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People and Politics Forum 09. 05. 2008

"What is poverty?"

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More information:

Poverty in Germany - How Bad Is It?

According to the currenty poverty report, every fifth German family counts as poor. Surprising, considering that Gemany pours huge amounts of money into its social welfare programs. You can't really call it poverty, according to experts like Berlin's Minister of Finance, Thilo Sarrazin. Nevertheless the numbers of people technically under the poverty line are rising. People and Politics reports on a family living at the edge of poverty in Germany, and how they are trying to make ends meet.

Our Question is:

What is poverty?

Wolfgang Hoebler, in Mexico, writes:

"Poverty is being excluded from society"

Harald Schmitz, in Brazil, says:

"The word `poverty" is as unclear in its definition as the words heat or cold. What’s warm to some is already cold to others. Same applies to poverty which is experienced differently by people and in other countries. The complete poverty of underdeveloped countries does not exist in Germany"

Janna Drummer, in Argentina, agrees:

"Poverty is all about definition.I’ve been living in Argentina for some 2 years now. When I arrived I was of course shocked by the living conditions and the big divide between poor and rich…When I came back from holidays in Peru and Colombia I was stunned by Argentina’s high living standards! Poverty varies from country to country.It’s important to point to poverty in Germany even if Argentinians would laugh at poverty defined as missing movies or that school excursion."

Paul Stadelmann, in Venezuela:

"Good question. There are the really poor who want to get more out of life, and those who no longer want to, for whatever reason. There are also scroungers who use poverty as an excuse not to work and care for themselves because they are happy with the way things are."

Stephan Pabel, in Brazil, says:

"A person who doesn’t have shelter, can’t afford adequate clothing and three meals a day and a TV to see what’s happening culturally is poor. Poverty will make him ill and make him go illegal ways to live as a human being."

A similar view from Herbert Fuchs in Finland:

"It could be described as human misery and fear of the next day. Too little to live on and too much to die on. Poverty is the greatest enemy of humankind."

Claus Stauffenberg, in Australia, says:

"Poverty is the lack of knowledge. Education is the key to addressing unemployment,granting individuals the ability tomove beyond menial labour and industrial occupations, and occupy positions of critical need in the public infrastructure."

In the Philippines, Gerhard Seeger, is critical:

"Some people feel poor just because they can't afford a second car. Others don't need a car at all...I'm not saying there isn't any poverty in "rich" Germany but in the Philippines you can see what it means to be really poor: people lying in the streets who are ill, weak, and often old, with no access to welfare."

A theme picked up by Aeron Paul Soriano, also in the Philippines:

"In our country, poverty and unemployment are one of our major problems that our government should solve in an effective way, so the people who are affected...are able to support their daily needs, not just for themselves but also for their families."

Hassan Munir Khan, in the Ukraine, writes:

"If you are poor this means you can't afford basic needs of life... you get food for survival."

Similar words from Lee S. Davis, in the USA:

"In a word, poverty is hopelessness. To me poverty is when you are unable to provide shelter, food, water, and health care,..."

In Brazil, René Junghans, is thoughtful:

"The extent of poverty in Germany makes you wonder, and when you see how many people have to get by without work and the basic necessities of life in a once rich nation, then you realise that German politicians have failed..Here in Brazil we, thankfully, earn enough to pay for everything but we still have far too many "favelas" where people exist without proper sanitary facilities, but things are getting better."

José Rafael Dimagiba, in the Philippines:

"As can be clearly seen from the footage (in the People and Politics report) about the impoverished German family, I don't think that they are living in an impoverished state, in the (same) way as the disenfranched in Africa, the Philippines and other parts of Asia...They may seem to be living below the materialistic standards of their more affluent neighbors, but nowhere does it come near to the real poverty experienced by the poor in my neck of the woods where one has to rummage in garbage cans for food, beg or sell sexual favours, thieve in order to eat. I guess that family should feel blessed and thankful that they have a good welfare system that gives them some kind of safety netwhich enable them to lead decent and comfortable lives, even though purchasing power and living standards are slightly reduced."

The People and Politics desk reserves the right to edit and abbreviate texts.