Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A poorer world than we realized??

A street kid eeks out a living in Cambodia. (source: Derek Izumi)

On August 26th, the World Bank released a report that the number of people living below the poverty line (defined as living under $1.25 per day) is far higher than they had originally estimated. They also gathered and tallied data from about 116 countries to come to this conclusion.

So what are the numbers?? Approximately 1.4 billion people (approximately 21% of the world's population, assuming current population is around 6.6 Billion). And what that means is a lack of access to education, infrastructure, and other basic needs for economic development. But the bigger question is, considering how much wealth is floating around the world, can this be changed?? What can we do to level the playing field??

Of course, poverty is uneven across the world, with the bulk of the worst case scenarios are concentrated in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia (India contributes significantly with almost 42% of its population living under the poverty line). Most people are surprised by the numbers of India's poor. Its a region that has grown substantially in the past few years, yet somehow the gap between the rich and the poor seems to have grown, making it harder to pull themselves out.

The graph below shows regional poverty changes between 1981-2005.

Source: World Bank

The New York Times has done atleast two pieces on this, including an excellent editorial from this morning. Here's an excerpt:
The poverty expressed in the World Bank’s measure is so abject that it is hard for citizens of the industrial world to comprehend. The new count underscores how much more the developed world needs to do to help the world’s most vulnerable people.

The poverty estimate soared after a careful study of the prices people in developing countries pay for goods and services revealed that the World Bank had been grossly underestimating the cost of living in the poorest nations for decades. As a result, it was grossly overestimating the ability of people to buy things. And the new research doesn’t account for the soaring prices of energy and food in the past two years. [read more]


Jenny S-T said...

Defining poverty as living on less than $1.25 a day is spectacularly stupid. What about the different cost of living in different countries? I hope this was just bad wording and lack of clarity in writing.

And don't forget the difference between absolute and relative poverty.

pragzz said...

Jenny, just to clarify, the big report actually addresses about the issues you've brought up such as cost of living, and purchasing power parity, and other such terms to some extent. I would encourage you to read it if you are interested (click on World Bank link in the post above).

I totally appreciate where you are coming from, though I will ask you in response..."how do you define poverty"?? You've got to start somewhere!