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North Korea poverty
Despite constant attempts by the North Korean government to delegitimize critics of the country’s severe living conditions and human rights violations, the dire status of its economy is one of the main causes of the consequent rise of North Korea poverty. Such steep levels of economic discomfort and overall hardship in everyday living stems from two main factors, namely the closeness of North Korean economy, and its strict and draconian political system.

A Closer Look

In a country where one in four children suffer from malnutrition, and episodes of defector citizens with parasites living in their stomach are reported, a closer look to the various economic sectors, industries and social relations can be very revealing. In terms of economic freedom, North Korea has been ranked 180th by the Heritage Foundation in 2018, preceded by Venezuela and followed by no one, effectively making it the least economically free country on the planet.

Moreover, there’s no detectable tax system since the government owns and directs virtually every aspect of the economy. As a result, a massive share of the GDP is in fact produced by the same entity that is supposed to tax it.

Regulatory pressure is also a crucial factor that contributes to increase North Korea poverty by tightening up the economy, which grew at an alarmingly slow rate in 2013 (1.1 percent) and in 2014 (1 percent), and decreased in 2015 (-1.1 percent).

Regulations and Shortages

Since private enterprise is virtually non-existent, strict regulations against any resemblance of a private sector are in place, a move thus rendering starting and managing a business practically impossible. The combination of all these factors makes North Korea very reluctant to produce wealth and increase its living standards, especially with the presence of continuous restrictions in international trade and economic sanctions.

Shortage of food and energy need to be compensated by international parties such as China, to which North Korea has grown increasingly more dependent over the last few years. However, a report from the North Korean Economic Watch observed that rice prices, contrarily to what one might have anticipated, have been remarkably stable over the past year.

With economic sanctions in place, it is well conceivable to expect a significant rise in inflation, especially in an overall and continuously poor economy such as that of North Korea.

Such phenomena led experts to believe that the rise of black markets might be the missing link behind such oddities; this would have reinforced, though, the simple yet harsh truth that the extremely high rate of North Korea poverty is a direct result of an economy that simply isn’t strong enough to provide basic and minimal items such as rice to its citizens and their standards of living.

New Rules

All of these instances occur while the government allocates a large amount of its attention and financial resources to the military and missile and nuclear development. This focus leaves primary industries such as agriculture on their own in addition to the high poverty rate and child malnutrition that North Koreans have to face every day.

Since South Korea officially withdrew its provision of farming fertilizers in 2008, the government started a program that delineates farmers are to use their own feces as fertilizers since livestock has became scarce.

Crop failure is also exacerbated by frequent inclement weather, lack of arable land and poor quality of the soil. Between these hardships and the use of human feces as fertilizer, health hazards have increased to the levels of large parasites growing in people’s intestines as a result of poor health.

The hope is that a significant increase of awareness and improved political and anti-poverty policies will help alleviate the seemingly perennial hardship that North Korean citizens have come to experience as normal.

– Luca Di Fabio

Photo: Flickr

poverty_in_india
India is the world’s largest democracy, and on May 12 it concluded a month-long national election process in which 814 million eligible voters went to the polls and selected 543 members of the lower house of parliament. In the election, Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party claimed victory as the decade of dominance by the Congress Party came to an end. The high rate of political participation and voter enthusiasm amongst India’s population is promising, but the looming issue of poverty remains.

With a population of over 1.2 billion people spread out over 1 million square miles, India is the second most populous country in the world. However, according to many reports, poverty in India is widespread and nearly a third of the population is living in poverty. India’s Planning Commission estimated in 2013 that there were over 270 million people living under the poverty line. Other studies put that number closer to 310 million, but it is clear that no matter what the criteria, poverty remains a defining issue for India in the 21st century.

The World Bank estimates that 77 percent of India’s poor live in rural areas with 60 percent of Indians living in small villages with fewer than 5,000 people. The 77 percent in rural areas is comprised of nearly 240 million people, with the remainder of India’s impoverished amounting to over 70 million in urban areas. In recent years, rates of rural poverty in India have been declining, though the change has been attributed to urban migration and negligible advances in living standards. Similarly, India’s population growth has led to an increased poor population despite decreases in overall poverty rates.

Part of the problem seems to be Indian citizens’ relatively low access to health care. According to the World Health Organization, the life expectancy for Indian citizens, 64 years for males and 68 for females, is below the global life expectancy of 70. India’s infant mortality rate and education system is also a point of concern. Attendance at primary schools has become increasingly common for Indian children over the past decades but the adult literacy rate is 62.8 percent.

India’s government reported earlier this year that its economy grew by 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Positive economic growth has become common in recent years, but this figure is far from the regular 8 percent annual growth rate which India experienced before the global financial crisis of 2008. In the time since the crisis, investment has stalled and the rupee’s value has decreased as India’s national deficit has continued to grow steadily.

With the installment of a new prime minister with a pro-business mindset, only time will tell if India regains its pace for economic growth. The future looks promising but the reality of India’s alarming poverty is omnipresent. Nearly 70 years after gaining independence, India has attained political stability and is in the midst of coaxing economic stability to follow suit.

– Taylor Dow

Sources: Daily Mail, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, World Bank, WHO
Photo: The Independent India