The ability to identify the causes of poverty
The ability to identify the causes of poverty and resulting effects forms the basis to devising effective models for addressing them in principle and practice. Over the years, poverty has turned out to be a monster strongly rooted in systems, institutions and administrative structures. To begin with, scholars appear strongly divided over the concept of poverty. World Bank (2010) indicates that poverty is lack of or inability to afford basic needs by people. Though it has largely been associated with lack of enough resources, Sandra (2010) explains that it goes far into institutional setup globally.
This paper evaluates “poverty” on the basis of its key causes, effects and current efforts employed to address it. Finally, it outlines key recommendations that could be employed to fight the problem in the society. Figure I: A photo of absolute poverty in South Sudan (Amidon, 2010). A brief overview of global poverty The state of the global poverty it is shocking. It appears that though key developments are recorded every year, levels of poverty are constantly moving up. World Bank (2010) reports that over 1/2 of the global population live on less than two and half (US $ 2. 5) dollars per day (see figure I).
Notably, about 40% of the total world population accounts for only 5% of the world incomes while the wealthiest 20% account for 75% of the global income (Anup, 2010). Anup (2010) continues to indicate that about 27-28% of all children are underweight while 24,000 more loose their lives daily in the poorest regions of the globe. By the year 2005, Aar and Claudio (2007) lament that over 72 million age-going children were not in school; 57% of these children were girls. Infectious diseases strongly ravage developing nations with about 40 million of them being infected with HIV/AIDS.
In the years 2005, 90% of all the Malaria cases and fatalities were reported from sub-Saharan and Asian nations (Anup, 2010). 2/3 of the global population lacks access to clean piped water which result to about 1. 8 million deaths of children and 443 million school learning-days lost annually (Kaprov and Kaprov, 2009). Figure I: Percentage of people in the world at different poverty levels, 2005 (Anup, 2010). Theoretical explanations of poverty (a) Malthusian theory It is perhaps the works of Robert Malthus that first pointed at the problems that would result from poverty.
African Development Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2010) report that Robert Malthus saw poverty as a factor of supply and demand largely on food and people numbers. He indicated that poverty was indeed a natural phenomenon anchored on the rising population in the globe and highly rigid food supplies. However, though Malthus was partially correct largely from the occurrences of his time, he only factored Charles Darwin’s consideration of natural selection; a factor that lacked the notion of posterity.
However, Malthus failed to appreciate the fact that modern times would see critical evolution of technology which would maximize land productivity, for instance through organic enrichments, irrigations and condensed foods such as carbohydrates and multivitamins. While the latter appear to reflect the reality on the ground, one cannot fail to agree with Sandra (2010) who indicates that Malthus lives to date. As global population continue to rise, hunger and poverty remain two interconnected thorny issues that are defying odds on how to effectively address. (b) Poverty as a personal failure
Joh and Kurt (2007) on the other hand view poverty as a personal failing. Personality traits such as laziness and illiteracy reduce the overall creativity of an individual; a facet that leads to reduced levels of income. However, Ans and Rob-van (2006) view has been greatly criticized for failing to see poverty holistically. Most people who are indeed very poor in developing countries have very desirable traits but key leverage requirements such as modern education and infrastructure are unavailable. (c) Poverty as a structural failure In his view, Sen (2005) considers poverty as a structural failure at the institutional and community level.
Sen (2005) further argues that poverty emerges in the society from breakdown or malfunctioning of infrastructure at leadership and community level. He cites major disconnect between people and their leaders in countries with highest levels of poverty. In a country like Swaziland, poverty is defined by sheer failure of the administration with poor majority lacking hope in their administration and therefore only headed for more poverty (Organization for Economic Cooperation, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2010).
Causes of poverty (a) Colonial histories Most developing countries which form some of the poorest states have their histories tracing back to colonial era. According to Kaprov and Kaprov (2009) poverty must be viewed as a negation of development and its application. Colonial-masters in developing countries were involved in two major aspects that created a roadmap and dipped many nations into massive poverty. To begin with, they took control of their hosts’ resources which they used to develop themselves alone.
In India, South Africa and Kenya among other nations, the British government was largely interested in gathering raw materials while obstructing locals from getting either effective education or sustainable skills (World Bank, 2010). By drawing away key resources, these nations have remained behind without resources to develop either infrastructure or human capacity. Though Marxists have defended this model of operation, ethical theorists have strongly condemned it indicating that colonial masters were ill motivated. Secondly, colonial masters established policies that strongly fixated host nations and prevented them from development.
