer Marc Oberon said after a press screening in Rome.

"We decided we could not take it out, so they pulled out."

UNDP spokesperson Adam Rogers told Reuters the agency had felt Nair's work "would get caught up in controversy".

"We were afraid it would bring the wrong kind of attention to the cause of promoting gender equality," Rogers said by phone from Geneva. He said the European Union had also backed out of the project. Nair, in Rome to promote 8, defended her choice, saying it was about a woman's right to express herself.

"It's a storm in a teacup frankly. It's not what the film deserved," she said.

"My film is inspired by a true story and was written by the person who lived that story. Freedom does not come neatly packaged. It comes with pain," she said.

Zimbabwe politics update

We're using this post as an update on Zimbabwe politics. We try to stay away from government leadership struggles, but many Zimbabweans believe that an agreement would bring the country out of it's economic collapse.

Those hopes are being threatened now with the delays and pettiness of the two leaders who are trying to share power.

80% of Zimbabwean people are in poverty, and the country has the world's highest inflation rate at 231%. The people hope that once an agreement is finalized, the new government can begin to tackle the problems.

Activists demonstrated Monday at a meeting about the power sharing talks. Police fired tear gas into the crowd and arrested 100 people, about half the group. As told to Mail and Guardian, activists sum up why this should be finished quickly.

"Conclude the talks. We are dying of hunger," the activists from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said in a statement.

Mugabe's lead negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa, told state media that he was "cautiously optimistic" of reaching a deal, saying the summit "will end the saga over the allocation of ministries".

The security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) organised the summit in Harare after Tsvangirai boycotted talks one week ago in Swaziland to protest delays in receiving his travel papers from Mugabe's government.

Just six weeks ago, regional leaders had come to Harare to celebrate the signing of the power-sharing deal, which calls for 84-year-old Mugabe to remain as president while Tsvangirai becomes prime minister.

But Mugabe and Tsvangirai have failed to agree on which party should control the most important ministries, particularly home affairs, which oversees the police force.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, Mozambican President Armando Emilio Guebuza, Swaziland Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini and Angolan Foreign Minister Assuncao dos Anjos hope to pressure the two sides into an agreement on Monday to salvage the deal.

Video: Jolie visits Afghan Refugees

Analysis of the EU preparations for the next Doha meeting

The next big international meeting on development and trade is coming up in December in Doha, Qatar.

The meetings sponsored by the United Nations hope to develop finance for the world's poor. But the recession felt thought the world may carry the agenda instead.

A great article today in IPS talks about the preparations that EU member states have put into the upcoming meetings. Writer David Cronin gathers the opinions of aid groups and NGO's on what the European Union is doing.

For past meetings similar to this, the EU was widely praised for their leadership, but now they are being criticized.

Last week Jeffery Sachs gave what he would like to see on the meetings agenda.

Today, we wanted to highlight the subject of tax havens from the IPS article.

One of the most contentious issues on the Doha agenda concerns how taxation regimes in Europe are depriving poor countries of sorely needed resources.

A new report by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (known by its Dutch acronym SOMO) in Amsterdam notes that revenue generated from tax accounted for just 13 percent of national income in countries classified as low-income in 2000. By contrast, the average level for industrialised countries belonging to the 30-member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was 36 percent.

Estimates for the amount of money that poor countries lose as a result of capital flight -- the expatriation of taxable revenue -- vary from 350 billion dollars to 500 billion dollars per year, several times more than what those countries receive in development aid. A large amount of this 'hot money', as it is sometimes called, ends up in tax havens either on EU territory or on territories answerable to its member states. Such havens include the City of London, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands, Cyprus and Luxembourg.

To remedy this situation, anti-poverty campaigners are demanding a crackdown against these tax havens, as well as the establishment of robust international accountancy standards that require major firms to report precisely how much they earn in every country where they operate, and what they do with the sums involved.

These calls are being resisted by treasury officials in Britain, who are eager not to subject the City of London to rigorous controls.

"Closing down tax havens is a European responsibility," said Molina. "Many of the tax havens are in European jurisdictions."

Poor teens four times more likely to attempt suicide

Teens from poor neighborhoods are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and are four times as likely to attempt suicide. These findings are from a new study that is published in the journal Physcological Medicine.

The published study on poor teens and suicide was conducted by a pair of universities in Canada and the US.

Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins of the University Université de Montréal reports that the study still can not determine why poor teens have a greater risk.

The study showed that late teens from disadvantaged neighbourhoods had higher levels of depressive symptoms along with lower levels of social support, but these factors could not fully explain why these Youths were at an increased risk to consider ending their own lives. "Rather, they were more vulnerable because difficult events, such as personally knowing someone who has committed suicide or experiencing a painful breakup with a romantic partner, apparently led to increased suicidal thoughts or attempts," says Véronique Dupéré, lead author and a post-doctoral fellow at Tufts University who completed the research at the Université de Montréal. "In other words, difficult events seemed to have a more dramatic impact on these teenagers."

For this study, 2779 teens were surveyed as part of Canada's National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. Poverty levels in the neighbourhood were measured in early and mid adolescence based on Census data. Suicidal thoughts and attempts were assessed later, when participants were 18 or 19 years old. Participants were asked, "During the past 12 months, did you seriously consider attempting suicide?" Those who responded yes were then asked, "During the past 12 months how many times did you attempt suicide?"

