International Poverty Reduction Center in China
The Chinese government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other organizations founded the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) in 2004. Its goal is to allow for the sharing of knowledge and information to reduce poverty and encourage development throughout the world. It also engages in research on international poverty reduction theories and practices and provides reviews of China’s poverty reduction policies. While its work extends beyond Asia, it participates in poverty reduction in Southeast Asia and takes part in ASEAN forums and conferences.

What the International Poverty Reduction Center (IPRCC) Does

One of the major issues of programs seeking to help raise people out of poverty is that they rely too much on giving people what they need today, rather than ensuring they have the resources and knowledge to provide for tomorrow. The International Poverty Reduction Center is trying to prevent this by focusing on involvement at the village level. It pays attention to ensuring those on the ground have the knowledge, resources and ability to continue to grow sustainably even after the IPRCC leaves.

The Ban Xor Example

In December 2016, Ban Xor, Laos became the site for the pilot program of the IPRCC. There were 2,007 residents at the time and half lived on less than $700 a year. The goal of the involvement in Ban Xor is to share knowledge of farming techniques, assist in the construction of public infrastructure and give people market access to sell their products. The emphasis is on using China’s experiences to help others as well as sharing information between both the Chinese and Lao teams. The Chinese experts learned what people in Ban Xor required and what their living situation was like, and the Lao executives’ team learned management methods as well as how to tackle poverty issues based on China’s experiences.

As a result of this program, the people of Ban Xor have improved their corn and cattle farming techniques and have been able to increase their yields. Additionally, women have been able to sell their traditional weaving to Chinese buyers. Some of the infrastructural changes include the building of a bridge to allow easier travel throughout the village at all times of the year. Furthermore, they constructed a school, which caters to students from kindergarten through secondary school, with 60 teachers and 550 students as of 2019. This school includes a playground and places for people to live. As education is one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty and ensures that the next generation will be better off than the current, this is a vital part of this program.

The use of both “hard methods,” such as building roads, bridges and schools and “soft methods,” such as knowledge sharing, is vital. These methods provide the people with the groundwork and the knowledge needed for sustainable development.

The Importance of the Program

While this program is still ongoing and the results of such programs can take years or even decades to come to fruition, changes have already occurred in Ban Xor and other villages to improve the quality of life.

China is still a developing country but has made incredible strides in decreasing poverty within its own country. In 1990, two-thirds of the population was living below the international poverty line. By 2016, it was only 0.5% of the population. That is not to say that there is no inequality in China, but more to show how quickly China has been able to increase the standard of living. This rapid growth has given Chinese poverty reduction experts the knowledge and experience to help others in the region and globally.

Countries like Laos have been steadily decreasing the number of people living in poverty, due in part to programs such as this which facilitate knowledge sharing and encourage people on the ground to make sustainable change. Regional cooperation is vital to ensuring stability and sustainable growth and this program is just one example of how a country can go from a major aid recipient to a major aid donor and help bring change to a region.

– Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

health and wellness centersIndia has long lacked an adequate healthcare system, with disadvantaged communities being particularly excluded. Initiatives were implemented throughout the years to improve healthcare in India, culminating in 2018 with the inauguration of the Ayushman Bharat program. The program includes a two-pronged approach to achieving universal healthcare: the establishment of an insurance scheme aimed at impoverished people as well as the creation of 150,000 health and wellness centers (HWCs) throughout the country. While the former has been widely analyzed, the latter is underrated in its potential to improve the lives of India’s most vulnerable. The new HWCs will greatly expand India’s primary healthcare system and will provide impoverished communities with quality healthcare.

Ayushman Bharat and India’s Healthcare System

The Ayushman Bharat program was initiated in 2018 as a response to shortcomings in India’s healthcare system. Indian policymakers have directed much attention toward combating the rates of communicable diseases or diseases that are spread by bacteria. As a result, deaths due to these conditions have decreased. Meanwhile, non-communicable diseases were the cause of 62% of deaths in 2016. The need to reorient India’s healthcare system to this issue became apparent.

