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Facts About Poverty in Thailand
With the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a relatively wealthy country. Its vibrant culture, delicious food and beautiful scenery attract millions of visitors a year, greatly contributing to its economy. On top of the tourism industry, Thailand exports many commodities like rice, rubber and coconuts. The country also produces goods like textiles, cement and plastics. Though Thailand’s poverty rate has decreased by 65% since 1988, impoverished living conditions are still a pressing issue in the country. The poverty rate fluctuates and currently, it is on the uprise. Here are five facts about poverty in Thailand.

5 Facts About Poverty in Thailand

  1. Poverty is on the rise in Thailand. In 2015, the poverty rate was just 7.2%. This figure has risen to almost 10%. That amounts to 2 million more people living beneath the poverty line, a substantial increase in only a few years. The rise in poverty does not occur in only a few of the country’s regions. Since 61 out of 77 provinces have seen a rise in poverty, one cannot attribute the current situation regarding poverty in Thailand to one specific community or circumstance. It is a widespread problem with profound implications for the livelihood of all Thai people.
  2. The rise in poverty is mainly due to economic reasons. Honing a 4.1% GDP growth rate in 2018 (one of the lowest in the region), the lack of economic progression in Thailand greatly affects its citizens. Additionally, Thailand has the fourth highest wealth inequality rates in the world at 90.2%, meaning there is a huge disparity between the richest and poorest people in the country. Without economic development and wealth equality, cycles of impoverishment will continue to trap the people of the nation.
  3. Environmental disasters have pushed more Thai people into poverty. Agriculturists (who make up 31.8% of the workforce) are already a poor group in the country, but the recent droughts in the past year have impoverished them even more. This combination of economic and environmental factors pushes farmers into even more poverty. Droughts are not the only natural disaster devastating the country. The floods and tsunamis that hit the country throughout the 2000s perpetuated even more poverty in Thailand. These natural disasters are inevitable, yet the lack of safety nets in the country is damaging the livelihoods of farmers.
  4. One of the demographics that poverty affects the most in Thailand is children. As of 2012, 7% of children weighed in as underweight and 16% experience stunting (impaired physical or psychological development due to a lack of nourishment during adolescence). The severe lack of resources could greatly impair future generations in the country. UNICEF is quite active in Thailand, working to alleviate child mortality and malnourishment. Due to its work, the child mortality rate has decreased four-fold; yet, there is still more the country requires.
  5. A solution to the poverty crisis in the country is an increase in social safety nets. Considering that environmental disasters and economic factors contribute to the rise in poverty, government-sanctioned programs to protect the Thai people are one of the easiest solutions to this problem. If Thailand can pinpoint which demographics are most susceptible to poverty, the government can create specific jobs and policies to protect its most vulnerable people.

Despite these five facts about poverty in Thailand, there are still many success stories for the country in terms of poverty alleviation. According to the Asian Development Bank, nobody in Thailand lives in extreme poverty (under $1.90 a day). Everyone in the country has access to electricity, water sanitation is excellent and education rates are high. However, to ensure every single citizen of Thailand is free from poverty, the government must continue to invest in economic development and produce innovative jobs for vulnerable populations. Only then can all be free from the insufferable conditions that poverty produces.

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in the Maldives
People might know the Maldives for its clean blue waters, luxurious resorts and the millions of tourists that visit the archipelago but may not know that the small island nation continues to tussle for its economy and against poverty. Poverty in the Maldives dates back to the early 1980s when it became part of a list of the 20 poorest countries in the world. The 2004 tsunami further weakened the economy of the island nation, which consists of 1,192 tropical islands. A global financial crisis emerged in 2008, putting the country in a vulnerable position.

Current Scenario

Statistics from the Asian Development Bank state that the GDP in the Maldives rose to $4.51 billion in 2018 from a mere $42.46 million in 1979. Wealth inequality does not persist in the Maldives and poverty rates vary across geographic locations. As the World Bank expected, the GDP growth slowed down from 6.7 percent in 2018 to 5.2 percent in 2019. Poverty in the Maldives is no longer a crisis, but the risks remain high.

Sustainable Development Goals

The country has been victorious in achieving a few of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Observations have determined that the annual rise in GDP is around 5 percent. The tourism industry, fisheries and other sources have played a significant role in strengthening the economy and employment rate. Half of the economy of the island nation comes from tourism and another 12 percent comes from the fisheries across the islands.

