By 2030, we will see a world without poverty – that is the goal of the UN. But what does it take to make that happen? Some say too much, others say it is the wrong goal.
Right now, almost 36% of those living in South Asia are in poverty, earning less than US$1.25 a day. And it is even worse in Africa – nearly half of its population live under the poverty line.
To achieve the UN’s ambitious goal, the number of people in poverty will have to go down by 50 million each year. That’s about a million people a week until 2030.
The Problem of Poverty
Aid packages, experts say, are a major hinderance than help for poor countries.
Food aid especially, prolongs the cycle of poverty.
That’s because free or subsidised food priced below the market deprives local farmers of making a living from selling their food. They are then forced out of jobs, into poverty and the cycle continues.
Many poor nations are also agriculture-reliant, so more food aid causes their own food to be dumped.
Frequently, donor countries also use aid packages as tools for foreign policy agenda, rather than to alleviate problems. That means when countries fight, aid is usually withdrawn and further talks about donations are out of the question.
Critics also say most aid is not distributed to the poorest who would need it most.
Food aid aside, investment into a poverty-stricken country does not always help it.
Large infrastructure projects tend to develop the cities, and seldom benefit the vulnerable who live in rural areas. Often, money is siphoned away due to widespread corruption among authorities and businessmen.
These are the reasons why experts warn that aid packages should be done away in the long-term, as it does not benefit developing countries.
New Solutions Needed?
The ineffectiveness of aid packages to alleviate poverty at a national level, has led many a do-gooder turning to investments instead.
Consider Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, whose revolutionary micro-credit system led some to brand him as the ‘world’s banker to the poor’.
Micro-financing is based on the idea that small amounts of credit can break the cycle of poverty. As he states, from “low-income, low-saving and low-investment” to “low income, credit injection, more income, more savings, more investment” and the cycles continue.
By lending out small amounts to the poor, experts estimate that this system has helped over ten million of the world’s poor, many of them Bangladeshi people, one of the poorest in the world.
Today, his idea has been picked up by many.
Still, micro-financing doesn’t always help every country. That’s because the circumstances of individual countries matter a great deal in terms of what works.
Focus on Inequality Instead
So this brings us back to the issue, should we be aiming for a zero-poverty world?
Well, sceptics argue it is not about ridding poverty, but working towards a world that is fairer and more equitable through policy changes.
They propose re-looking at tax reform at both ends of the income meter – the very rich, and very poor, and probing policy-makers to ask the tough questions. The chief one being, how gains from tax can be redistributed in a more equitable manner.
To them, it is inequality not poverty that governments should be aiming for.
Do you agree? How does your country rank in its inequality? Find out here.