The Indian government’s National Health Policy 2017 detailed the need to upgrade the country’s existing health facilities by investing 2.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in healthcare by 2025. Ayushman Bharat launched the next year to facilitate this with one of the main goals of the program: the establishment of health and wellness centers throughout the country.

Health and Wellness Centers

India’s health and wellness centers (HWCs) intend to upgrade 150,000 existing health facilities by December 2022. These upgraded facilities are designed to remedy the country’s substandard healthcare by providing a greater range of services and being in touch with local needs. The expanded range of services is key to reaching more people as HWCs will treat issues such as non-communicable diseases and mental health while also providing dental care.

Additionally, HWCs seek to emphasize community engagement to effectively serve the areas they are located in. This includes health promotion through schools and other community centers as well as the empowerment of individual volunteers to improve local capacity. Furthermore, HWCs will encourage the participation of civil society and will engage with local nonprofit organizations to provide additional care.

With a goal of creating 150,000 HWCs by December 2022, India appears to be well on its way. As of November 2020, 50,000 facilities have been made operational, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In terms of COVID-19, the work of HWCs is integral as they have been involved in efforts for contact tracing, community surveillance and early identification of cases. They have also ensured the provision of health services for people with co-morbidities who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

The Road Ahead

With the combination of expanded services and community engagement, HWCs are designed to encourage Indians to pursue proper healthcare, thus decreasing the rates of diseases and other ailments. This is especially beneficial for India’s disadvantaged communities as they will have greater access to quality healthcare that is specifically tailored to their needs. In all, HWCs will greatly improve India’s chances of achieving universal healthcare.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

E-Commerce Can End Rural Poverty in China
E-commerce has the power to end rural poverty in China. In 2014, about 100 out of 640 households in Kengshang were on a list for having annual incomes of less than $400. The rural Chinese village in Anhui province had been in poverty for years. This is due to a shortage of farmland and geographical isolation. Most villagers made their living by growing tea but the working population decreased every year as people left to find jobs.

In 2015, the district’s commerce bureau invested $31,000 in Kengshang. This involved setting up a workshop to train the villagers and renovating a school building. The villagers sold dried bamboo shoots in small decorative bags, which the poverty-alleviation team then sold online. All of the profits went directly to the villagers. The annual revenue from the online shops in 2020 was about $123,870, up from $23,226 in 2016. By 2016, the Chinese government deemed the village of Kengshang poverty-free.

E-Commerce in China

Kengshang is one of many success stories in poverty alleviation thanks to e-commerce in China. E-commerce is the buying and selling of goods over the internet. It allows more people to access potential global markets for their products, which can help reduce poverty by opening up a new avenue of income for the impoverished. It has been especially effective for those facing rural poverty.

E-commerce in China is a robust industry for rural communities. All 832 state-level impoverished counties have e-commerce programs to alleviate poverty. In 2019, 13.84 million rural e-commerce shops existed. The shops registered total online sales of about $8.02 billion in the first quarter of 2020, up 5% from 2019.

The Alibaba Group, an e-commerce giant, launched the Rural Taobao Program in 2014 to help give rural citizens better access to the internet and help farmers increase their income by selling agricultural products directly to urban consumers online. It does this by setting up e-commerce service networks in counties and villages and improving logistical connections for villages. It also provides training in e-commerce and entrepreneurship and develops rural financial services through the AntFinancial subsidiary of Alibaba. The Rural Taobao Program has expanded rapidly, from 212 villages in 12 counties in 2014 to more than 30,000 villages in 1,000 counties in 2018.

The Chinese government has invested in improving the existing e-commerce system. In the future, the government plans to improve infrastructure in rural areas to smooth urban-rural trade channels, especially for agricultural products. Third-party delivery services, improved rural logistics systems and the cultivation of local brands will support agricultural products.

Eliminating Poverty in China

E-commerce in rural provinces has helped China eliminate rural poverty nationwide. In November 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that all rural citizens were living above the centrally-defined poverty line of about $400 a year. While this is still below the internationally recognized poverty line of $700 a year, it is an impressive feat thanks to strategies like e-commerce in rural areas. In the future, the growing industry of e-commerce has the potential to bring all rural Chinese people above the international poverty line.