There might be people with very low incomes but there are no urban beggars or slum dwellers, even with an increase in the rural-urban migration rates. Recently, literacy rates in the Maldives have reached around 100 percent. There are no major causes of diseases and infections in the Maldives. The starvation rate is zero as well.

Unemployment

In 2018, the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent, with youth unemployment making up 15.3 percent. More than half of the working strata of people are employees in the tourism sector or fisheries, which often makes them fall sick. About 8.2 percent of the total population falls below the national poverty line.

Life Span

The life spans of citizens have increased considerably thanks to the rapid and drastic expansion in economy and infrastructure. According to the World Bank, the Maldives’ life expectancy in 2018 reached 77.2 years. Meanwhile, life expectancy was only 69.2 years in the year 2000. The increase in life expectancy has been considerable. However, there is a certain limitation to that as well since the island nation has limited infrastructure and resources.

Although the GDP increases every year, this pattern in economic growth is quite irregular. New establishments in the tourism industry and infrastructure should bring the GDP to 5.5 percent in 2020.

There is no denying that the country has made drastic improvements to help the situation of poverty in the Maldives. However, the situation continues to be fragile and vulnerable. If the Maldives continues to grow its tourism industry and infrastructure, it should be able to continue to reduce poverty in the future.

Astha Mamtani
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Micronesia
A lack of credit access in Micronesia is limiting Micronesia’s ability to develop effective solutions to widespread poverty. Limited credit regulation and poor banking infrastructure (Micronesia has only 14 bank branches per 100,000 adults) have hindered attempts at poverty reduction. An estimated 16 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line (individuals or families whose income per person is less than $1.90 per day) while an estimated 42 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line.

Infrastructure

A lack of effective financial regulation plays an important role in this problem, as Micronesia lacks both the public (credit registry) and private (credit bureau) infrastructure necessary to ensure that financial institutions can confidently provide loans to businesses and individuals. This has produced an extremely small lending practice in Micronesia, as banks and other institutions face a substantial risk when offering loans. Beyond simply the difficulty in verifying that debtors can pay back their loans, there is little legal protection for creditors. When a debtor defaults on a loan, secured creditors do not receive payment first, and if a debtor files for bankruptcy, there are no legal guidelines establishing relief for the creditor. This creates little incentive for lending institutions to grant credit, as there are often serious questions about the prospect of getting their money back.

While poor financial regulation may not appear to have an immediate effect on the spread of poverty, it plays a substantial role in limiting prospects for poverty reduction. The two largest sectors of Micronesia’s economy are the service industry and agriculture, which together make up around 81 percent of Micronesia’s GDP. The lack of credit access in Micronesia has amplified the structural difficulties of poverty, as many lack the money necessary to purchase land or start a business. They also cannot reliably acquire such capital from banks, which harms the overall growth of these vital sectors.

Credit access also plays a substantial role in agricultural production. The agriculture industry in Micronesia is declining as it holds an incredibly small portion of Micronesia’s total exports compared to agriculture’s importance in the country’s GDP. Around seven percent of Micronesia’s exports are in agriculture, and the sector is seeing its impact decline overall, as few can afford to remain farmers. Credit access enables farmers to acquire better agricultural inputs, which functions to provide a long-term solution to poverty in Micronesia by raising income levels across the impoverished population, growing individual incomes and strongly affecting Micronesia’s economy.

Business confidence

Beyond simply limiting access for those seeking the startup funds to create a business, the lack of effective credit infrastructure has hampered overall business confidence and undermined faith in the prospects for sustained growth. Constraints on capital have limited the ability for pre-existing businesses to ensure continued access to the money necessary to provide financial stability. This lack of confidence, while largely sentiment-based, has produced an environment which harms overall prospects for economic activity.

The Good News

Fortunately, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has begun investing in local banking infrastructure to develop credit access in Micronesia as a part of its Private Sector Development program. In a series of loans beginning in 2006, the ADB has provided over $9 million to Micronesia, with the goal of improving bank credit and narrowing the gap between public and private employment to develop more jobs in the private sector. The program has thus far been a success, as the employment gap has decreased by 20 percent signaling the growth of private industry.  The ADB can offer loans for land ownership via a partnership with the Federated States of Micronesia Development Bank (FSMDB). It can also improve building infrastructure with one loan recipient saying that he was able to make his used clothing store earthquake-resistant to protect his business against a sudden loss in revenue.