Among teenagers from across all socioeconomic backgrounds, the research team found that hyperactivity and impulsivity, depression, substance use, low social support, exposure to suicide and negative life events increased vulnerability to suicide thoughts and attempts. "But among youth in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, hyperactivity and impulsivity was even more strongly associated with suicidal behaviours," says Éric Lacourse, senior author of the study and a Université de Montréal sociology professor. "We observed that community adversity could amplify a young person's vulnerability to consider suicide."

Here is a link to the full press release from the University Université de Montréal.

Friday, October 24, 2008

120 Cholera deaths in Zimbabwe

As if you didn't need any more proof about how bad it is in Zimbabwe right now.

80 percent of Zimbabwe's population lives below the poverty line. Inflation spirals up so quickly it causes many more to become poor every day.

Not only has the economy collapsed but also has public health. Last month, Save the Children reported that kids were eating rats to hold off starvation.

To top it all off, sanitation infrastructure has collapsed. 120 people have died of cholera in this past year.

South Africa's newspaper The Times fills in the details on how the disease is being spread.

"The government has grossly underestimated the impact that infrastructure breakdown is having on public health," the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said in a statement.

Over just the last two months, the waterborne disease has hit the capital Harare, as well as towns in the northern and western parts of the country, the group said.

"Water supply is irregular or completely absent in most urban areas, burst sewage pipes continue to be left unattended and there is a lack of refuse collection," the statement said.

"About 120 cholera-related deaths have been cumulatively recorded this year," it added.

Cholera is caused by intestinal bacteria that causes serious diarrhoea and vomiting leading to dehydration. With a short incubation period, it can be fatal. But the disease is easily prevented and can be cured if diagnosed promptly.

The doctors’ group urged the government to provide access to proper sanitation and clean running water to prevent the outbreak of disease.

High School dropouts in Pennsylvania

A group called Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children has released a report examining high school dropout rates in the state. The report also examines what high school dropouts typically earn in contrast to other workers.

The study gives more proof to the need of education for a better salary. In fact, the study shows a larger number of high school dropouts earn a wage that keeps them below the poverty line.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children says dropouts are twice as likely to be in poverty than those who have graduated. The average wage for dropouts is $14,982 in Pennsylvania's Lackawanna county.

Here are some other points made in the study as found in Sarah Hofius Hall's article in The Scranton Times Tribune.

In Luzerne County, dropouts earn $16,850, less than half of the $40,333 someone earns with a bachelor’s degree. Monroe County dropouts earn $25,013.

The study cites data from the 2007 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Statistics were not provided for the other Northeast Pennsylvania counties.

Other highlights included:

■ Lackawanna’s unemployment rate is 4 percent for those whose furthest education is a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma. The rate for someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 2.9 percent.

■ The gap widens in Luzerne and Monroe counties. In Luzerne, 10.9 percent of high school dropouts were unemployed, compared to 3.8 percent of high school graduates. In Monroe County, 22.3 percent of high school dropouts were unemployed, compared to 1.6 percent who had a bachelor’s degree.

■ Almost 25 percent of Lackawanna residents who did not complete high school lived in poverty, compared to 6 percent among those who have a bachelor’s degree. The 2008 federal poverty income guideline is $21,200 for a family of four.

■ In Luzerne County, 16.9 percent of high school dropouts live in poverty, more than double the percentage of those who live in poverty who attended some college or have an associate degree.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clinton praises Bush on food aid

On World Food Day that was held on October 16th, former US President Bill Clinton admitted getting the issue of food security for poor nations wrong.

A lot of aid that goes into poor countries is food. But that makes it even harder for the small farmers of poor countries to stay profitable. In recent years, imports of food to poor nations rose, making them even more dependent on aid. If aid was ever removed, God forbid, the poor nations would be unable to sustain themselves.

Former President Clinton actually praised our current President Bush for getting food security right, but he has been stopped by politics in the US. In this Associated Press article, writer Charles Hanley has quotes from President Clinton on improving aid effectiveness to the developing world.

Former President Clinton told a U.N. gathering Thursday that the global food crisis shows 'we all blew it, including me,' by treating food crops 'like color TVs' instead of as a vital commodity for the world's poor.

Addressing a high-level event marking Oct. 16's World Food Day, Clinton also saluted President Bush _ 'one thing he got right' _ for pushing to change U.S. food aid policy. He scolded the bipartisan coalition in Congress that killed the idea of making some aid donations in cash rather than in food.

Clinton criticized decades of policymaking by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and others, encouraged by the U.S., that pressured Africans in particular into dropping government subsidies for fertilizer, improved seed and other farm inputs as a requirement to get aid. Africa's food self-sufficiency declined and food imports rose.

Now skyrocketing prices in the international grain trade _ on average more than doubling between 2006 and early 2008 _ have pushed many in poor countries deeper into poverty.

'Food is not a commodity like others,' Clinton said. 'We should go back to a policy of maximum food self-sufficiency. It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves.'