E-Commerce During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce has become even more important. Online ordering and no-contact delivery give rural communities a source of income that does not risk their health. Despite disruptions due to shutdowns, Taobao, an e-commerce platform, saw merchants sell 160% more products in March 2020 than in 2019. PinDuoDuo, another e-commerce company, has boosted daily orders to 65 million, compared to 50 million before the pandemic.

Looking Forward

With sustained development and investment, e-commerce has the potential to end rural poverty in China. The Chinese government needs to invest in the workers by providing entrepreneurship training, helping them establish an online presence and creating the necessary infrastructure to help them sell their products online. That way, e-commerce can be a long-term solution.

Other countries can learn from China’s e-commerce model. While China’s success comes in part from the extensive government involvement in the lives of individual citizens, other nations can still take note of the booming e-commerce industry. Investments in e-commerce development programs have the power to help end rural poverty in China.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Exporting Clean EnergyCongressman Mike Thompson introduced H.R. 848: GREEN Act of 2021 on February 4, 2021. It is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, serving to provide incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Renewable energy can serve as a means of ending poverty as access to energy can improve healthcare, education and economic opportunity. There also lies an opportunity of possibly exporting clean energy.

The GREEN Act of 2021

Congressman Thompson’s GREEN Act of 2021 seeks to increase the incentives for U.S. citizens to use renewable energy. Congressman Thompson is a vocal advocate for clean energy, believing this change will help not only the United States but also the world at large. Thompson’s vigor in promoting clean energy comes from a desire to cut reduce emissions and create millions of jobs worldwide. Congressman Thompson has voiced renewable energy as priority in Congress by cosponsoring the Green New Deal in February 2019 and sponsoring legislation to provide tax incentives for those using clean energy. Congressman Thompson acknowledges the U.S.’s responsibility to aid other countries. One sees this through his commitments to improve education globally. In combining these two efforts, the U.S. could tackle two of the world’s most important issues.

Clean Energy at Work

In the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the elimination of poverty is as imperative as clean, renewable energy. Robert Freling, executive director of the Solar Electric Light Fund, believes energy is a key weapon in fighting against global poverty. To Freling, access to electricity is a basic human right that is not available to many impoverished nations. Without access to energy, developing countries’ attempts to improve people’s lives comes to a standstill.

The World Bank reports that 840 million people do not have access to electricity and 650 million people will still not have electricity in 2030. According to the World Bank, those lower-income families living in rural areas will need to use solar home systems, mini-grids and solar lighting to combat poverty.

Various countries have proven the effectiveness of renewable energy in fighting poverty. For example, in China introducing solar energy led to more than 800,000 families in poverty having access to power. In some areas, solar installations provided families with an additional yearly income of more than $400.

Exporting Clean Energy

This emphasis on the Unites States promoting clean energy across the world has been noticed by other members of Congress as well. Rep. John Curtis believes the U.S. should set an example by exporting renewable energy to foreign countries. Rep. Curtis introduced multiple bills with the main goal of exporting clean energy. One piece of legislation Rep. Curtis introduced is the Worldwide Wind Turbine Act, which would give the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) the power to accept old wind turbines as donations and share these turbines with developing nations who could benefit from wind energy.

By exporting clean energy, the U.S. can lead the way to transition to renewable energy while improving the global economy. Renewable and clean energy efforts are vital because global poverty cannot truly be resolved unless energy poverty is addressed.

Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in IndonesiaThe streets are showered in debris, rescue dogs rummage through rubble and more than 400 homes are collapsed in piles where they previously stood. Such a sight followed the earthquake that hit Mamuju, the provincial capital of West Sulawesi in Indonesia, on January 15, 2021. With at least 82 dead and around 30,000 displaced, the aftershocks are devastating. However, for many Indonesians, stories like this one are painfully familiar as natural disasters are common and homelessness in Indonesia is rampant.