Moreover, Micronesia is implementing reforms to protect financial institutions and improve the government’s capacity to register security rights in moveable properties. As a part of the World Bank’s Doing Business program, established in 2008, Micronesia had the goal of improving legal protections for creditors. Since then, the Micronesian government has developed more reforms which allow for the use of moveable assets as collateral when seeking credit and expanding security agreements to codify the use of such assets.

One cannot underestimate the importance of credit access in Micronesia as it plays an integral role in maintaining vital sectors of the Micronesian economy. Not only does credit impact the country’s economic growth, but it also helps lift individuals out of poverty by providing sustained sources of income. While Micronesia requires more work to develop stronger infrastructure, the Micronesian Government, with the help of the ADB, has begun taking steps in the right direction.

– Alexander Sherman
Photo: Flickr

Samoan fishing industry

Samoa is a small island that relies heavily on two main exports, coconut products and fish. Although the Samoan economy grew significantly from diverse agriculture products such as taro, its current focus shifted to fishing industry development. Since the majority of poor Samoans work within the fishing and agriculture industries, improving the fishing industry can help the livelihoods of poor Samoans. The Samoan government and the World Bank are seeing progress in the growing Samoan fishing industry. The poverty rate decreased from 26.9 percent in 2008 to 18.8 percent in 2013, in part due to investment in underappreciated industries, such as the fishing industry.

Current Aquaculture Status

The Strategy for Development of Samoa (SDS) views aquaculture as an important pre-requisite to effective fish farming. Since 2007, Tilapia culture in earthen ponds has been successful but there are several constraints to further development in the Samoan fishing industry. A lack of feeds, technology, skills and limited access to markets impedes faster development. Despite the low technology, aquaculture is viewed as a practical means of increasing fisheries production, providing an additional source of food to those in poverty and generating income to local communities.

Four Initiatives

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, created four main goals in 2017 to boost the fisheries sector. The four initiatives are Samoa’s Tuna Management and Development Plan 2017-2021, the revival of the Fish Aggregating Devices (F.A.Ds) Project, repair work on research vessel F.V. Ulimasao and delivery of 20 tablets to monitor deployed F.A.Ds. The 20 tablets are used to observe and assess the impact of the F.A.Ds on food security and the livelihoods of Samoans.

The F.V. Ulimasou research vessel was repaired through financial assistance from the World Bank. The vessel is used to train fishery personnel and test new technology and fishing gear. About 30 percent of exports derive from the fishing sector and over 90 percent of exported fish is tuna. For this reason, the minister targets the growing industry in order to further develop the economy and the Samoan fishing industry.

Assistance from the World Bank

Thousands of Samoan families and local producers plan to benefit from a $20 million grant from the World Bank. The Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project was created in 2019 and will include construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure, such as cold storage at fish markets. Samoa is frequently affected by hurricanes and part of the grant is directed towards constructing disaster-resilient fishery buildings.

The grant will also help grow Samoa’s capacity to export fish and fish products. Hon. Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, Samoa’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries said, “We look forward to working with the World Bank to achieve our goal of increased food, improved nutrition and more secure incomes for Samoans.” At least 30 percent of matching grants will go towards female farmers and fishers.

Future Outlooks

The poverty rate has continually declined thanks to efforts by the Samoan government, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank and various organizations. The Asian Development Bank supported Samoa since 1966 and committed $190 million in loans, $134 million in grants and $33 million in technical assistance in the small island country. ADB’s future assistance to Samoa will focus on energy investment, disaster-resilient roads, upgraded port facilities and job creation. With continued efforts from external organizations, the livelihood of Samoans will improve.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Slums in Manila
Since as early as the mid-1900s, impoverished citizens of Manila, Philippines have resided in informal settlements known as slums. The metro Manila area has several of these slums which houses much of the poor population of the city. Below are 10 facts about slums in Manila.

10 Facts about slums in Manila

  1. An estimated 35 percent of the metro Manila population live in unstable, poorly constructed shelters in slums. Eleven percent of slum residents live near unsafe areas like railroads and garbage dumps. According to the World Bank, living conditions in slums are worse than in the poorest rural areas. The Mega-Cities Project’s research found that tuberculosis rates were nine times higher than in non-slum areas and that rates of diarrheal disease were two times higher.

