One of the many speakers from nations around the world present at the UN 68th General Assembly, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, brought her case for taking a “bottom-up” approach when it comes to ending global poverty. President Banda believes that helping poor households rise out of poverty is the key, as opposed to increasing the gross domestic product of developing nations.
Many influential representatives from around the world came together at the UN headquarters to formulate a concise agenda for fighting poverty beyond the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. President Banda reminded everyone that the MDGs are about lifting people out of poverty, and while income inequalities for poor countries are a major contributor of poverty for individuals, just increasing GDP may not be the solution.
“The issues that affect population growth, malnutrition, girls’ access to education, maternal health are all rooted in poverty and particularly lack of income at the household level,” said President Banda. She stressed the necessity of promoting national policies that will allow individuals to earn more income for their households. President Banda suggests that the key is to tackle poverty at a grassroots level, in rural areas that often remain unaffected by economic boons.
Another fact to consider: the statistics that measure development from Africa can be misleading. Morten Jerven, author of Poor Numbers, found that developing nations struggle to provide accurate statistics on GDP because they simply lack the funding for official statistical offices. Collecting enough data to provide an accurate representation of the whole is a costly endeavor, and depends on meticulous record keeping by individuals and companies. The data used by poorer countries with weaker bureaucracies is usually just occasionally gathered by surveys, which are unlikely to account for everyone. Most sub-Saharan countries do not tax income or property, and only tax imports and exports, which would certainly skew the numbers when compared to other nations.
Jerven argues that more accurate data collection to measure development should be one of the post-2015 goals. “In the MDG discussions, for example, targets were identified first, but less thought was given to where the data needed to monitor them should come from.”
– Jennifer Bills