Natural Disasters, Poverty and Homelessness

Sitting on the fault line of three tectonic plates, Indonesia experiences earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 or lower almost daily. Major natural disasters have hit Indonesia on average once a month since 2004. These events, including tsunamis, landslides and even volcanic eruptions, destroy homes and communities. Each crisis pushes the rate of homelessness in Indonesia higher. Of course, poverty and inequality also play important parts in explaining why almost three million (1.14%) Indonesians are homeless. Natural disasters pose a unique and pressing challenge to governments and organizations trying to fight homelessness, especially in natural disaster-prone areas.

Homelessness in Indonesia

From the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s till the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia enjoyed commendable economic growth. It also joined the G20 and cemented its status as a low middle-income country. The poverty rate more than halved from 1999 standing at 9.78% in 2020. On many fronts, Indonesia shows potential for significant economic and social development in the first half of the 21st century.

That being said, the COVID-19 pandemic has undone some of Indonesia’s progress from the last two decades. From March to September of 2020, official statistics reported that an additional one million Indonesians had dropped below the national poverty line. At least 2.8 million Indonesians have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and another 70 million informal workers are at risk of unemployment in the near future.

Against this backdrop, homelessness in Indonesia remains a serious problem. In the first half of 2020, natural disasters displaced an estimated 508,000 Indonesians. Adding to the gravity of these high numbers, natural disasters are no temporary predicament. One year after earthquakes and a tsunami hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island on September 28, 2018, an estimated 57,000 people still remain homeless. Moreover, around 25 million Indonesians live in slums or other temporary housing. A recent survey found that even in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, thousands are at risk of becoming homeless because they are unable to pay rent.

Global Endeavors

Habitat for Humanity, the World Bank, USAID and the Asian Development Bank, among many others, fight homelessness in Indonesia through investment and development expertise. Habitat for Humanity has been working in Indonesia since 1997. In 2019, it helped more than 77,000 Indonesians through a combination of housing, market development and water and sanitation programs. In an effort to promote resilience and recovery in the face of natural disasters, Habitat for Humanity constructs concrete-reinforced houses, provides rubble removal and emergency hygiene kits and rebuilds houses that have collapsed from earthquakes or landslides.

In 2019, the World Bank committed almost $2 billion to projects in Indonesia. These address a broad range of development goals, including infrastructure, the maritime economy and sustainable and universal energy access. In 2017, the World Bank committed $450 million to Indonesia’s National Affordable Housing Program. This program aims to increase access to quality housing through a three-pronged approach of easier financing, household improvements and technical assistance for policy reform. By 2020, the program had already led to housing improvements for more than half a million households.

Vision Indonesia 2045

In 2018, the Indonesian government unveiled an ambitious plan for how the country should develop by 2045, the centennial of Indonesia’s independence. Although the plan spans everything from defense to innovation policy, the central pillars are peace and prosperity. One of the more specific goals is to reach an annual GDP per capita of more than $19,794. This would propel Indonesia into the realm of upper-middle-income countries and usher in lower rates of poverty and homelessness. Especially with the World Bank’s recent commitment of $250 million to support Indonesia’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, the current crisis is unlikely to derail Indonesia’s goals. If Indonesia realizes its growth potential and foreign aid continues bolstering its natural disaster and housing resilience, homelessness in Indonesia will decline, protecting millions of vulnerable people.

Alexander Vanezis
Photo:Flickr

Extreme Poverty in Botswana
The nation of Botswana, home to approximately 2.3 million people, has undergone an amazing change over the past three decades, transforming from an impoverished nation to one of the wealthiest nations in sub-Saharan Africa. While many of its neighbors have lagged behind—in fact, the United Nations classifies sub-Saharan Africa as the poorest region in the world—Botswana reduced the percentage of its population living on less than $1.90 a day from 29.8% between 2002-2003 to 16.1% between 2015-2016. What are the secrets to success in combatting extreme poverty in Botswana that have allowed it to prosper relative to its neighboring African nations?