He noted that food aid from wealthy nations could itself be a tool for bolstering agriculture in poor countries. Canada, for example, requires that 50 percent of its aid go as cash _ not as Canadian grain _ to buy crops grown locally in Africa and other recipient countries.

U.S. law, however, requires that almost all U.S. aid be American-grown food, which benefits U.S. farmers but undercuts local food crops. Bush proposed earlier this year that 25 percent of future U.S. aid be given in cash.

'A bipartisan coalition (in Congress) defeated him,' Clinton said. 'He was right and both parties that defeated him were wrong.'

Clinton also criticized the heavy U.S. reliance on corn to produce ethanol, which increased demand for the crop and helped drive up grain prices worldwide.

"Stand Up Against Poverty" inspires a new U2 song

It was the largest demonstration that the world has ever seen. It broke a Guinness World Record for the "for the biggest mass mobilization on a single issue".

Yet it failed to make headlines here in the US. Was there any coverage on the 24 hour news networks about "Stand Up Against Poverty"?

Anyway, the protest has inspired Bono to write a new song on exactly what the protest was about, standing up to the leaders of the developed world, and make them be accountable to the promises they made.

Reuters interviewed Bono on carrying on the theme of "Stand Up Against Poverty in song. Lesley Wroughton talked with the rock star/activist.

"It's not finished yet but it's inspired by this concept of stand up. It's a little diamond, though," Bono said, speaking by telephone from Los Angeles.

"It's not a 'let's hold hands and the world is a better place sort of song.' It's more kick down the door of your own hypocrisy," he said.

"Although they were not a legal contract, and we wish they were, there is a moral contract that was made," Bono said.

"To break a promise to yourself, to your partner, to your family, a politician to his constituents, are all bad things to do -- but it's a heinous crime to make a promise to the poorest most vulnerable people on earth and break it. That's just not acceptable," he said.

He said while the MDGs may be "the worst acronym in the history of activism," the Stand Up and Take Action events around the world on Oct 17 to 19 showed that people knew what they stand for.

"The numbers show that people are aware that those promises were made and why politicians can't think 'oh we can get away with it because no one really knows about it'" Bono said.

Kenya will not meet Millenium Development Goals

Out of the eight Millennium Development Goals, Kenya will only be able to meet 2 of them by the target year of 2015.

Wycliffe Oparanya, a minister for development for Kenya, gave the update on meeting the goals in a speech Wednesday.

The goals that Kenya says they will be able to meet are universal primary education and battling diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria.

For not being able to meet the others, Kenya blames the lack of funds from the developed world. Only Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg give the amount aid that is needed for all developing countries to meet the Development Goals.

Our snippet contains what Kenya is still lacking. Alphonce Shiundu And Benjamin Muindi, writers for the Nation tell us what Kenya still has to take care of. We found this story from All Africa.

"The key challenge is inadequate financial resources... the donors' inability to honour their millennium declaration commitments," the minister said.

Mr Oparanya told the Nation that the country could beat the deadline if the donor countries "invested more in Kenya's economy."

"We are not interested in aid, all we need is for them to open up foreign trade for our goods and foreign investment in our country ... we need to create more jobs," he said.

The minister also disclosed that poverty levels had fallen from 56 per cent in 2003 to 46 per cent in 2006. "But the recent post-election skirmishes have pushed up this figure," he said.

The report paints a grim picture with regard to the state of the nation in 2015, with only eight years left.

Poverty, food insecurity, gender inequality, high unemployment, child and maternal mortality, according to the report, remain high on the list of challenges to be tackled.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Involving corporations into poverty alleviation in Australia

This Friday, Australian corporate leaders will meet to discuss how they can reduce poverty.

Australia as a whole tries to take a lead in developing the whole Asia Pacific region. This alliance of business leaders was formed in 2006 to try to do more to develop the entire area. The try to combine meeting the Millenium Development Goals with business sucsess.

Anneli Knight gives the details of the summit in this article from Australia's Business Day.

Australia's corporate leaders will congregate in Melbourne tomorrow for the Business for Millennium Development summit. The key aims of this meeting are to raise awareness in the Australian business community about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which focus on reducing poverty and improving human rights.

Macquarie Bank, ANZ, IBM, IAG and KPMG will be among the corporate giants at the summit, discussing how corporations can do business with the poorest members of society in a way that helps alleviate poverty and bring profits to business. The presentations will include a live link-up with former World Bank president James Wolfensohn.

"The summit is designed to be a catalyst, to spark interest. And to transplant a global movement here to Australia," says Business for Millennium Development chief executive Mark Ingram.

Mr Ingram says the second phase for the Business for Millennium Development initiative, after Friday's summit, is to hold a partnership forum, and bring NGOs and corporations together to work towards the Millennium Development Goals.

ANZ will reveal a case study at the meeting of its pilot program, partnering with World Vision, to offer financial transactions via mobile phones to some of the lowest-paid workers in Cambodia, Ingram says.

Here is a link to the Business for Millennium Development Summit site. It includes who will speak at the summit and an agenda.

All this makes me wonder if there is something similar here in the States?

Stand Up Against Poverty wrapup

If you participated in a Stand Up Against Poverty event over this past weekend, pat your self on the back.

World records were shattered, with over three times the amount of people participating compared to last year.

