Poverty is getting poorer, and that is a big news. A study done by Oxford University’s poverty and human development initiative tells us that acute poverty will be eradicated within 20 years. We are not hearing it for the first time. Our very own Dr. Muhammad Yunus said something in the same vein when he gave his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Stockholm in 2006.
The Oxford study is one more source to confirm that poverty, the greatest evil in human history, is heading for the museum. The study found that as of 2013 a total of 1.6 billion people are still sitting in the pipeline of “multidimensional” poverty worldwide. Out of them, the poorest one billion live in 100 countries. More specifically, most of the bottom billion lives in South Asia, and India alone has 40 percent of them, another 33 percent living in sub-Saharan Africa.
The developed, and upper middle-income countries are home to only 9.5 percent of people trapped in extreme poverty. Compared to the past, fewer poor people inhabit the earth and more people are richer. The numbers speak for themselves. The proportion of people in the developing world living on less than USD1.25 a day was 20.6 percent in 2010, down from 43.1 percent in 1990 and 52.2 percent in 1981. Even better, Bangladesh is amongst the “star performer” nations including Rwanda, and Nepal where poverty level has been consistently going down and deprivation disappearing fast.
The next batch of countries waiting to ride this freedom train includes Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia, and Bolivia. What does that mean for the world? Abject poverty banished, the world will become a more glamorous place to live. People will still go without food, but only to fast or diet as starvation will be a thing of the past. The anger of hunger will be conquered. There will be roofs over heads, clothing for everyone, and perhaps sufficient recreation to enjoy the finer things in life.
One cannot deny the importance of poverty reduction. Poverty has been the bane of human existence for centuries. It has been bringing starvation, sorrow, and exploitation that led to unspeakable horrors. Poverty is the most basic form of human sufferings, the mother of most miseries. The lowest point in existential crisis, it makes even a morsel of food the highest point in pursuit of happiness.
The Oxford study assures us that poverty’s force, like a dissipating storm, is weakening. It tells us that the world is witnessing a ‘global rebalancing’ as higher growth in at least 40 poor countries is rescuing millions from the dangerous dungeons of poverty. The study also claims that never before in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so rapidly. The study talks about a new and interesting measure of poverty.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by Dr. Sabina Alkire and Dr. Maria Emma Santos in 2010 has a fundamental assumption that poverty is more than money. The index includes ten indicators to calculate poverty such as nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling and attendance, cooking fuel, water, sanitation, electricity assets, and a covered floor. If poverty is more than money, why is money the only measure of affluence?
Bangladesh has made considerable headway in poverty reduction, but there is also a great deal of emphasis on money in this country. Besides, the rural poverty may be going down but urban poverty is on the rise. At the same time, income distribution is getting skewed, more wealth going to those who have too much. The question is whether the material gains coming to us is leaving us impoverished in our minds.
First News is wishing its readers, contributors, patrons and well-wishers a very happy Eid Mubarak. The magazine will not come out on June 25 due to the Eid holidays.