A Brief Look at the History of Botswana

Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 and quickly adopted a parliamentary constitutional republic. In fact, Botswana is the oldest democracy on the continent, though one party—the Botswana Democratic Party—has dominated elections since the adoption of the country’s constitution. Compared to its neighbors, Botswana began with a commitment to free enterprise, rule of law and individual liberties. Its first president, Seretse Khama, had a devotion to fighting corruption, which was critical to Botswana’s success.

To fight extreme poverty in Botswana, the country invested in four critical pillars: public institutions, education, economic diversification and women’s rights.

4 Pillars to Tackling Extreme Poverty in Botswana

  1. One of the most remarkable aspects of Botswana is its extraordinarily low levels of corruption as a result of institutional checks and balances. According to the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, Botswana was the least corrupt nation in Africa, with its score twice as high as the average sub-Saharan African nation. Botswana is one of only a handful of nations that outperform parts of Western Europe, with its score outpacing Spain in 2018. This is as a result of institutional checks and balances, including the Corruption and Economic Crime Act of 1994 and the development of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, an agency tasked with investigating and preventing corruption. As a resource-rich state known for diamond mining, Botswana was careful to prevent government employees from benefiting from what the nation’s first president deemed public resources.
  2. Botswana invests a considerable percentage of its GDP in education; this percentage was more than 20% in 2009. Botswana’s investment in education translated to a literacy rate of 87% in 2019, compared to a regional average of 65%. High rates of education have contributed to Botswana’s increased economic diversification and strong political stability, making the nation one of the more attractive places to do business in Africa.
  3. Smart economic development has contributed to Botswana’s high living standards and low corruption levels, placing it ahead of its peers. Botswana derived much of its early economic growth from diamond extraction which, among other exports, accounts for approximately 40% of Botswana’s GDP composition by end-use. However, consistent investment in other sectors of the economy has remained a strategy for the ruling party, and the government has increasingly diversified its economy towards the service sector and tourism jobs. Investment in conservation and wildlife has grown the tourism industry to approximately 14% of Botswana’s GDP,  nearly doubling since 1999. Remarkably, Botswana’s commitment to managing its domestic ecosystems allowed it to sign one of the first “debt-for-nature” agreements with the United States, which forgave more than $8 million in debt in exchange for the continued protection of the Okavango Delta and tropical forests.
  4. In addition to the high rates of women’s education and literacy, Botswana remains committed to a strong National Family Planning Policy and healthcare service. Botswana has experienced a rapid decline in fertility, according to the CIA World Factbook, with the total fertility rate falling from over five children per woman in the 1980s to 2.42 in 2021. Easy access to contraception and above-average rural and urban access to healthcare facilities have not only contributed to a decline in fertility but emboldened women’s rights and improved standards of living.

Botswana is by no means a perfect nation. It has extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS, like many of its African peers, and its single-party government has been criticized by some international organizations for suppressing competition. However, decades of consistent improvement in education and women’s rights, increased economic diversification, high levels of economic freedom and a commitment to fighting corruption have made Botswana the most prosperous nation in sub-Saharan Africa and a model for its peers.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: Flickr

Improve Lives in MexicoBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, moderate poverty in Mexico had declined from 25.7% in 2016 to 23% in 2018, although 29 million people continued living in impoverished conditions. Prior to 2018, Mexico’s multidimensional poverty rate, which includes income poverty as well as factors such as access to food and education, had dropped to about 42% of the population, thereby improving lives in Mexico. However, according to CONEVAL, a public agency that measures poverty, the effects of COVID-19 could mean that 56% of the country, or 70 million Mexicans, may not earn enough to cover their basic needs. This number represents an increase of around 50% more poverty in the past 24 months. Mexican women-led associations and businesses are leading the way to reduce poverty and improve lives in Mexico.

COVID-19 and Poverty

The effects of COVID-19 could eliminate decades of poverty reduction. Global GDP fell 5.2% in 2020, but, Latin America’s drop in real GDP was expected to be closer to 7%, according to the World Bank. The IMF calculates an economic recession of 6.6% in Mexico. By June 2002, more than a million jobs were already lost due to the pandemic.