Stand Up Against Poverty was a collection of hundreds of events around the world, hoping to catch the eye of world leaders. Events were held during the entire span of the weekend, October 17-19. Events ranged from peaceful protests and concerts, to distributing books and collecting signatures for petitions.

But who really deserves some congratulations is the Philippines. As the ABS-CBN reports the numbers of people who showed up in that country was truly astounding. Our clip of the article gives us the numbers.

One out of every three Filipinos or a total of 35.2 million Filipinos mobilized at events all over the country last October 17 to 19 as part of the "Stand Up, Take Action" global initiative to end poverty, the National Anti-Poverty Commission said Wednesday.

In a statement, NAPC Assistant Secretary Dolores de Quiros Castillo said a total of 35,264,652 Filipinos attended the events. The numbers were announced after a two-day tabulation by SGV & Co., largest auditing firm in the country, and verified by Guinness World Records.

"Our objective this year was to mobilize at least 15 million Filipinos in the Philippine Stand Up, Take Action Campaign. We not only exceeded our target by some 20 million participants, we also topped the world record in terms of percentage to population and absolute numbers," Castillo said in a statement.

According to Guinness World Records, a total of 116,993,629 people participated in 7,777 events around the world to set a new Guinness World Record, topping last year’s 43 million count.

The Philippines delivered the largest number of participants both in terms of percentage to population and in absolute terms. Overall, Asia produced 73,151,847 participants.

The struggle to stay warm in Massachusetts

We are seeing way too many of these kinds of story's.

In the cold weather climates, many poor people will not be able to stay warm this year. It's not only a problem in the US but worldwide.

The demand for help is growing and those who have worked in assistance programs have never seen the demand this high.

Chris Cassidy, a writer for the The Salem News in Massachuseets, examines how the US recession is effecting people's need to stay warm.

"We're seeing more people applying for (fuel assistance) than we have in many, many years. More people than I've seen in the 15 years I've been here," said Beth Hogan, executive director of North Shore Community Action Programs, an anti-poverty agency in Peabody. "We're averaging about 300 calls a day, and we're doing our best to keep up with those calls."

The food pantry at the Salem Mission had to close twice last week because it ran out of food, marking only the second and third time in the last few years that's happened, said the shelter's executive director, Mark Cote.

"It's pretty desperate right now," Cote said. "I've never seen this kind of demand for food. It really is kind of overwhelming that we cannot keep the shelves stocked."
Still, there are signs of good news. The federal government will increase the amount of money it devotes to fuel assistance this year, and Social Security benefits are expected to rise.

But leaders of North Shore nonprofits say more has to be done and called on the community for help.

"I think people really need to be more thoughtful and cognizant of the people that they do live with in their neighborhoods and think about things like whether they have food or heat," Hogan said. "This could be a very difficult year for folks."

The story also has a unique perspective from fire fighters who are concerned that high heating oil prices will lead people to do something unsafe. They site examples such as wood stoves needing permits to install, and floor heaters requiring special electric cords.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Commentary on Microcredit

Microcredit has come up smelling like a rose in this credit crisis.

A big contrast: small loans to people with little collateral or assets, but they get payd back 98% of the time. Meanwhile, home loans gave people a lot of money upfront, then many were unable to pay of the loan after then blew the money on other stuff (maybe other bills).

Yes, we need to have more microcredit in this world. A commentary written by Misty Novitch was published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It shows the successes of microcredit, and also encourages participating in a letter drive to tell the World Bank to do more with microcredit. That part of the commentary is what we will focus on for our clip.

Although microcredit ranks as one of the leading foreign aid success stories, the World Bank — whose stated mission is reducing poverty — devotes less than 1 percent of its budget to this innovative strategy.

Despite the World Bank’s own research citing microcredit’s effectiveness, it has failed to put its money where its research shows the greatest promise.

Fortunately, congressional champions of microcredit are pushing the World Bank to do better. Letters are circulating in the U.S. House and Senate asking World Bank President Robert Zoellick to:

• Set up a grant facility for MFIs trying to reach the very poor.

• Set up Centers of Excellence at MFIs like Grameen and Jamii Bora for other providers to study and emulate.

• Create a sub-Saharan African apex fund, allowing MFIs working to reach the poorest access to needed funds.

So far, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) has signed on to the letter. Other members of the Georgia delegation should be encouraged to do likewise.

Global leaders are now scrambling to put the world’s economic house in order after greed and speculation brought the system to the brink of disaster.

It’s time for our financial institutions, starting with the World Bank, to start making smarter investments. The poor have demonstrated that the smart money should be riding on them.

Income inequality rising in the developed world

More proof that the rich are getting richer while everyone else stays the same was released today. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a new study called "Growing Unequal?"

The spread between the rich and the poor is important for two reasons. The wider the spread, the harder it is for people to move up the income ladder. A wide spread also means there are more people in poverty.

The OCED says there are several factors that have increased the spread between the rich and poor. The attribute it to more low skill and poorly educated people being out of work. Another factor is the rise in the number of single parent homes or those living alone.

The OCED report is one you have to buy. So here is a link to their page that has many summaries. Our clip contains the key findings found in their press release.

