Turkey_Budget_reform
Many have called for the Turkish government to spend more of the national budget on social aid as poverty rates in Turkey are over the average for countries in the European Union. Current spending on social aid policies is a paltry 1 percent of Turkey’s budget. But in addition to establishing policies that help the impoverished, some are also questioning whether Turkey is doing enough to diminish the extreme income inequality.

Even though it has maintained a 5 percent annual growth and is experiencing rising employment, Turkey has one of the highest income inequality rates among the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. This income inequality is largely due to educational problems. The poverty rate for the illiterate in Turkey was 30 percent in 2009, compared to the only .7 percent for those who graduated from a university. As a result, the many agricultural laborers are stricken with poverty. The reason for this is that the agricultural industry in Turkey accounts for 9 percent of its GDP, but is around 25 percent of overall employment.

The overall education levels need to improve in Turkey with the help of more social aid spending, but, most urgently, educational rates for girls also need to rise. The literacy rate of men is much higher than that of women, causing more women to face the risk of living in poverty.

Even though the country has gone through many phases of immigration, urbanization, population rises, and changes in family structure, the social services and aid policies have not been properly reformed to address changes adequately. The institution in charge of social spending, the Family and Social Policies Ministry, has not allocated more than 1.2 percent of the GDP on policies that combat income inequality and poverty. Many are calling for a change, the Turkish government needs to make more of an effort to engage in social intervention.

But social aid policies are of no use if not managed properly. Turkey should to transfer policy implementation to local authorities instead of the current system of having social aid policy centrally controlled. If funds are managed by individual provinces, funding and resources can be more efficiently utilized, and efficaciously target poverty and income inequality within the region.

Over the last few years, Turkey has experienced significant growth, however more than a quarter children in the country still live in poverty. Even though the total percentage rate of poverty has dropped around 8 points, the fact is that still a fifth of the population is impoverished. Turkey has been investing in sustainable technology and building urban centers, but, to fully prosper, it will have to do more than flash signs of wealth and development. A budget reform in Turkey to reallocate more resources to boosting education and employment will decrease poverty and bridge the income inequality gap in the country.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: Today’s Zaman, The Guardian, Hurriyet Daily News

Indigenous_Peoples
On August 9th, the world celebrated the UN’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, an annual event that has been held since 1995. This year’s theme, “honoring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements,” struck a chord with aboriginal peoples around the globe. With many suffering from poverty and marginalization at the hands of states in power, the indigenous peoples of today are finding a dead end at the intersection of state interests and modern culture. The United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and has been advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights ever since. In a report released in 2009, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs described the state of the world’s indigenous peoples, particularly the impoverishment that most have found themselves in.  The report points out that globalization has given governments a reason to take indigenous lands for use in profitable industries like mineral extraction. Either seized or heavily polluted, these lands and territories of indigenous people have increasingly become their heaviest losses. With unsettling histories marked by colonization, dispossession, and injustice, indigenous peoples have been forced into the lowest echelons of society where they often remain. Research conducted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has produced statistical figures that characterize the overwhelming poverty felt by these peoples. There are about 370 million indigenous peoples around the globe today, or about 5% of the world population. They make up 15% of the world’s poor and 1/3 of the world’s “extremely poor rural people.” Disparities between countries’ indigenous and nonindigenous populations in education, healthcare, and other basic sectors are substantial. On August 9th, several indigenous populations spoke out against their marginalization.  In the Philippines, the people of Cordillera called on their government to “honor their commitments to [the people of Cordillera].” In the past three years, these people have seen the rise of the state’s mining industry, which has ultimately violated their rights. Given their circumstances, indigenous peoples’ voices are rarely heard. Where foreign aid could be the key to a better world for these peoples, countries continue to allot funds to secure state interests, often leaving aboriginal peoples behind. In a collective effort to shift the tides, indigenous peoples everywhere are calling on donors to consider sending direct donations in support of their development.
Lina Saud
Sources: Indigenous Day, What Indigenous Peoples Need from Foreign Aid Photo: Indian Country

thailand_tribes_poverty
Thailand is often known as the land of beautiful beaches, burgeoning tourism, and The Hangover 2. But that’s not quite the whole picture. While Thailand has seen great developmental leaps over the past 20 years, the country still faces challenges with poverty and more recently growing inequality in Thailand.

At the surface, Thailand appears to lie in a positive, growing position. Starting in 1990, the poverty level decreased from 27 percent to 9.8 percent, in just 12 years. The number of chronically underweight children dropped to half its previous measurement in this same time period. Access to education and literacy rates continue to improve annually.

The problem lies in the fact that this growth has been concentrated in cities and urban areas, leaving the rural communities and hill tribes to suffer. Nearly one million children lack documents proving their birth registration. This means the Thai government does not recognize them as citizens, preventing them from receiving any governmental benefits and recognition of their basic human rights.

While unemployment stands at a promising 2 percent rate, child labor remains a fact of life for many, with an estimated 818,000 children aged five to fourteen generating income for their families. As Thailand’s economy continues to grow from increased international trade and as educational standards increase, this number is expected to fall.

Issues with water sanitation have continued to create health problems for 4 percent of the country, with the majority of that 4 percent consisting of rural communities without proper sanitary technology or regulations. This lack of clean water leads to malnutrition and the spread of disease through bacteria.

Human trafficking continues to stand out as significant problem for the Thai people. This underground industry leads to thousands of kidnapped people who are then forced into modern day slavery, in the form of prostitution or forced labor. The popularity of prostitution in the country also contributes to the spread of HIV and AIDS, currently afflicting more than 610,000 people.

Currently 9.8 percent of the population lives under the poverty line. This percentage is largely concentrated in the rural outskirts of the country. This demographic consists of small farmers, without access to education. In contrast, many citizens in the urban areas of Thailand have benefited from the job creation generated by the country’s growing international economy.

Geographically, the struggling sections of the country lie on the borders, with the hill tribes in the far northern and far southern regions remain left behind as the rest of Thailand has progressed over the last two decades. These isolated areas see the greatest problems with hunger, with women and children’s health in particular struggling with malnutrition and mortality rates. Without access to proper medical care, little improvement is being made and disease continues to spread. Similarly, a lack of education prevents these remote areas from growing economically.

While Thailand certainly has achieved great progress in meeting its problems with poverty, there remains much work to be accomplished. The growing disparity in both wealth and basic human rights must be addressed and the country must unify even its most distant regions in order to continue to move forward in its developmental journey.

– Allison Meade

Sources: World Vision, Central Intelligence Agency
Photo: Bunnie Blog