World Bank: ′poverty rates halved′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 17.03.2012
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World Bank: 'poverty rates halved'

UN countries have committed themselves to halve extreme poverty by 2015, and new World Bank figures suggest that they are on course. But critics are more cautious.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrissy575/4380921684/ +++CC/christine zenino+++ aufgenommen am 30.12.2009 Lizenz: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.de geladen am 4.1.2011 A small village near Chong Khneas, Cambodia. Extreme poverty. Unfortunately Cambodia remains one of the poorest nations in South East Asia as well as the world. Cambodia is also a post-conflict country trying to rebuild their shattered systems. The government lacks the resources necessary to to provide people with adequate educational systems and healthcare. Rural areas like this especially have limited access to clean water, education, and consistent medical care. It is estimated that 90% of the poorest people in Cambodia live in these remote villages.

kleines Dorf in Kambodscha

More than one billion people live off less than $1.25 a day. That might seem like far too many, but Martin Ravallion, who led the latest World Bank study on global poverty, argues that significant progress has been made. “In 2010, the global poverty rate, which means the share of people who have to live off less than $1.25 a day, was half of that in 1990,” he said.

The year 1990 serves as the base year for measuring progress in reaching the eight so-called millennium goals: reduction of poverty, hunger, and diseases and better access to education, health care, and development. These targets were agreed on in 2000 by the 147 United Nations member states.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany speaks during the Millennium Development Goals Summit at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, on 21 September 2010. The summit, which is being held in conjunction with the General Debate of the 65th session of the UN General Assembly later this week, is a way for world leaders to review the ambitious anti-poverty targets adopted in 2000 and accelerate the the achievement of the goals that have been set. EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT

The UN completed made its millenium goals in 2000

The poverty figures that the World Bank drew on for its latest study only went up to 2008, the latest available, but these statistics were apparently for Ravallion to announce that the first millennium development goal has been achieved.

Global fight against poverty

The overall target is to halve extreme poverty and hunger. For more than 20 years, the World Bank has been collecting data on the poorest people's income and spending power in order to compile reliable poverty statistics. According to Ravallion, the latest finding is that "it's the first time we've seen an overall reduction of extreme poverty in all six regions of the World Bank." For the first time, he stresses, figures have gone down even in Sub-Saharan Africa, and less than half the population are now statistically extremely poor.

China as the pioneer

Nicole Rippin, an expert on poverty with the German Development Institute (DIE), remains skeptical, particularly as far as the World Bank's general conclusion is concerned. Looking at 2008 figures, she says that "of the 620 million who have escaped extreme poverty since 1990, some 510 million people live in China." Therefore, she concludes, it's a regional, rather than a worldwide reduction in poverty.

ARCHIV - Das Logo der World Bank (Weltbank), aufgenommen am 01.11.2009 in Washington. Die Weltbank hat ihre globale Wachstumsprognose wegen der Euro-Krise kräftig gestutzt und warnt vor einem Absturz der gesamten Weltwirtschaft. Die Eurozone wird dem am Mittwoch (18.01.2012) in Peking vorgelegten Ausblick zufolge dieses Jahr in die Rezession rutschen. Weltweit erwartet die Weltbank nur noch ein Wachstum von 2,5 Prozent in diesem und 3,1 Prozent im nächsten Jahr. Foto: Rainer Jensen dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

The World Bank is optimistic that targets will be achieved

According to Rippin, the World Bank report is flawed because it only takes into account statistical spending power, which, she says, is not relevant when addressing the first Millennium Development Goal: "The first Millennium Goal is actually made up of three sub-goals: the first is halving poverty, the second is productive full employment and humane working conditions for all, including women and young people. And the third sub-goal is halving the share of people suffering from hunger by 2015 compared to 1990 levels."

Figures cause debate

Many experts also question the definition of poverty these statistics are based on. A simple arbitrary monetary figure like $1.25 doesn't equal poverty, they say, adding that the crucial factors are access to food, education, and healthcare. Those who can supply themselves with food, for instance, may be better off with just one dollar a day than those who have more money at their disposal but have to starve because they can't afford the higher food prices.

In this Monday, Sept. 13, 2010 photo, people pull jugs of water filled from a borehole in Dertu, Kenya. Dertu looks no different from thousands of villages that dot the impoverished landscape of sub-Saharan Africa _ except for the cell phone tower that keeps it in touch with the outside world. This is one of 14 Millennium Villages envisioned as launchpads for a mass leap out of poverty _ one of the targets which the U.N. set itself a decade ago, and which will be reviewed at a summit opening Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 in New York. (ddp images/AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

Almost half the population in Sub-Saharan Africa are still living in extreme poverty

With food prices continuing to rise worldwide since 2008, the number of undernourished people has only increased, adds Ludger Reuke from the NGO Germanwatch. Statistically speaking, poverty has been halved, he says, but the statistics are already outdated, especially because they don't take into account the financial crisis that started in 2008.

Goal missed again

This is why Reuke, a political scientist and anthropologist, criticizes the World Bank's estimate. "The 2010 figure is not correct because the number of people living in extreme poverty has since risen drastically," he says.

The World Bank does point out that the study is not based on the very latest data, but rather on 2008 figures, and Ravaillon adds, "Achieving the millennium goal still means that there are a billion people who have to live off less than $1.25 a day. And that's not acceptable.”

Author: Helle Jeppesen / nh
Editor: Ben Knight

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