As a result, Latin America’s second-largest economy, Mexico, could be among the countries in the region that are affected worst. Up to 17 million Mexicans may soon be living in extreme poverty — an increase from 11 million in 2019.

Women Entrepreneurs in Querétaro

In the state of Querétaro, Mexico, a women-led and women-founded association is helping to lift women and their families out of poverty. Established in 2010, Mujeres y Ambiente SPR de RL de CV has combined forces with an environmentally-minded Spanish company, along with the Mexican government and Autonomous University of Querétaro, to develop cosmetics based on local medicinal plants. Mujeres y Ambiente helps women entrepreneurs in Querétaro to expand their own agricultural micro-businesses, thereby helping them to become economically self-sufficient.

Eulalia Moreno Sánchez, along with her two daughters, Ángeles and Rosa Balderas, formed a Women and Environment group in the La Carbonera community. Through consolidating micro-businesses such as selling earthworm humus, mushrooms, medicinal plants, vegetables and aromatic plants, the women utilize the cultivated raw materials which they use in their products, to help the community produce a sustainable income.

International Support for Mexican Women

The Nagoya Protocol came into force in Mexico in 2014. This international agreement supports the equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources that come from traditional knowledge. Under the agreement, the women of rural Querétaro signed the first-of-its-kind permit between Mexico and Spain, which provides access to the genetic resources of traditional medicine plants cultivated in Mexico. The agreement fairly compensates local producers for their knowledge and their work, thus improving lives in Mexico. The community gets to preserve its ecosystem’s genetic resources and the women’s traditional knowledge based on medicinal plants. Members of the association are offered jobs as well as research and business opportunities.

In 2016, Sanchez and her daughters began to export lemon balm, or Toronjil, for the Spanish cosmetics company Provital. Since then, they have signed additional agreements to produce other medicinal plants for the company. With support from the UNDP (Global Environment Facility), the project establishes the legal framework for ensuring the right to protect biodiversity.

Preserving Biodiversity and Creating Jobs

In addition to alleviating poverty, the association’s goals include stabilizing the soil, cultivating a nursery and conserving biodiversity. Cosmetic products are developed from the women’s traditional knowledge about local herbs and medicinal plants. The entrepreneurs are part of the cosmetics industry’s sustainable supply chain and they serve as an example of successful conservation through the sustainable use of biodiverse resources. These activities have allowed the women to derive an income, create more jobs and open up markets, offering a way to reduce poverty and improve lives in Mexico.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

James WolfensohnJames Wolfensohn, the ninth World Bank president, passed away at the age of 86 on November 25, 2020. During his decade of leadership, the World Bank became a preeminent leader in addressing global poverty as one of the world’s largest financiers of education, health, HIV/AIDS programs and the environment. His legacy as a champion of poverty reduction is worth remembering and is one that future leaders should emulate.

Early Life of James Wolfensohn

Growing up in Edgecliff, New South Wales, Wolfensohn’s father struggled financially. According to his autobiography, “A Global Life,” the financial insecurity that challenged his family through his childhood had a profound impact on his life and was something he would carry with him through his tenure as president of the World Bank.

After graduating from the University of Sydney with an LLB Law degree and later earning an MBA at Harvard Business School, Wolfensohn worked for multiple firms and investment banks. He eventually created his own investment firm in New York in 1981.

Joining the World Bank

When Wolfensohn first came onboard at the World Bank, the Bank was under intense scrutiny. Facing mass protests, a number of failed projects as well as increasing criticism from the investment banking industry and NGOs, many felt the World Bank had lost sight of its mission and objectives.

When Wolfensohn received the appointment of the ninth World Bank president in 1995, the world was facing the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, an intensifying war in the Balkans and around 31% of the world’s population was living at or below $1.90 per day.