Why is the gap between rich and poor growing?
In most countries the gap is growing because rich households have done significantly better than middle-class and poor households. Changes in the structure of the population and in the labour market over the past 20 years have contributed greatly to this rise in inequality.

*Wages have been improving for those people who were already well paid.
*Employment rates have been dropping among less-educated people.
*And, there are more single-adult and single-family households.

Who is most affected?
Statisticians and economists assess poverty in relation to average incomes. Typically, they take the poverty line to be equivalent to one-half of the median income in a given country.

* Since 1980, poverty among the elderly has fallen in OECD countries.
* By contrast, poverty among young adults and families with children has increased.
* On average, one child out of every eight living in an OECD country in 2005 was living in poverty.

What does this mean for future generations?
Social mobility is generally higher in countries where income inequalities are relatively low. In countries with high income inequalities, by contrast, mobility tends to be lower.

* Children living in countries where there is large gap between rich and poor are less likely to improve on the education and income attainments of their parents than children living in countries with low income inequality.
* Countries like Denmark and Australia have higher social mobility, while the United States, United Kingdom and Italy have lower mobility.

What can be done?
In some cases, government policies of taxation and redistribution of income have helped to counteract widening inequalities, but this cannot be their only response. Governments must also improve their policies in other areas.

*Education policies should aim to equip people with the skills they need in today’s labour market.
*Active employment policies are needed to help unemployed people find work.
*Access to paid employment is key to reducing the risk of poverty, but getting a job does not necessarily mean you are in the clear. Growing Unequal? found that over half of all households in poverty have at least some income from work.
*Welfare-in-work policies can help hard-pressed working families to have a decent standard of living by supplementing their incomes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jeffery Sachs on the reforming of the financial system

Jeffery Sachs says that the credit crisis is a clear indication that the international financial system is broken. But he also says it's broken in other ways. Such as a billion people being cut of from the system because of where they live, and no energy supply plan to address demand and climate change.

The next big international meeting is in December. In his latest commentary, Jeffery Sachs proposes an agenda for the meeting, as found in the Guardian.

Here, then, is an agenda for Bretton Woods II. First, we need to restructure global finance, based on an expanded system of capital adequacy standards, financial reporting, system-wide risk management, and new lender-of-last-resort capacities. Derivatives traders, hedge funds, and broker dealers would be brought under regulatory control. The IMF would be empowered to be a true global lender of last resort (as I urged a dozen years ago, warning of the threat of self-fulfilling panics). To make this possible, a small tax on financial transactions - a Tobin tax - would be implemented to expand the IMF's war chest in case of crisis and to fund other urgent international needs.

Second, the new global financial structure should help to rescue the world from human-induced climate change. A straightforward tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels, levied by all countries, would do the job, and much better than the enormously cumbersome emission-trading system concocted and championed by the same financial engineers who brought us our current banking crisis. Most of the carbon-tax revenues would stay at home in each country, to help finance low-emission technologies. Some would be directed to finance three global public goods: research and development on sustainable energy; transfer of sustainable-energy technology to low-income countries; and climate-change adaptation.

Third, the World Bank should be refocused with clear goals, and accountability for their success. Specifically, the bank should have one overarching assignment: helping the poorest countries achieve the millennium development goals to reduce poverty, hunger and disease. The bank is poorly organised for such leadership today. Like any bureaucracy, it avoids being held accountable for measurable results. With a tighter focus on the MDGs, the bank should also be supported with much larger financial resources from new revenue sources (such as the Tobin tax), so that the bank can better help the poorest countries expand vital infrastructure (power, roads, water, sanitation and broadband networks).

Fourth, the global trade agenda should be integrated with the finance, and environment objectives. The Doha trade round has failed because the world could not see any urgent reasons for its success. A trade agreement worthy of the effort would do two main things. Importantly, it would help the poorest countries to be more productive so that they can be full participants in the global trading system. "Aid for trade" would help these countries to build the skills, roads, bridges and clean power grids to support increased trade. In addition, global trade would promote environmental sustainability, to help enforce compliance with reduced carbon emissions and protection of endangered biodiversity.

All these reforms are vital for long-term sustainable growth and development. If the political leaders focus only on financial-sector stability, but neglect the long-term problems of energy supplies, climate change, food production, disease control and extreme poverty, then global growth might be restored in the short term, only to succumb quickly to another global bout of rising energy and food prices, and geopolitical instability.

Installing toilets could do the most to reduce poverty

Sometimes, our priorities are backward.

In developing countries you can often get a cell phone signal, but can't find anywhere to go to the bathroom. We'll we know why that is, you can make a buck on cell phones, a lot more than on human waste.

The United Nations University says today that good sanitation and water can do more to reduce poverty than anything else.

Unable to find the actual press release, we went to IPS, and writer Stephen Leahy for our snippet.

"Water problems, caused largely by an appalling absence of adequate toilets in many places, contribute tremendously to some of the world's most punishing problems, foremost among them the inter-related afflictions of poor health and chronic poverty," said Zafar Adeel, director of the U.N. University's Canadian-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health.

The UNU analysis says better water and sanitation reduces poverty by boosting individual productivity, reducing public health costs and creating new business opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

Every dollar invested in sanitation generates eight to 10 dollars in reduced costs and increased productivity Adeel told IPS.

