Causes of Poverty in TurkeyPoverty in Turkey? Despite seeing rapid growth and development as a nation, Turkey continues to face a recurring problem with poverty amongst its citizens. Though the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) has nearly tripled in the past ten years, according to the United Nations’ Human Development Report, many of Turkey’s citizens are not seeing this growth and are caught by the causes of poverty in Turkey.

The Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper based in Istanbul, reported in May that the monthly poverty threshold increased by nearly 500 Turkish liras to reach just shy of 5,000 liras (or $1,400). This threshold delineates the monthly expenses of a family of four. If their household income falls below the threshold they will be unable to afford housing, clothes, food, heat, electricity or other utilities.


Poverty in Turkey Data


Data released by the Turkish Statistical Institute indicates that the severe material deprivation rate – a statistic similar to the monthly poverty threshold that tracks families’ abilities to afford at least several basic material essentials such as food and heating – increased from 29.4 percent in 2014 to 30.3 percent in 2015 (the last two years with available studies).

The causes of poverty in Turkey, as an opinion piece by Turkish novelist Kaya Genc claims, lay partly on the shoulders of Turkey’s track record of huge income inequality. Genc notes that the top 20 percent of Turkish families hold over 45 percent of the country’s GDP, while the bottom 20 percent have just over six percent of the GDP.

The Rural Poverty Portal notes that, in 2014, the majority of people in poverty in Turkey lived in rural areas, where the rate was over 35 percent below the poverty threshold to merely 22 percent in urban areas. This rural-urban inequality stems from several factors:

  • Average rural family size is nearly double that of urban families.
  • Environmental issues like climate change, soil erosion and continued issues with overgrazing livestock – all of which greatly affect agriculture, which is the livelihood of the vast majority of rural families.
  • Low literacy rates and limited education
  • A continued lack of welfare and social security for the rural poor.

Genc theorizes that this inequality can likely trace its roots back to longstanding negative attitudes of Turkey’s poor, both rural and urban, by its upper classes. Genc writes: “For decades, Turkey’s poor were characterized as backward, conservative, religious-minded people who represented the worst of the society.” Despite the country’s wealth increasing overall, Turkey’s wealth inequalities must be addressed to get at the root causes of poverty in Turkey.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

President Barack Obama visited Kenya and Ethiopia earlier this summer to draw global attention to challenges facing development organizations throughout Africa, including establishing more widespread access to electricity.

While those large-scale initiatives are important in providing poor regions with economic opportunity, another initiative, equally important, went largely uncovered: community-based development.

Community-based (or “community-driven”) development is defined by Rural Poverty Portal as “a way to manage development, including the design and implementation of policies and projects, [which] facilitates access by poor rural people to social, human, and physical capital.”

Strategies used by community-based organizations include enabling targeted communities to design their own anti-poverty policies, establishing the means for good long-term governance, and prioritizing the impact of public expenditures from the “bottom of the pyramid” up.

Wayne Firestone, CEO of International Lifeline Fund, points to the malaria epidemic in northern Uganda as a phenomenon that could benefit from the inclusion of local communities.

Previous top-down health initiatives, such as indoor residual spraying interventions, he said, have lowered the immunity of residents, made them complacent in taking preventative measures, and have generally made communities more vulnerable to the disease.

Such initiatives would become more effective if they included local communities in “the design, implementation and maintenance of solutions.”

While local communities have voiced their desire to become more involved in decision-making processes, their national governments have started to endorse that sentiment on a global level.

One of the primary takeaways from the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa earlier this year was that developing countries want to take “greater ownership” over their development through domestic resource mobilization (DRM), a process in which countries raise and allocate their own development funding.

USAID associate administrator Eric Postel notes that while DRM has historically been overlooked in global anti-poverty efforts, the international community has begun to realize its importance for countries hoping to escape poverty.

“DRM is hardly a new concept, but one that has unfortunately been out of the spotlight for many years. I remember attending the aid effectiveness conference in Busan, South Korea, in 2011.

Support for DRM was barely discussed there,” he wrote in an article for Devex. “Since then, the global community has coalesced around the importance of this transitional bridge from a nation’s receiving international aid assistance to its sustainable providing for its own.”

While some developing countries may never realize absolute autonomy in directing their own anti-poverty initiatives, DRM is a positive step for countries hoping to become more self-reliant. Earlier this year, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta made an appeal to African countries to stop accepting international aid entirely.

Although certainly not in the best interest of many African civilians, that position reflects the common and natural desire among poor countries to achieve sustainability and self-determination.

Indeed, the lack of cohesion among rural communities like those in northern Uganda can make community-based development difficult, primarily because it takes time to establish functioning bodies vested with the ability to prioritize community needs.

According to Firestone, however, development assistance ought to be rethought in ways that will enable communities to participate in the management of their own affairs.

“For decades, development assistance has created a culture in which these communities are recipients, not leaders of their own solutions,” he said.

“Many development thinkers have started conversations around how we can shift that culture to make sustainable progress; how residents of poor, rural communities can be problem solvers rather than problems, and can embrace changes they generate internally.”

Zach VeShancey

Sources: Devex 1, Devex 2, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Flickr

Rural poverty in North Africa is similar to rural poverty in South Africa, though the national poverty line varies dramatically. According to Rural Poverty Portal, this includes the differences between 6% in Tunisia and 90% in Somalia. North-African economies are in dire straits.

Poverty-ridden people, they said, “constitute about one third of Tunisia’s poor population, and about three fourths of Somalia’s poor.” However, poverty in Northern Africa is still concentrated in rural areas.

This has deep causes such as the limited availability of “good arable land and water,” and “the impact of droughts and floods.” Conflict has similarly disrupted agriculture and thus intensified poverty, especially in Somalia and Sudan.

Algeria is a country in Northern Africa whose economy is dominated by the state, according to the CIA World Factbook.

“Hydrocarbons have long been the backbone of the economy,” the Factbook explains, “Accounting for roughly 60 percent of budget revenues, 30 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and over 95 percent of export earnings.”

This hydrocarbon exportation has brought relative “macroeconomic stability, with foreign currency reserves approaching $200 billion.”

Despite Algeria’s relative stability, things such as transportation and a stable social infrastructure remain obstacles for Northern Africa. High rates of illiteracy, especially among women, also negatively affect the economy.

Rural Poverty Portal furthermore illustrated that the northern region of the continent has “weak local institutions, poor integration with the national economy, and the migration of rural youth to urban areas.”

However, the urban areas in Northern Africa hold the most political influence. “Government policies and investments in the region tend to favor urban areas over rural areas,” they said.

Just south of Algeria lies Niger, a land-locked, Sub-Saharan nation. Though it shares a border with Algeria, a relatively stable African country, it has a very low income – less than $250 USD gross national income per capita, according to the World Bank Development Indicators as of 2005.

Moreover, CIA World Factbook states that Niger qualified for “enhanced debt relief under the International Monetary Fund program for Highly Indebted Poor Countries.” This significantly reduced Niger’s debt and annual obligations, and freed up funds for “basic healthcare, primary education, HIV/AIDS prevention, rural infrastructure and other programs geared at poverty reduction.”

The Factbook said that food security remains a problem in Niger, and is enhanced by refugees from Mali.

Sixty-three percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the most recent data which was gathered in 1993.

Northern Africa has a wide disparity between the very poor and the middle-class. Though some countries are more stable than others, education, food stability, access to clean water and social stability remain significant obstacles for the reduction of African poverty as a whole.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, BBC, Rural Poverty Portal, Central Intelligence Agency
Photo: Reuters