Facing a complex set of challenges as World Bank president, Wolfensohn rose to the challenge and began implementing new initiatives and started retooling projects. Under his leadership, the Bank took steps to refocus on social-sector lending programs instead of the ineffective and expensive infrastructure initiatives of the past. Simply put, he reinstated the World Bank’s central goal: helping the world’s most impoverished nations defeat poverty.

Initiatives and Legacy

Wolfensohn’s policy regarding the debt that many African and South American countries incurred best exemplifies this shift in organizational focus. It is the Debt Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), a framework for all creditors to provide debt relief to the most heavily indebted low-income countries. The goal of the initiative was to address halted economic growth and slowed poverty reduction due to debt accumulation.

Further policies aimed at reducing poverty included the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) and the 1999 Poverty Reduction Strategy. The CDF provided a strategy and vehicle for the Bank to implement the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The World Bank committed to achieving the goals, placing the MDGs at the center of its poverty reduction efforts.

Wolfensohn also committed to increasing engagement with disenfranchised communities such as impoverished youth, the Roma and those with disabilities. He also took steps to help make HIV/AIDS treatment affordable.

Remembering James Wolfensohn

The impact of global poverty reduction efforts that James Wolfensohn spearheaded will forever remain. According to Wolfensohn, “If we want stability on our planet, we must fight to end poverty.” His powerful statements on global poverty will guide future poverty reduction efforts of the World Bank.

Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in LiberiaLiberia is located along the western coast of Africa’s rough and diverse terrain. The country experienced peace and stability until 1989 when a rebellion ensued. The Civil War in Liberia then persisted until 2003. As a result, high poverty rates and unstable living conditions became too common in Liberia.

Living Conditions in Liberia

According to the World Bank, approximately 54% of Liberia’s population lived below the poverty line in 2014. More than 2.1 million Liberians were unable to obtain basic necessities between January and August 2014. Today, 20% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The number of those living in extreme poverty within urban and rural areas is the same, which is unusual. According to the report, the primary reason why urban areas have such high levels of poverty is that homeowners are unable to afford basic necessities such as food and electricity.

Furthermore, Liberia faces disheartening statistics common in impoverished countries. The nation has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, along with many children at risk of death from preventable illnesses like malaria.  Life expectancy, education and income are ranked extremely low on a worldwide scale. The nation also has the world’s third-highest unemployment rate.

ChildFund

The ChildFund organization is one working to help improve living conditions in Liberia. Through the support of donors, the organization distributed mosquito nets to more than 477,000 people across the nation. Years of war forced children to forfeit education and serve Liberia. However, ChildFund offers these former child soldiers educational opportunities. The Community Education and Investment Project aims to provide children the opportunity to enroll in schools. Thus far, ChildFund has supplied more than 75,000 books to 110 schools across Liberia.

ChildFund works to empower Liberians and provide them with resources to rebuild their lives. The organization has constructed early childhood development centers, community healthcare facilities and centers for women. Though living conditions in Liberia are less than favorable, ChildFund’s efforts are making a substantial difference.

Liberian Agriculture Project

According to the World Bank’s Country Economist Daniel K. Boakye, improving agriculture will help bring Liberia out of poverty. Increased food growth and therefore increased sales will stimulate the rural communities while providing urban areas with much-needed agricultural products. One organization tackling agriculture in Liberia is the Liberian Agriculture Project.

The Liberian Agriculture Project works to support small-scale farmers of fruit crops such as pineapples and bananas in Liberia. The organization is involved in the growing and handling of sales for rural farmers. Currently, the project is working toward getting specialty products into the seven main food markets in the capital of Monrovia, Liberia. Additionally, making the transition from subsistence farming to commercialized agriculture is another goal.

Although the Civil War ended years ago, living conditions in Liberia continue to be affected by ongoing conflict and tensions. The stress of high unemployment rates, food shortages and limited access to healthcare still affect the average Liberian family. However, efforts put forth by nonprofit organizations and charities like ChildFund and the Liberian Agricultural Project are taking the right steps to help bring Liberia out of poverty.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Dutch Social Benefit SystemTo an outsider, the Dutch social benefit system may seem easy to gain access to. However, accessing benefits in the Netherlands is not always easy and has its unique obstacles. Additionally, living off of benefits does not come without risks and consequences. There are three common myths regarding the Dutch social benefit system.

