Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Anti-poor Development

The stump oratory of the rulers in developing and under developed countries reaches people about de-regulated policies and economic reforms, GDP growth rates; foreign exchange reserves, record surge in exports and also a much hyped tub thumping about foreign investment. Ipso facto, that's nothing more than fiction. The governments completely fail in trickling down benefits to the poor. Consequently, they contribute sweet nothing in reducing poverty and hunger that goes on to sustain stark national inequalities in wealth, assets, incomes and opportunities.

Consequently, millions of people drag on teir living below the poverty line. In their stated bids to ensure national security they spend more on arms and defense, and less on social security and protection, public distribution systems and welfare programs.

Poverty is on the rise. Ironically, while the rich defaulters benefit from enhanced facilities to restructure debt and continue borrowing, the overwhelming burden of national debt is borne by the poor.

Lacking job opportunities in rural areas cause migration to urban cities. This takes the form of low quality jobs in the informal economy, or in the case of women and girls, prostitution or domestic service. Migration under conditions of economic stress exacerbates food insecurity. Owing to weak national economic and social profiles of such luckless countries, the adult population can't be gainfully employed, resulting in an exhorbitant unemployment rates, plus substantial under-employment.

More and more workers, especially women, are being forced from the relatively protected formal sector to the unprotected informal sector. This is accompanied by concentration of assets and resources in the hands of the rich and newly prosperous, who have been able to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by modernization and globalization.

Graft and corruption in governments are a significant cause of continuing poverty and hunger.
Sitting in luxurious offices the economic managers of poor countries juggle with statistics rather than conducting surveys. This is often done to draw statistics acceptable to donors or financial institutions. To duck the WB in 2001, for instance, Pakistan drafted the poverty reduction strategy, just about the time when the WB initiated a new line of credit (PRGF) for countries that were equipped with such a strategy.

The increase in the tax-GDP ratio is apparently marginal but in the numerical terms, bulk of the burden is shifted from direct to the indirect taxes and the share of the regressive sales tax recovered from consumers. This affects the whole population.

The narrow focus on economic growth not only fails to eliminate poverty, it also results in policies that create new forms of, or aggravated existing conditions of poverty and hunger. Public support and subsidies are systematically torn down, and market based price systems make the primary determinant of allocation and distribution. With privatization and withdrawal of government subsidies for domestic industry, a significant proportion of the work force is shunted into the informal sector. By and large, economic growth is achieved at the cost of well being of workers, small-scale agricultural producers and consumers. The greatest beneficiaries of adjustment programs are the rich, large private producers, distributors, traders, and MNCs.

Poverty and hunger are violations of human rights. They result in exclusion and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. The human rights of people to housing, water, and sanitation—guaranteed under international law and commitments of development targets made at global summits, including the Millennium Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable Development—drag on to erode. By ratifying a number of international human rights instruments, such as, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, developing countries voluntarily accept the obligations to progressively realize human rights to food, health, adequate housing, water and sanitation, which are essential for the well being of citizens.

The developing countries need policies that protect the rights of people to water, land, forests, other natural resources, biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. Policies are also needed that ensure people’s access to a services essential to their development especially among the poor and historically marginalized, this includes education, social security, healthcare and information, etc. Access must be equitable and the quality of services must not vary according to socio-economic or gender backgrounds. (