Despite most nations getting independence, they still remain under indirect rule of their colonial masters (Aar and Claudio, 2007). In 1956, the British government signed a treaty that sought to give itself authority in Egypt (by then) the entire ownership and control of river Nile waters (Ans and Rob-van, 2006). However, until recently when this treaty was broken, all the East African countries (largely agricultural based) had remained unable to exploit this water for food production and therefore being some of the poorest globally.
Besides, many of the poorest nations directly assumed a “colonial” system of administration that have seen them replace “colonial era administrators” with “local colonialists”. For instance, in India, large trucks of land and wealth is only held by the people in authority while the poor majority lack access to key basic needs (Chaturaka and Senaka, 2010). (b) Poor leadership and corruption Poverty in the modern society must be viewed as a factor of leadership and its application in the community. Many countries lying in absolute poverty appear to share a common factor; poor leadership.
When a country assumes poor leadership as Sen (2005) reports, it lacks the ability effectively prioritize essential aspects, creates ego-centric models and facilitates massive corruption. In North Korea, people’s development is a second factor to weapons development and acquisition. People are therefore forced to go without basic needs as leaders consider it less important. Leadership in other states such as Uganda and Sudan has focused on resources towards maintaining themselves and their families in power.
In Uganda, the president’s wife, children and relatives are fixed to key ministerial and administrative positions; a factor that undermines creativity and competitiveness (Organization for Economic Cooperation, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2010). The focus of this form of leadership becomes aligned to defending these positions as opposed to creating room addressing poverty. Corruption as African Development Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2010) lament has become the order of the day in many developing nations.
As a result, development becomes a mirage as key resources are diverted for personal gains. In Nigeria, the late president Sani Abacha took away millions of dollars from the government for his personal and family. Countries with high corruption levels such as Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic and Yemen have high levels of poverty (African Development Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2010). (c) Warfare Perhaps one of the most important observable causes of poverty is war. Since historical periods, regions that are endowed with repetitive wars have high levels of poverty.
Opponents in the event of war strongly focus on demolishing existing infrastructure and rendering their opponents inactive to support themselves. Therefore, war is a roadmap to poverty was correct. In a war torn region, residents are unable to develop themselves and their areas in fear of being attacked. Indeed, they usually free away to safer regions as refugees. Since Somalia entered into civil war led by different war lords, the nation has remained in absolute poverty to date (Sandra, 2010). War has also tagged other regions such as Iraq, Democratic Republic of Africa and Sudan.
(d) Natural disasters Joh and Kurt (2007) strongly consider natural disasters as key precipitators of poverty in the society. Key disasters often destroy property, arable land for agriculture and even lives. Of particular importance in this case as Aar and Claudio (2007) indicate is drought. Most of these regions in the Sahara and sub-Saharan Africa lie in highly arid lands that cannot support key economic activities to move them out of poverty. In Mali, most people have remained poor as droughts constantly kill their livestock while arable farming is impossible or too costly.
Notably, even investors lack the interest to develop the place due to low cost-effectiveness. World Bank (2010) on the other hand cites flooding reported in India and Philippines to obstruct farming, cause massive migration and reduced focus on education. In the year 2009, flooding left over o1. 5 million people homeless after destroying over 200, 000 homes in India (World Bank, 2010). The same floods resulted to massive crop failures and shift to major towns. Governments shift their focus to addressing these disasters; poverty concerns take a second position.
Effects of poverty (a) Intensive hunger Sen (2005) and Amidon (2010) argue that the best way to address poverty is through an effective analysis of their effects in the society. Therefore, what are the real impacts of poverty in the society? Harrison (2007) concurs with Malthusian theory that poverty easily manifests itself through intensive hunger. Poor leadership often fails to lay emphasis on key human needs; a factor that leads to great corruption and deviation of funds to other non-essential departments.
In North Korea, the largest population suffers from consistent hunger due to poor prioritization. In many African states, intensive hunger appears to be the order of the day. Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan and Northern Kenya have not had adequate food in the last three years (BBC News, 2005). In Kenya and Southern Ethiopia, people resulted to consuming berries as their land was struck by extensive draught and relief food was not forthcoming (see diagram III). Figure III: Photo of dead animals in North Kenya in January 2005 (Courtesy of BBC, 2005) (b) Poor health and high mortality rates
Poverty cannot be separated from poor health and high immortality rates. As poverty attacks most people, poor health becomes a key characteristic because they cannot afford balanced diet and medical expenses. First to suffer from poor health is largely the small children and women. Following the long session of war in Somali land, women and children in refugees’ camps suffer key sanitation and malnutrition (Sandra, 2010). Most poor communities lack capacity to effectively engage their energies in constructive systems that can give them resources to maintain good healthcare.