Myth #1: The Dutch Receive Benefits Indefinitely

Despite the Netherlands having a reputation for freely distributing welfare benefits, the Dutch social benefit system has become increasingly restrictive recently. This is due to increasing austerity measures, which have continued to intensify, even during the COVID-19 crisis.

Generally, to gain access to the Dutch social benefit system an individual needs to be a Dutch or European citizen, or alternatively, a registered resident. The individual must also be above the age of 18, not be imprisoned or detained, must have little or no income and must not receive a pension or other benefits.

While this may seem like easy entry criteria, the threshold for having social benefits cut is relatively low. Taking a non-student above the age of 21 into one’s home results in an automatic reduction of benefits. This is the case even if the person does not contribute financially and even if they would be homeless otherwise. Social benefit recipients are prohibited from receiving most gifts, even if they are clearly legitimate in nature and not an attempt to cheat the system. If one receives any form of assistance, even from a family member, the government will automatically reduce benefits.

Recently, one low-income, single mother was ordered to pay more than €7,000 after it became known that the woman’s mother would buy the family a bag of groceries once a week. Since the story came to light, the single mother’s case is being re-heard. It is not unheard of for people to be labeled as fraudsters for receiving modest gifts. If the victim’s case did not receive widespread attention, it is likely that the decision would have been upheld.

Myth #2: Foreigners Favored for Social Benefits

As mentioned, one of the first stipulations of receiving benefits is to be legally registered in the Netherlands. For low-income immigrants who have their asylum or residency applications rejected, this creates an overwhelming barrier to economic stability.

Over the past few years, the Dutch government has had to answer to the victims of the childcare benefits scandal, which saw thousands of parents legitimately receiving benefits for childcare having their benefits reclaimed.

Many of these parents were highlighted as potential fraudsters on the basis of having a second nationality and placed on a secret blacklist by the tax authorities. Later, they were denied benefits for things like simple paperwork mistakes or omissions. At one daycare center, only those with a second nationality had their benefits suddenly stripped. Clients with only a Dutch nationality were unaffected.

Myth #3: High Social Benefit Amounts

In many cases, what people receive is less than what they need to get by. For the city of Amsterdam, the net amount that a person may receive per month is €1,021.67 while the maximum for a family is €1,459.52. However, in Amsterdam, the cost of living surpasses that greatly. Those living on this amount must keep a grueling budget with little room for savings. Yet, if they were to receive another form of income to supplement this deficit, they could potentially lose all benefits entirely. This generates a system of poverty where people have little social mobility and must live mere subsistence lifestyles.

In February 2021, the government of the city of Breda chose to officially limit social benefits for homeless people, stating that the homeless do not need as much support money because they have a lower cost of living. The government justified this by stating that homeless people have no housing costs. The cuts had been in place since 2019 but have only recently become policy. The cuts were also motivated by antiquated ideas of addiction. One official invoked ending addiction as a reason to limit social benefits to homeless people.

Political Climate in the Netherlands

In March 2021, Wopke Hoekstra, the party leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal party proposed a plan to gradually reduce eligibility time for benefits. The plan would increase the benefits initially received by beneficiaries from 75% of their old wage to 90% for the first two months. The increase would then be 80% in the next four months and remain at the current 70% in the final six months. According to Hoekstra, the plan would save the government €600 million annually.

Further, over the past decade of government under Rutte’s ruling party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy has pursued a policy of reducing benefits with the aim of eventually phasing out unemployment assistance by 2035 entirely. The Dutch government’s own planning offices have observed this process to be driving an increase in poverty.

Outlook Moving Forward

Poverty in the Netherlands currently occurs at a rate of about 8% of the general population. According to the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB), this percentage is set to increase by one quarter over the next few years if the current plans for further austerity are followed through. The CPB recommends introducing a universal basic income as a solution, which would decrease poverty by 60%.

Olivia Nelson
Photo: Pixabay