poverty

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 >>

We at the FT have this week been running a series on the “Fragile Middle”, defined as some 2.8bn middle class people in emerging economies who are vulnerable to ebbing fortunes. The issue has been provoking fresh debate on just what it means to be “middle class” in the world today.

Here is a run down on some of our thinking. Let us know what you think in the comments field below.

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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 >>

Jin-Yong Cai, IFCBy 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 doldrumsRead 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 >>