By TMS Ruge
Two events have the potential to radically affect how the world tackles extreme poverty and climate change in 2015. On September 25, United Nations Member States will gather to adopt the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a summit in New York City. In December, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) will attempt to sign long-overdue, universally binding agreements on the climate in Paris. We have been here before: this will be the 21st year of the COP meetings and the SDGs are set to take over after 15 years of development work driven by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the boardrooms in New York and Washington, the voices of those at the “last mile” – a term in development jargon that refers to poorest of the poor – remained largely silent. Read more
We are living through the era of Big Data with all its promises and consequences. But is the world also splitting into the data “haves” and “have nots”?
That’s the contention of a new report out today from a UN panel of independent experts from academia and business which warns that the world needs to do more to bolster the data capabilities of developing countries in order to fight poverty more effectively. Read more
By Mark Malloch Brown, former United Nations Deputy Secretary General.
The conventional wisdom behind the renegotiation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight targets for reducing poverty and its attendant woes that were agreed by all United Nations members in 2000 – is that there were not enough of them and that they were too simple. So a UN industry has developed to write a lot more of them.
As one of the original drafters, my view is the contrary. It is not the goals that need changing (although they can certainly be improved at the margins) but rather the vision of development that lies behind them that needs reworking. And indeed adding goals risks detracting from the successful single-issue global campaigns – such as child mortality,which has halved globally since 1990 – that developed around them. Read more
By Mark Goldring of Oxfam
From the IMF to the Pope, from President Barack Obama to the World Economic Forum, there is a growing consensus that extreme economic inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time and that failure to address it is both economically and socially damaging. Yet despite this consensus, very little is being done.
The number of billionaires in the world has more than doubled since 2009. But while those at the top have recovered from the recession quickly, the benefits of economic growth are not being shared evenly. This means that while the wealthy are getting richer, we are not eradicating poverty at the speed that we could. Read more
By Catherine Blampied of the ONE Campaign
For the first time, an end is in sight to the injustice of extreme poverty. The proportion of people surviving on less than $1.25 a day has halved since 1990 and could fall to almost zero by 2030. Contemplating this, governments the world over are about to enter the final stage in a UN process to hammer out a new set of aspirational ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ aimed at accelerating this progress over the next 15 years. But this new global development agenda has little hope of succeeding unless those same governments – together with private-sector partners and many others – also agree an effective strategy to finance it.
While sustained aid investments will still be necessary in supporting vital services and providing the building blocks of growth in the poorest countries, the vast bulk of money will come – and is already coming – from developing countries themselves. Yet, despite this fact being widely acknowledged in development circles, there is remarkably little discussion about exactly how countries are actually spending their resources. Read more
The wrong sort of jobs
Sub-Saharan Africa has enjoyed rapid growth over the past 20 years but its citizens seem not to share the zeal of some frontier market watchers. The region’s levels of poverty have not sunk nearly as quickly as East Asia’s (see chart below). Africans routinely complain that wealth has not trickled down.
Why is this? Read more
Viene-vienes at work
By Ron Buchanan and Pan Kwan Yuk
They call them the “viene-vienes”. In cities throughout Mexico, red rags in their hands, they wave down motorists into available parking spaces and receive modest tips for their trouble in “looking after the cars”.
Their name comes from their shouts of invitation to their clients: “Viene! Viene!” – “Come on! Come on!”.
The “viene-viene” men occupy one segment of Mexico’s vast informal economy. And their ubiquity is a glaring reminder that – for all the praises that are being lavished on the country’s economic resurgence – poverty remains an obstacle to Mexico’s ability to unlock its full economic potential. Read more
“How to spend it?” is the question which bothers many a billionaire (one suspects), but an increasing number are opting to give it away instead. South Africa’s richest black man, Patrice Motsepe, has joined the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in opting to give away a good deal of his money to the cause of philanthropy. Read more
Critics of lotteries the world over often describe them as taxes on the poor, and for good reason. From the US to Spain, lower-income citizens are the biggest buyers of lottery tickets, and, as a group, they will lose at least 35 per cent of what they spend.
