“The poor shall always be with you” thus was said in Galilee more than 2 000 years ago. Indeed the poor were on the earth before that date, and they are there today. But the intensity or nature of poverty has varied from time to time.
Poverty is a matter of comparing the quantity and quality of possessions one person has to those that another has. If one man travels to work riding a bicycle and does the work of an office cleaner, another travels to the same place using a motor car and works as a manager, it is easy to tell at a glance who belongs to the group of poor people and who belongs to the group of the better off.
The economy of the country X, may be much larger than the economy of country Y , and yet on average the people in country Y may be richer than those in country X. This is because the average income of a country depends not only on the size of the economy but also of the population. Thus while the economy of the United States is multiple times that of Norway, according to the statistics available to this writer, the average income in Norway is $ 60 000 while that of the United States is $ 44 000.
Newspapers and magazines keep on forecasting with some amount of anxiety that in less than a decade ahead, the economy of China will overtake that of the United States. This does not mean that at the same time the average Chinese will be wealthier than the average American. The per capita income in the United States will continue to surpass that of China for the foreseeable future.
Roughly ,the world today is divided into developed and wealthy ones and less developed and poorer ones.
Most of the less developed countries are found in Africa and Latin America and some parts of Asia. In the less developed countries, health and educational facilities are poor and people live shorter lives than in developed countries.
Countries are poorer than others for a variety of reasons such as deficiency of natural resources and undeveloped natural resources. People’s culture does not encourage maximum exterior to acquire wealth, perpetual political instability and overpopulation.
For these countries to become wealthier, they must have peace and governments whose leaders are keen on development and take measures to encourage investment in the economy both domestic and foreign.
The poverty of individuals is also due to a variety of reasons: old and sick people are unable to work and therefore they do not earn much. Some people suffer long spells of unemployment; some are excluded from well-paying jobs on account of their gender, race or ethnic group. Misfortunes such as loss of the breadwinner due to the advent of incurable diseases. Some people are poor because they have habits which mutilate against savings and wealth accumulation such as drunkenness and spendthrifts.
How do we alleviate the poverty of individuals and households? If someone earns low wages because he is doing a menial job, educating and training him may enable him to obtain a better paying one. Generally, highly educated people secure jobs which pay them enough to afford higher standards of living.
The basic method of alleviating people’S poverty is to develop an economy. Encourage investment in the economy. An economy that is growing creates a variety of opportunities for people of various classes and interests. There are some people who are not keen to work for anyone. They want to engage in businesses of their own. It is up to the government to provide an environment in which businesses small and big can flourish.
Economists of the past believed, so long as an economy develops, the wealth of the richest few will automatically drip down to the poor. Experience has revealed that without positive action, glaring inequalities of wealth and income are likely to persist indefinitely. Governments of today therefore, as a matter of policy, impose extra taxes on excessive incomes and spend these on the upliftment of the poorer classes. The best method of alleviating poverty is empowerment of the poor. It is better to give seeds and a hoe to a family man or woman to grow their own crops than just give them a bag of maize from the strategic reserves.
In times of food shortage, able-bodied men and women should be given piecework and be paid the price of a bag of maize or rice whichever is the staple food. It should be up to that person to spend the money on these commodities or use the money in some other way. Encourage the culture of self -help and self-reliance as against dependency.
When you give a piece of work in indirect exchange for food, you at the same time inject into the economy development of some sort. Free food should be given only to the very old and the very sick. No fertilisers should be given to such people because they cannot make full use of it. n