So why is it that there are mobile phone networks and not sanitation networks?

"Experts have not done a good job of explaining the consequences of poor sanitation to the public or policy makers," Adeel said.

For that reason developing countries are more interested in generating exports or economic development and ignore the costs of poor sanitation. Donor countries and aid agencies have a similar focus, choosing to improve drug delivery or develop new drugs instead of making sanitation a top priority.

The Gates Foundation is trying to develop a cholera vaccine when the easiest, fastest way to reduce the spread of cholera is to improve water treatment, Adeel said. "That is how the developed world stopped cholera. There is a real disconnect here."

Globally, almost 900 million people lack access to safe water supplies and 2.5 billion people live without access to improved sanitation, at least 80 percent of whom live in rural areas.

Defender of the poor, Sister Emmanuelle dies at 99

One of France's most beloved nun's has passed away.

Sister Emmanuelle died in her sleep at a retirement home in France Monday.

She helped an outcast people in Cairo, who eked out living collecting garbage. The residents of Cairo's slums had no rights of there own before Sister Emmanuelle met them.

She then spent two decades building schools, clinics and gardens for the people. The organization she began now helps the poor in 8 different countries.

This snippet from the AP story found on KFMB, gives her obituary, and more details on her life's work.

Born Madeleine Cinquin in Brussels on Nov. 16, 1908, she spent her childhood between the Belgian capital, Paris and London, according to the association's Web site. A member of the Notre Dame de Sion order, she lived many years in France.

Sister Emmanuelle initiated development efforts in the Muqattam, a peripheral Cairo slum, founding a primary school and providing scavengers with vehicles to haul garbage.

She eventually attracted broader attention to their plight, which led to new schools, health care projects and income-generating strategies for the slum dwellers.

"She was living right among them, the garbage collectors, the pigs, the whole mess. I had never seen anything like this in my life," said Dr. Mounir Neamatalla, a leading Egyptian expert in environmental science and poverty reduction who worked closely with her throughout the 1980s.

Neamatalla worked with the nun on a composting plant to process the vast amounts of manure produced by the garbage collectors' pigs, which was then processed and sold as fertilizer.

Upon her return to France in 1993, Sister Emmanuelle continued to speak out for the needy, regularly appearing on French television, her white hair swept up into a gray habit and her eyes sparkling behind large glasses.

The Appalachia mountains grow thru politics

Over 40 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson began the war on poverty. He made the speech to introduce the "war" from the Appalachian Mountains. An area in the eastern US that has had deep problems with poverty for generations.

A great story from the Associated Press explains the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal program that tries to fight poverty in the mountain region.

Thru the years the area served by this commission has expanded. It grows either to get the necessary votes to pass the funding. Or by politician who want to get that same funding into their districts.

The Appalachian Regional Commission now spreads to areas in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee, that do not have the deep seeded problems of the mountain.

Our snippet wont do the story justice, so I encourage you to read the entire piece from Roger Alford. Our clip explains how expanding the area effect who it was originally intended for.

The Appalachia served by the ARC is political, not geographical, said Ron Eller said, an Appalachian scholar and former director of the University of Kentucky's Appalachian Center.

Eller said Johnson recognized that when in 1965 he agreed to add portions of New York to get enough votes to push the Appalachian Regional Development Act through Congress. The geographical expansions have helped the ARC politically by increasing its clout in Washington.

The legislation signed this month not only expands Appalachia's boundaries, but also calls for $510 million to be spent in the region over the next five years to build roads, install water lines, fund educational improvement projects, encourage economic development, even purchase computers for poor children. The proposed spending total is a $64 million increase over the last 5-year allotment.

That could have meant more money for core Appalachian counties, Eller said, if politicians hadn't opted to spread it across a larger area. "When you continue to expand the counties, ultimately it creates a smaller pool of resources for use in the most severely distressed areas of the region," he said.

Nicholas County's top elected administrative official, Judge-Executive Larry Tincher, has been lobbying for the past seven years to get the communities he represents declared part of Appalachia so that they can tap into the funding source. He said job losses in Kentucky's textile industry have hit Carlisle hard over the past decade. The state has lost more than 7,000 jobs since 2001 in apparel manufacturing.

Eller doesn't dispute that the additional counties have economic problems that may even rival conditions in the heart of Appalachia. But, he said, the core Appalachian counties have had long-standing problems.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fair Trade Candy this Holloween

Here is a great idea to spread awareness of fair trade.

A group in Wisconsin will ad something to trick or treating this year. The children will also be handing out candy, but it's fair trade candy.

It's called "Reverse Trick or Treating". Sara Boyd a writer for the Green Bay Press Gazette tells us about the organisation with the great idea.

A Better Footprint is a local fair trade organization that aims to educate others in the benefits of organic, eco-friendly or ethically sourced goods. Fair trade is a movement that advocates paying fair price as well as meeting social and environmental standards in the production of a wide variety of goods.

"It really is an awareness campaign," she said. "With a lot of our food, a lot of people never think of where it comes from."

Most of the world's chocolate comes from cocoa grown on small plantation farms in Africa or Latin America, where children between 5 and 17 work long hours in hard labor instead of going to school, she said.