As indicated earlier, Anup (2005) noted that since 1990, about 270 million people have died from poor health due to poor health. This loss has greatly reduced the overall life expectancy in developing countries to as low as 43. 5 and 47 years in Djibouti and Somali respectively (Sandra, 2010). Notably, poor health and high mortality rates strongly aggravates poverty by removing important taskforce that could have been used either in food production or related planning. (c) High crime rates in the society
When poverty strikes, involved people seek alternative methods to survive. While the most immediate thing to do is condemning the people for unethical acts, Harrison (2007) asks what is indeed expected of them as their leaders appear highly incognizant of their welfare. In South Sudan region, high levels of poverty have made cattle rustling the order of the day and therefore almost part of their culture. Notably, trading of lethal weapons such as guns, grenades and rocket launchers become an important trade as everybody arms up for protection.
In Somaliland, poverty has evolved into assimilation of piracy which is turning into a major threat to the global peace. Other regions with high level poverty turning into crime include Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan (World Bank, 2010). Figure IV: Armed young men guarding their animals from raids (BBC, 2009). (d) Extensive environmental degradation World Bank (2010) postulates that effects of poverty are directly linked to high environmental degradation levels. Many people in absolute poverty have less regard for the environment as their immediate focus is largely inclined to survival.
For instance, most of the slum dwellers in Jakarta greatly pollute the water in the adjacent rivers without considering resulting effects (see diagram V). Unlike developed nations which turn to alternative mechanisms when struck by disasters, poor people continue extracting resources to critical levels that greatly compromise their resilience (World Bank, 2010). In drought struck areas, animals continue to graze to the last green leaf available. As a result, major erosion takes away all fertile top soil; a factor that has led to advancements of draughts in most dry regions.
With poor people lacking the necessary resources to afford clean sources of energy such as cooking-gas, they rely on direct biomass which results to direct loss of forests and other vegetation. It is from this consideration that wealthy people have been warned to address poverty as they will ultimately suffer from key environmental degradation. Diagram V: A slum in Jakarta Indonesia (Chaturaka and Senaka, 2010). Current efforts to address poverty Addressing poverty as Harrison (2007) argues is indeed one of the most difficult tasks in the globe.
International community has over the years provided aids inform of finances, food and even technical capacity in different aspects of the society. However, provision of aids has been criticized of failure to invoke major creativity that can be used to totally liberate these communities from poverty. In addition, institutions such as WorldBank and United Nations run key programs on education, health and development to reduce poor health and leverage self-dependence (Ans and Rob-van, 2006). A major effort that cannot go unnoticed is use of force to facilitate good governance in poor nations.
Chaturaka and Senaka (2010) report sanctions in nations such as North Korea, Zimbabwe and Iran that are aimed at reviving their leadership consideration of poverty alleviation. However, through these efforts are indeed well intended, they have met equal and perhaps greater resistant forces that have yielded defiance from leaders such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and his counterpart of Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Amidon, 2010). It is from this consideration that a new model of addressing poverty is indeed required urgently to avoid plunging the globe into a major disaster. Conclusion
This paper concludes by supporting the thesis statement, “The ability to identify the causes of poverty and resulting effects forms the basis to devising effective models for addressing them in principle and practice. ” It came out from the discussion that poverty’s main causes are both natural and manmade. However, human causes take a greater bearing as leadership in most of the poorest nations fail to effectively enact the needed preferences to guide them out of poverty. Notably, the effects arising from poverty came out to lack the necessary acceptability and wholeness which makes them to only be partially effective.
This paper calls for a new approach towards addressing poverty that incorporates the local communities. It is particularly critical that local methods are supported in fighting poverty as opposed to introduction of new (advanced) models which fade with time as people slip back to poverty. Finally, it is critical that leadership is largely improved through facilitating democratic ideologies, empowering women and improving literacy levels. References Aar, K. & Claudio, R. (2007). Poverty traps, aid, and growth. Journal of Development Economics, 82(2)315-347.
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