Wednesday, September 14, 2005


All the bloggers with those "MAKE POVERTY HISTORY" notices on their blogs and others should read this report.

The $1-a-day measurement of the poorest of the poor is not a very good standard of economic indicator for knowing the level of poverty. Because, there are millions of people in Nigeria who earn up $3 per day and yet they are 100% poorer than millions of those who are on welfare in America and Europe. Majority of Nigerians are so poor that poverty no longer makes sense to them. Because, they are not worried. Over 60% of Nigerians in the rural areas are poor peasants who don't even know what is going on right now in New Orleans. Because, they cannot read or write, they have no power supply, no pipe borne water supply, the UN boreholes have been abandoned since they broke down, no feeder roads, no TV and no CNN. They have radio. But, they only listen to local music and religious sermons in their native Hausa or other native languages. There were some naked tribes in Nigeria as late as the late 1980s until Christians missionaries came to clothe them. But, hundreds of them are still going about with only loin-clothes or single wrappers without under wears and they don't need Victoria's Secrets since they have no secrets to hide. Yet, they are not poor. Because, they live within the standards of their primitive native communal African life with houses and farmlands and livestock such as goats, sheep, cattle and poultry. And they are very very happy. Even, in one particular clan, the married men offer their wives to their male visitors to sleep with them as a custom of hospitality.

Measuring poverty: Does $1-a-day standard make sense? By Ed Stoddard
Tue Sep 13, 8:16 AM ET

One of the controversies casting a shadow over this week's United Nations summit centers around how the global body defines some of the world's most basic but most intractable problems and what it wants to do about them.

But as world leaders wrangle over whether it is right to retain the ambitious goal of slashing the proportion of people who live on less than $1 a day by 2015, some academics question whether that measurement itself is relevant.

Critics say the $1-a-day measurement of poverty does not distinguish between the widely different experiences of the poor, which cannot be measured simply by looking at income.

"The ... fundamental question is whether such statistical propositions as the $1-a-day-life reflect any reality that real people live in," asked Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul in his recently published book "The End of Globalism."

"After all, people at $3 a day could be living a life of pure despair in a savage slum of Lagos, a life far worse than that at $1 a day in a stable slum like Klong Toey in Bangkok, where there is a societal structure," he wrote.

The goal to reduce the number living on less than $1 a day by 2015 is enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight specific objectives on poverty, hunger, primary education, AIDS and other issues, agreed at a summit in 2000.

In the pre-summit wrangling, the United States said at first it wanted to delete all reference to the words "Millennium Development Goals." Then it said it would accept the use of the phrase provided it could be "properly defined."

Critics contend that the goals themselves set an objective on poverty that obscures the complexity of the problem and that focusing on the $1-a-day measure can be misleading.


The World Bank says the number of people living on less than $1 a day fell to 1.1 billion in 2001 from 1.5 billion in 1981 -- a much trumpeted trend that mostly reflects the economic rise of China and India.

But it also says the number living on less than $2 a day increased to 2.7 billion in 2001 from 2.4 billion in 1981.

"The 1.6 billion people in the middle, between the $1 and $2 a day poverty lines, are still very poor and remain vulnerable to economic slowdowns," it said in a recent report.

So if the goal posts were moved, and $2 a day was the benchmark -- and it is the preferred measure of some analysts -- it would suggest that global poverty is in fact on the rise.

"The evolution from the $1 category to the $2 category might mean a marginal improvement or nothing at all or a worsening in poverty," Saul wrote.

"What a sensible person would say is that there are no clears signs of progress, and there may be serious slippage, except in India and China," he added.

In its global human development report released last week, the United Nations Development Program said another 1.7 billion people could be living on $2 a day by 2015 if current trends continue.

Some observers say the data could signal rising inequality -- which may or may not point to an increase in the absolute number of people living in poverty.

"In really poor countries, this would not be a good sign as it can point to a deterioration of other social indicators such as health and education and nutrition," said Carola Gruen, a professor Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand.


The $1-a-day figure is referred to as the extreme poverty line and is calculated on a purchasing power parity basis.

This method attempts to account for inflation while also measuring the relative purchasing power of different countries' currencies for the same types of goods and services.

But it is difficult to broadly measure the impact of inflation on different income groups whose baskets of commonly purchased goods are not the same, with food a heavy component of expenditure by the world's poorest.

So a person in country A could move well above the $1-a-day threshold but the additional income could simply be eaten up by a sharp rise in his or her staple food commodity.

Africa is the one place where there is a consensus. Everyone agrees it has been getting poorer by just about any definition.

Using the $1-a-day or less measurement, the World Bank says the number of people in Africa living in extreme poverty almost doubled in 20 years, rising to 313 million in 2001 from 164 million in 1981.

Recent commitments of increased aid and debt relief, such as those agreed by the world's leading industrialized nations at a Group of Eight summit in July, have been welcomed.

But Africa is still the one major region which is not expected to meet the poverty reduction goal by 2015 -- and however one measures poverty, that can only be bad news.

"If the Millennium Goals are not achieved by 2015, we will fail to prevent the deaths of hundreds of millions of people from hunger, poverty, AIDS and disease," the U.N. Millennium Campaign said last month.

"This year alone, 11 million people have died from poverty and ill-health and 3 million from AIDS. There is no bigger security threat to human lives and no more blatant violation of human rights than this," it said


obifromsouthlondon said...

you know it's funny trying to explain poverty to people over here. visited home with a friend a few years ago and he commented how contented the people in my village seemed amidst (in his view) poverty. I told him they may not even dwell on what poverty means anymore. you can't want what you know nothing about.

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Orikinla Osinachi. said...

Of course, the poverty in America and Europe is different from the issues of poverty in most parts of Africa like in Nigeria.

Most of the Ibos who live like poor tenants in Lagos or Abuja are not poor in their hometowns where they have landed properties and their own legacies.

Shola said...

I'm not quite sure what that make pverty history campaign was all about!

To me it was just a publicity stunt.

As far as poverty in africa is concerned, I think the root cause of that hs to be corruption in the government, as the continent has enough resources to sustain itself!

Orikinla Osinachi. said...

Sure, Shola.

Poverty is a Man made malaise that can be eradicated.