Paul said the idea behind the national Reverse Trick or Treating is to spread the word on one of the largest chocolate consumption days of the year.

"Halloween is a great time when people are buying chocolate, eating chocolate and thinking about it," she said. "It's doubly powerful then when you have kids saying to adults, 'Hey, there's a positive solution to this.'"

Urging Ontario to keep their commitments

The group the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice is urging the Ontario government to keep their commitments to reducing poverty. The group even says to even got into the red to do it.

Our snippet comes from the Toronto Star. Rob Ferguson fills us in on the what the group says.

With less than a week until next Wednesday's fall economic statement, the lobby group said yesterday that hard economic times make it increasingly important to provide more help for the province's 1.3 million poor.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has promised a poverty-reduction plan will be introduced by the end of the year but has already warned it may have to be watered down or delayed because of financial pressures.

But only substantial infusions of cash – such as a 30 per cent increase in welfare rates to make up for the 1995 cuts by former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris – will put a serious dent in poverty, the coalition told a news conference.

"We've heard many times that they don't plan to spend any extra money on reducing poverty, that it's a matter of re-allocating and changing policies as opposed to investing more," said spokesperson Josephine Grey.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Majority of people want their governments to give more money.

0.7% is all it would take. Just 0.7% of the gross national product, or total of all the goods and services a country makes. That's all it would take to meet the goal of lifting half of the world people out of poverty.

Yet the US only gives .22%, Canada only gives .33%, the UK .48%

A new study out today shows a majority of people in the developed world believes we should give more.

The study conducted by World Public Opinion asked something like the following... If you gave x amount of dollars knowing it would lift half of the people worldwide out of poverty, knowing the rest of the developed world would pay a similar amount, would you do it?

A large majority said yes,

The survey also asked if you thought that the developed world had a responsibility to help the undeveloped.

Here is a snippet with more info on the survey. From a press release issued by World Public Opinion

Respondents were presented a necessary annual per person contribution toward meeting this goal, adjusted for national income, ranging from $10 for Turks to $56 for Americans. In every case, and in most cases by a large margin, majorities of respondents say they are willing to personally pay the amount necessary to meet the goal, provided that people in other countries did so as well.

In a question asked to 20 nations around the world, majorities in all but one agree that developed countries "have a moral responsibility to help reduce hunger and severe poverty in poor countries." On average, eight in 10 say developed countries have such a responsibility.

Respondents in France, Italy, Great Britain, South Korea, Turkey, the United States, Germany, and Russia were told about the Millennium Development Goal of cutting hunger and severe poverty in half and told how much it would cost each person in their country if the cost were shared among all of the OECD countries. These amounts were: the United States $56, Great Britain $49, or 25 pounds sterling, France $45, or 29 euros, Germany $43, or 27 euros, Italy $39, or 25 euros, South Korea $23, or 24,000 won, Russia $11, or 257 rubles and Turkey $10, or 12 liras.

They were then asked: "Assuming the people in the other countries were willing to pay their share, would you be willing to pay [per-person amount] a year to cut hunger by half and reduce severe poverty?"

Majorities in every country polled say that they would be willing to pay the required amount. In every country except one, the majorities are very large, ranging from 75 percent in the United States to 86 percent in France. Russia is the one country with a modest majority--54 percent. On average, 77 percent are in favor of contributing a proportion of their country's foreign aid to meet this goal, and only 17 percent would not be willing to do so.

The methodology of the survey can be downloaded here.

Founder of the U.N. Millennium Goal Campaign fears reaching goals

Billions of dollars are being used to fend of another great depression. That means aid to to poor countries is dwindling. In fact, before the credit crunch even began the aid was shrinking.

From a forum on international hunger, the founder of U.N. Millennium Goal Campaign spoke up on the decrease in aid and it's effects on the poor. Svetlana Kovalyova from Reuters UK received these words from Eveline Herfkens.

"If everybody lives up to their promise, they (the goals) are still reachable. If not, we are in a big trouble," Eveline Herfkens said on the sidelines of an international food forum.

"When the financial markets sneeze, the poor get pneumonia."

"I really would hope that our finance ministers who find trillions of dollars to beef up their own systems will not forget about a few billions that they promised to the poor," Herfkens told Reuters.

We heard similar comments from Kofi Annan and Jeffery Sachs about the cut backs in aid yesterday.

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty Roundup Part 2

This time, more events and a couple of speeches.

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is being recognized around the world today. Events even continue onto the weekend as the "Stand Up Against Poverty" campaign takes place.

A story in the Afrique en ligne has a good overview on both events.

The events, in which the UN and its partners will participate, will hold simultaneously around the world.

In Lagos, Nigeria, a concert hosted by popular musician Femi Kuti to make "Music Against Poverty" will commemorate the life of renowned Nigerian Musician Fela Kuti and Stand Up in support of the MDGs.

In Tema, Ghana, "Games Against Poverty" will use sport as a platform to support the MDGs.

In the United States, students will join a campus challenge to build political will to end extreme poverty by hosting teach-ins and events across America, and in India, members of the Art of Living Foundation, one of the largest spiritual movements in the world, will mobilise to plant more than 100 million trees around the globe.

