World hunger is a formidable sign of world poverty. Poverty leads to hunger.
Agriculture and food goes deep into the heart of our civilizations and humanity. It is at the core of different religions, cultures and even modern civilizations. The glaring ugly side of such an issue is no less remarkable.
The majority of the world and nations are in abject poverty. Whether wealthiest or poorest nations in the world the degree of inequality is quite high and is widening. Inequality is often a measure of relative poverty. Absolute poverty is also a grave concern. The figures of World Bank for world poverty reveals a higher number of people live in poverty than previous years.
The poorest strata of population, for obvious reasons will have less access to health, education and other state welfare services. Hunger, malnutrition and disease afflict this section tremendously. The poorest are marginalized in a way from society and have little representation or voice in public rostrum, state functioning and political debates.
The wealthier gentry are likely to derive substantial benefit from economic or political policies. The amount the world spends on military, financial bailouts and other areas that benefit the wealthy section of population, compared to the amount spent to redress the daily crisis of poverty and related problems are often tottering.
Most of humanity drags their lives on just a few dollars a day. Almost half the world, i.e. over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The new poverty line has been defined as living on the equivalent of $1.25 a day. About 1.4 billion people live on $1.25 a day or below that.
Moreover, at least 80% of humanity survives on less than $10 a day. The GDP of the 41 heavily indebted poor countries with about 567 million people is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined. Almost a billion people without literacy entered the 21st century.
Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to send every child to school by the year 2000. Alas! It couldn’t be materialised.
About one billion children, i.e. one in two children, live in poverty. In the world about 640 million people don’t have adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to drinking water, 270 million have no access to health services.
Around the world about 25,000 children die every day, i.e. nearly one child dies every four seconds. Almost 90 million children died in the last decade. It goes without saying that the silent killers are poverty and diseases arising out of malnutrition, which can easily be prevented.
Where does the root cause of this phenomenon lie? Whom to blame? Should poor people be blamed for their own plight?
Is it because the poor people are very lazy, take poor decisions, and therefore are solely responsible for their own predicament? What about their governments? Did they pursue policies favouring the interest of the majority of their people ensuring successful development?
I don’t want to ostracize these causes of poverty, inequality and hunger. But I’d like to delve into an outline analysis describing the national and the global facets behind world hunger and poverty.
The group of rich and powerful countries accepted globalisation as a policy of global decision making followed by global practice to facilitate the proximity of economies of countries of the world ensuring an all round multi-prong economic development of the world. Arguably a world without hunger and poverty!
This was the pious wish of the much heralded policy of globalisation!
The drivers behind the formulation and practice of the policy of globalisation were the rulers of rich countries. The giant MNCs also played a pivotal role. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation also were strong institutional levers to implement the policy.
Guess how tiny and meagre are the governments of the poor nations in the face of such huge external influence and power! In this global canvas, people are often powerless. As a matter of fact, a few rich countries amass wealth while the majority trail behind.
Euphonic Food Aid – not as emergency relief – has ulterior motive and can actually be very subversive on the economy of the recipient nations where hunger and poverty get multiplied in the long run.
The local farmers confront the challenge posed by the free, subsidised or cheaper food below market price from the US and Europe. They cannot compete with this unscrupulous race.
Their survival is at stake. They lose jobs and fall into poverty and hunger. The tentacles of larger producers from rich nations entangle the market of these poor nations with their products further.
As we are aware poor nations are dependent on farming and therefore, such food aid amounts to food dumping. This is, in fact, a powerful tool of foreign policy of the rich nations.
The politico-economic history of the recent past very much supports and proves it. This policy was used by the rich nations for extending their hegemony, inundating the market of the poor nations with their products.
This is all in the name of saving mankind, in the name of benevolence, in the name of food aid! This is heinous, this is odious. Let us unmask and decry it!
Globalisation prescribes ‘structural adjustment’. It is voiced through IMF and WB. It is the pivot of globalisation. It is, I feel, a major cause of poverty also.
Slashing the budgetary allocation on social health, education and other vital state welfare services are the consequence of structural adjustment. IMF and WB stringently adhere to ‘structural adjustment’ as matter of principle and condition for loan and repayment.
Moreover, poor nations’ governments have to open their economies to compete with poor nations and powerful nations as well. In order to attract foreign investment, poor countries jump into a vicious race by liberalising their economies. They are forced to offer human and natural resource at cheaper rates. This is how unequal rules of trade are nurtured and maintained.
The ongoing WB and IMF policies are formulated and regulated by the representatives of the rich nations who control the policy-making bodies of WB and IMF.
Thus the policies are obviously directed to benefit the economies of rich nations. Hence the poor countries get forced into attracting foreign investment as I have mentioned earlier.
Often an unholy nexus is built among rulers, bureaucracy, industrialists and investors of the rich and poor countries on the pretext of high sounding ‘Progress and Development’ at the cost of general interest of the common people of the poor countries.
MNCs play a vital role in this manoeuvring. This is neither a step towards developing their economies nor enhancing the standard of living of their people in a long term and meaningful perspective. Virtually, the menace of poverty in these societies perpetuate.
The solution of alleviating world poverty lies in paradigm shifting the investment policy of the governments of the poor countries to that in health, education and other important state welfare social services including agriculture. Food Aid does not offer the solution.
When I think of alleviation of poverty I think of it as a long term meaningful measure.
World hunger is a formidable sign of world poverty. Poverty leads to hunger. Meaningful long-term alleviation of hunger lies in the alleviation of poverty. Allocation of more resources to improve agriculture will provide a long term and meaningful solution to alleviation of world hunger, thereby world poverty.
If efforts are only directed at providing food or improving food production or distribution, then the politico-structural root cause which has both national and global facets, that create hunger, poverty and dependency, will neither be identified nor resolved.
The solution demands a radical, proactive, dynamic and pro-people sustainable economic reform to build self-reliant and independent nations and economies with masses of population having strong purchasing power fostering an enriched widest possible market base. The major focus should be on rural development, as poor nations and societies are essentially agrarian and rural where per capita income and standard of living are precarious.
The root cause of long term and meaningful solution of alleviating poverty lies not in structural adjustment, not in shifting the investment policy by the governments of poor nations, not even in time-to-time food dole from the rich nations. It lies in a pro-people, radical, dynamic, proactive, politico-structural solution.
This has to adopt and implement such socio-economic strategy and planning package as can explore and utilise the natural resources including human resources in a judicious and optimum way.
The major focus definitely has to be on rural development, as the poor nations and societies are in the main agrarian and rural where per capita income and standard of living are alarming. This will enhance the buying capacity of people and thus create a strong internal market base which will pave the way for an independent industrial and technological progress which is the leading sector of a modern economy.
Source of Figures used: Anup Shah in www.globalissues.org
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