In China, though, it is more accurate to describe the lottery as a tax on hope. Those buying tickets tend to earn more than average, but they have run into the chasm that is China’s wealth gap and see the lottery as their best bridge across it. Read more
By Jin-Yong Cai of the International Finance Corporation
Four years after the global financial crisis struck, the world still faces major economic challenges. Shocks from Europe, Asia or the US could undermine recoveries in many developing countries, hurting the poor the most. Read more
Chileans are, in many ways, as unlike their next-door-neighbours, the Argentines, as it is possible to be. But allegations that Santiago is massaging official poverty data sound stomach-sinkingly familiar to anyone used to Buenos Aires. Read more
In real life, as in the Olympic Games, Colombians seem to be aiming for the second step of the podium. This week, as Colombian weightlifter Oscar Albeiro Figueroa stepped up for a silver medal, comes fresh confirmation that more and more Colombians are being lifted from poverty into the middle class.
According to a study conducted at the University of Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia’s middle class doubled in the past ten years, from 15 per cent of the population in 2002 to 30 per cent in 2012. Read more
Africa’s oil and gas industry has gained a lot of new players in recent times, but Nigeria remains by far the biggest producer on the continent. Pumping oil for over 50 years, it still has three times more in reserves than its nearest rival Angola. Its gas reserves could supply the EU for 11 years. However, as a new FT Special Report shows, a range of problems prevent Nigeria realising the potential of these endowments. Read more
For the second time in just over a month, India has been hit with a toilet scandal – but instead of a vast network of bureaucrats and middlemen filching over a billion dollars across the country, this one involves an elite economic policy arm of the government.
India’s Planning Commission is no stranger to controversy – last year, it came up with a novel approach to reducing the number of poor people in India: it lowered the poverty line to Rs26 (47 cents) a day.
This week it emerged that the folks determining who is poor enough to qualify for government subsidies are enjoying their own sort of government largesse, not with fancy cars or large mansions, but with toilets – $54,000 worth to be exact. Read more
Eradicating poverty is one of the most ambitious goals of Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s president. But it’s harder than it looks and it’s especially tough for a president with the end of his presidency in sight and his popularity in the doldrums. Read more
This article has been corrected – see update at the end.
To all those Indians living on more than 57 cents a day: Congratulations! You’re not poor! That was the message from the Indian Planning Commission’s latest survey of poverty in the country, which revealed that the population living below the poverty line had been cut from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 29.8 per cent in 2009-10 – taking 62.5m people out of poverty. Quite an achievement!
But then shifting the equivalent of the population of the UK above the poverty line isn’t that hard if you do if you keep it incredibly low. Read more
The Children’s Investment Fund wants to raise electricity bills for the 67 per cent of Indians with access to electricity.
Not that TCI doesn’t have a good reason. Coal India, the 90 per cent state-owned giant, sells coal at prices 40 to 70 per cent lower than international ones, and TCI is the company’s biggest minority shareholder. Read more
Good news from Nigeria, if growth is your thing. The economy grew by 7.68 per cent in the last quarter of 2011, according to the national bureau of statistics. Of the 46 countries that have published Q4 GDP figures to date, only two, Mongolia and China, reported higher growth, says the NBS report. It concluded that Africa’s most populous country remains on track to be among the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020.
So how do ordinary Nigerians feel about this? Perplexed, most likely. For while the economy is growing, so too is poverty. Read more
Could the UN have met its first Millennium Development Goal – to halve extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015 – five years early?
The World bank thinks so. In an uplifting report released on Wednesday, it revealed that the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day declined in every region of the developing world between 2005 and 2008, according to more than 850 houshold surveys. What’s more, in spite of global food, fuel and financial crises, that trend continued post-2008 – and preliminary surveys for 2010 show that the number of people in extreme poverty was less than half that of 1990. Read more