Also, groups across Europe - from Portugal to Germany, will mobilise to demand more and better aid.

We encourage you to find an event near you and participate. Only an overwhelming voice of a large collection of people will make politicians take notice... and do something other than make empty promises.

Now on to a few politicians who are saying words today. In Nigeria, President Umaru Yar'adua used this occasion to make a speech. Sunday Williams of the Nigerian paper the Daily Trust provides this quote, which we found on All Africa.
The attainment of the government's vision of becoming one of the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020 can only be achieved with the eradication of extreme poverty, President Umaru Yar'adua has said.

The President made the remarks yesterday while delivering a keynote address at the all Local Government summit on poverty eradication and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty in Abuja.

He said, "We are resolved to as nation to face up to our development challenges and set the country on the right part to becoming a public grounded democracy and one of the 20 largest economies in the world by year 2020.However, this is only possible when we are perceived in an eradication of extreme poverty which we have resolved to achieve through human capital development, wealth creation, employment creation through appropriate partnership with the private sector."

He said, "Poverty has continued to be endemic to our communities despite the existence of the local government whose constitutional roles is to carry out the activities to improved the livelihood of rural dwellers. At the end of this commemoration, I'm convinced that many local government chairmen will go back home with resolve to address the issue of poverty eradication with more passion."

Lastly, on to Nepal, where Prime Minister Prachanda calls for more coordination. Our snippet comes from the Andhra News from Nepal.

Speaking on the occasion of International Day on Elimination of Poverty here, Prachanda said, "I want to remind all that the policies and programs and budget presented by the government that I am leading also has put poverty alleviation as top priority."

He expressed full commitment to uplift the backward and disadvantaged communities in Nepal.

He also reiterated his commitment to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"For any country, political stability and the peace process is the foundation for development. The job of institutionalizing peace was therefore very important," he said.

"Judicious investment and the distribution of public resources and services are the first duty of any state in the absence of which poverty-free country cannot be built," he added.

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty Roundup

Today, October 17th, is recognized as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Established by a declaration in the United Nations general assembly in 1992. But it has roots in a demonstration in Paris on this date in 1987.

Were getting a lot of items on protests and marches that are going on today. So, here is our first roundup of the events.

First, a special stone in Dublin, as told by Charlie Taylor of the Irish Times.

A commemorative stone to mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been unveiled in Dublin today.

The stone, which is situated near to the Famine memorial on Customs House Quay, was unveiled by Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin Emer Costello.

The commemorative stone was commissioned by Dublin City Council and Dublin Docklands Authority and is inscribed with words from Joseph Wresinski, founder of the international human rights organisation ATD Fourth World.

The words - “Whenever men and women are condemned to live in poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty” - were first inscribed on a commemorative stone laid on October.

17th, 1987, on the Human Rights Plaza in Paris where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been signed.

Since then the same words have been used on more than 30 similar commemorative pieces around the world including the UN headquarters in New York and the European Parliament building in Brussels.

Next, we travel to Kenya. Emmanuel Kola of the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation give us the details.

Kenya joins millions of people around the world on Friday in marking the World Poverty Eradication Day.

The campaign whose key message is ‘Stand Up and Take Action against poverty' will be marked at Garissa Primary School in North Eastern province.

Minister of State for planning, National development and Vision 2030, Wycliffe Oparanya, the guest of honor at the event, will share the governments' strategies to eradicate poverty in the country where about 46 per cent of the population is living in absolute poverty.

As the Kenya marks this day, Focus will be placed on the biting poverty facing people living in the Arid and Semi Arid Lands- ASALs and the food insecurity currently being experienced in Kenya and East Africa.

With all the trouble in South Africa lately, the demonstrations there will be a little angrier. This protest is detailed by the South African Daily News

About a hundred people gathered on Friday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against poverty.

Protesters called, among other things, for an end to poverty and VAT on basic foodstuffs to be cut.

Co-chair of the global call for action against poverty (GCAP) Kumi Naidoo, said it was time for government to act decisively to eradicate poverty and instead of spending millions on border control it should rather spend on health care, water, and sanitation.

The GCAP is a civil society alliance comprising NGOs and trade unions.

Finally for this first roundup, Thailand. Where the UN and government joined in a walk. As reported by IRIN.

The UN and Thai government went walking in support of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October, with the deputy interior minister, Preecha Rengsomboonsuk, and the representative of the UN Children’s Fund Thailand country office, Tomoo Hozumi, joining more than 2,000 people in Ayutthaya Province to raise poverty awareness.

About 10,000 Ayutthaya citizens from every social sector joined the opening ceremony at the city hall after the walk. The two representatives made pledges to fight poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“We tried to adopt his Majesty the King’s initiative on sustainable development and emphasised three main issues: encouraging people to save, providing jobs for them, and making them help one another in solving poverty,” Touchrich Tanaluck, chief community development officer of Ayutthaya, told IRIN. “We believe this policy will help us achieve our goal in the ‘180 Day Roadmap for Poverty Reduction’ campaign.”

The campaign was launched on 15 August 2008 by former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s government to raise the annual income of almost 180,000 Thais who live below the national poverty line through decentralisation. Each province has its own policy and campaign to achieve its goal.