Coping with poverty coma
The architects of the poverty industry claim that there is enough
food to satisfy every stomach and even to make most persons fat. There
is at least 4.3 pounds of food available per person per day worldwide,
writes Dr. Tofail Ahmed
The face of poverty
The contemporary world is getting very rich in devising various
sophisticated methods and means for undertaking research on poverty.
'Poverty reduction' has become a very thriving industry by its own
One of the remarkable achievements of the poverty industry is its
huge production of smart data on nature, extent, severity and dimensions
of poor and poverty. The collection, analysis and presentation of those
data in turn created a good bunch of professionals worldwide with a very
high level of income prospects.
The number of crude and unsophisticated poor continues to increase
and silent genocide of poverty persists in spite of the enlightened
accomplishments of all these sophisticated researchers and analysis. The
menaces of poverty systematically eliminate a large number of people
everyday, albeit the area, volume and dimension of researches and
evaluations are disproportionately increasing.
Globally collected poverty data shows that we have roughly 6.3
billion people in the world, out of which 1.2 billion live below poverty
line income level which is less than one US dollar a day and another
estimates reveals that 842 million regularly smell severe and reckless
hunger. 153 million children under 5 in the developing world are under
Worse yet, 11 million die every year younger than 5 years of age and
more than half of those from hunger related causes. Thirty million
people die of hunger every year.
The global revelation of the poverty industry claims that there is
enough food to satisfy every stomach and even make most persons fat.
There is at least 4.3 pounds of food available per person per day
worldwide. Ignacio Ramonet in one of his articles furnishes more
startling statistics. The total wealth of the world's three richest
individuals is greater than the combined gross domestic product of the
48 poorest countries, which is almost a quarter countries in the world.
As per the UN calculation a levy of less than 4 per cent on the
accumulated wealth of 225 largest fortunes would be sufficient to meet
the basic needs of entire population of the world. More interestingly,
the total cost of world's sanitation and food requirements come to only
$ 13 billion, which is hardly as much as the people of the USA and
European nations spend every year on perfume.
Tale of idiot
'Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying
nothing'. During Shakespeare's time though poverty was more prominent
compared to our time but poverty as a subject of study and poverty
alleviation as a profession was totally unknown.
Long afterwards George Bernard Shaw in his play Major Barbara called
poverty 'the worst of all crimes' and he further said, 'all other crimes
are virtues beside it'. Perhaps Shaw was also unaware about its thriving
If so, I am sure, both of them would have changed the content and
context for using these two words 'idiot' and 'crime'. The UN goals (MDG)
are noble, achievable and bound to be achieved. There are histories of
changing goal posts. What happened to the goals such as 'education for
all', 'health for all', 'safe drinking water for all', etc. by such and
such years? Ten more years are still in hand to reduce global poverty to
fifty per cent from the existing level.
We are expecting to bring down our poverty to 20/22 per cent by the
year 2015. Let us hope that goal posts this time will not be changed for
covering up the failure to score.
Bangladesh is regarded as one of the poorest countries of the world.
As a logical consequence, poverty reduction industry here is more
prominently visible than any other place in the world. Every
socio-economic development project prepared, every word spoken in every
seminar and workshop, every expensive vehicle purchased with foreign aid
and every trip made abroad, all are devoted to alleviate poverty.
Poverty thrives, multiples and at the end engulfs the whole society.
Not necessarily the economic and human poverty as the 'poverty
experts' explain and analyse. This is the poverty thinking, just coming
out of the intelligent heads without much headache to solve it.
Sincere thinking of the concerned people should come directly from
their hearts and get it scanned at the level of head. Thinking generated
only from head and expressed as lip service is a great disservice to the
cause. Bangladesh side by side with its economic poverty is also
en-route to a different sort of poverty which cannot be alleviated but
only be elevated with the blessings of various poverty projects.
That has been happening for pretty long time and the same may happen
in future too. Long live poverty!
PRSP: The million dollar document is now in our hand. For money to
flow you need some sort of pipeline.
The name and shape of the latest pipeline is PRSP. You can prepare
projects. Put old wine in new bottles. Call it 'poverty focus perfume
spraying projects', 'coping with poverty coma', 'survival strategy in
monga stricken areas of Northern Bangladesh', etc.
Any name you give but keep few expensive vehicles, some foreign
trips, air-conditioned office and fat publicity competent in the budget.
The tension of fever has gone with soothing sweat. The million dollar
document PRSP is full of clues for new projects. This is really a very
good food for project hungry people.
Who the poor are?
We have been pondering for identifying poor from a wrong direction.
Intellectuals really mislead us by providing some very complex
analytical tools to identify poor and poverty such as measurement of
income, calorie intake, deprivation analysis, severity analysis etc.
These are some of the futile infantile exercises like searching lost
camel on the roof top at night.
All the time pointing fingers towards unfed, naked, sick and homeless
as poor is not giving you right picture.
Look for poor in Dhanmondi, Gulsan, Banani and other places like
those. If you consider it is too big a place to find them, enter
Sheraton or Sonargaon hotels and some other places like those, you can
easily catch them.
I am sure you will find many of the poor people there. They are not
only eating, drinking, singing and dancing wishing good health of the
poor. How can you eliminate, alleviate, eradicate (whatever term you
give) poverty of the country without them. Therapy
If you still think of poverty alleviation, follow a different method.
Make a list of people who are not poor and still want to alleviate
poverty of others. Arrange a poverty therapy course for them.
The high time is either in extreme hot summer or severely cold
winter. Arrange a twenty day course for them at Rowmari of Kurigram.
Keep them there in huts without air condition and running water. Feed
them with ordinary local food and dress them with ordinary Lungi-Shari
the villager wear.
Ask them to till land, cut wood for fuel and cook their own food in
traditional earthen oven. Let them sleep on the floor in ordinary bed.
No telephone and electricity connections. This is the therapy which will
give them life time experience on poverty.
One should go through the poverty machine at least once in life. If
some one survives the therapy, she/he is really qualified to become a
Mao-Tse-Taung introduced the idea in China during the period of
Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. It met with havoc rather than
happiness among the urbanites. Because it was punitive and compulsory.
In our case it should be voluntary as sincere gesture of expressing
solidarity with the poor.
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration,
Chittagong University. Currently working in LGED as Consultant.
Courtesy - The News Today