  2. It is extremely difficult to collect adequate demographic data on slum populations, as most constituents lack a proper address. Even if surveyors reach slum occupants, most are timid to answer questions due to the fear that surveyors will use the information to demolish their shelters or resettle them. Most slum residents have very little or no tenant security. However, in 2000 the Asian Development Bank estimated a total slum population of around 3.4 million in Manila.

  3. The rate of childhood malnutrition is three times higher in the slums than in non-slum areas. According to USAID, children sometimes have to sort through garbage for scraps of food. A study of the Smoky Mountain slum found that 80 percent of children aged eight months to 15 years who scavenged for food had at least two species of intestinal parasites. An Asian Development Bank study found that 50 percent of children were anemic. This is despite the fact that many of these children have access to medical facilities.

  4. Residents in Manila slums lack access to proper sanitation and a clean environment. USAID states that 66 percent of slum residents lack an adequate way to dispose of human waste and often resort to open pits or rivers. A UNICEF study found that only 16 percent of children in the slums have access to clean drinking water. As a result, residents often turn to vendors or contaminated groundwater. The child mortality rate in slums is three times higher than in non-slum areas according to the Philippines Health Department.

  5. Project PEARLS is providing children in Manila slums with food and health care. The organization has three different food programs for the children of Manila slums. PEARLS launched The Soup Kitchen program in July 2015, which feeds at least 300  children per day on a budget of $160. The organization also provides free medicine to children for illnesses like dehydration, flu, pneumonia and infections, as well as various wounds.

  6. Slum settlements in Manila are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. The Philippines ranks fourth in the global climate risk index and is often prone to typhoons, flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The instability of the often homemade shelters provides little to no protection from these calamities. The Asian Development Bank states that this and the fact that most slums are in dangerous locations make slum settlements vulnerable to natural hazards. Heavy rains in July 2000 caused a landslide of garbage that killed 218 people in a slum settled on top of a garbage dump.

  7. Habitat for Humanity is building stable shelters for slum residents in Manila. With the help of volunteers, the organization builds around 5,000 homes every year. The team works with the local government to rebuild homes and also construct new homes that can withstand the natural elements. From digging the foundation to pouring the concrete and laying the roof, the organization and volunteers create sustainable homes from the ground up for thousands of impoverished slum residents.

  8. The moderate economic growth in recent years did not help to mitigate poverty or slums. The Asian Development Bank reported an average 5.3 percent increase in GDP from 2003 to 2006. Poverty rates increased from 24 percent to 27 percent during that time and continued to increase in 2007 when the GDP growth was 7.1 percent. Chronic poverty, driven by factors like severe inequality and corruption, hinders the reduction of slum residents and settlements. The Philippines ranked 141 out of 180 countries in the 2008 Transparency International corruption perceptions index. According to the Asian Development Bank, local political dynasties manipulate markets to deter the poor from accessing private goods and capital. In 2006, the richest 20 percent owned 53 percent of the wealth in the country.

  9. Poverty is fuelling online child sex abuse in the slums. The live streaming of child pornography in these locations has led UNICEF to name the Philippines the global epicenter of the online child sex abuse trade. Despite the new cybercrime unit at the Philippines National Police Headquarters and the passage of an Anti-Child Pornography Law, convictions remain low and case reports high. This is partially due to the fact that the age of consent in the Philippines is only 12 years old. UNICEF reports that parents have even brought their children to these shows to earn money.

  10. Police and government corruption have engendered the unlawful killings of thousands of slum citizens at the hands of officers since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. These corrupt and violent raids target slum residents the most. A Human Rights Watch report found that these raids have unlawfully killed over 7,000 people. The report states that police often falsify evidence and falsely claim self-defense to get away with these extra-judicial killings. Although Duterte has not called for extra-judicial killings, his repeated calls for the killing of drug offenders and an absence of any investigations into the killings prompted the Human Rights Watch to label this campaign as a possible progenitor of crimes against humanity.

The Manila government has struggled to find ways to reduce poverty and the population of slum residents, but poverty is a drain on Manila’s economy. According to the Asian Development Bank, for every one percent increase in poverty, there is a 0.7 percent decrease in overall per capita income. Along with this economic algorithm, a lack of investment, access to capital and financial markets throughout slum communities hinders economic growth. Different non-governmental organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Project PEARLS are providing basic essentials and helpful assistance for the different struggles of slum life. However, the Philippines requires more research and both domestic and international assistance to mitigate and eventually solve the aforementioned 10 facts about slums in Manila.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr