Updates on SDG Goal 10 in ArgentinaIn Argentina, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic unrest has stalled efforts to close the inequality gap. Before the pandemic hit, Argentina was making progress on a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a framework of global objectives created by the United Nations, designed as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030. The country was “well-positioned” compared to its Latin American counterparts, according to the Argentine Network for International Cooperation (RACI). The onset of COVID-19 has impacted updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina.

Achieving SDG 10: Reducing Inequality

Argentina had been struggling to achieve SDG 10, which focuses on reducing inequalities within a county’s population and among different countries around the world. To measure inequality, the SDGs use a scale of 0 to 100. The lower the score, the closer the country is to achieving economic equality. The goal is to achieve a ranking of 30 or lower by 2030. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina had a ranking of 51. The pandemic has siphoned resources out of the government and stalled updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina and other progressive reforms. On top of that, millions of Argentinians have lost their jobs and inequality is expanding as a result.

President Alberto Fernández

In December 2019, President Alberto Fernández won the presidential election over conservative incumbent, Mauricio Macri. President Fernández’s political style is that of his mentor, former president, Néstor Kirchner. However, “the COVID-19 pandemic might very well shatter the center-left president’s dreams of following in his mentor’s footsteps and bringing social progress and economic growth to Argentina,” writes Hugo Goeury.

Despite Fernandez’s progressive goals for his administration, reforms have all been put on the back burner since the arrival of COVID-19 in Argentina.

Poverty, Unemployment and the Wealth Gap

In the first half of 2020 alone, the poverty rate among Argentinians increased to almost 41%, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas reported, nearly a 5% increase from the previous year. The Central Bank is also predicting the GDP to contract by nearly 11%.

With almost a third of Argentine workers facing unemployment, President Fernandez is scrambling to financially support his unemployed constituents, while also negotiating the country’s debt owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to the World Inequality Database, as of 2019, the top 10% wealthiest Argentinians controlled nearly 40% of the country’s income, while the bottom 50% only possessed 17.9% of the nation’s income.

Better Days Ahead for Argentina

Even though updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina seem especially challenging right now, Argentinians are still
pushing forward to make their country more equitable for everyone. The U.N. says, “In the post-pandemic world, Argentina must strengthen its productive apparatus and continue to eliminate inherited social inequities and those aggravated by COVID-19.”

– Laney Pope
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Democracy in Nigeria
After 20 years, Democracy in Nigeria remains true to its goals of sustaining a strong political authority for socioeconomic growth. Home to Africa’s largest economy, 65 percent of Nigeria’s wealth derives from its oil and gas production. The country itself continues to recover from a recession in 2016. However, it also suffers from its recent unemployment rate increasing to 23.1 percent in 2017. A study from the World Data Lab revealed that an estimated 90 million Nigerian people continue to live in poverty.

Government Efforts to Reduce the Wealth Gap

Fortunately, the Nigerian government’s implementation of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill seeks to change these conditions. The bill functions as an investment to promote Nigeria as a future leader in the oil production industry. Research from the International Monetary Fund indicates that between 2019 and 2020 Nigeria’s economy should grow by at least 2.2 percent.

Amid strides towards economic development, many Nigerian people find it hard to put their trust into newly-elected leaders. After gaining independence from the British in 1960, Nigeria’s government endured corruption from previous leaders that led to polarization both politically and economically.

Nigerian legislators earn the most globally, with salaries starting at $48 million a year for senators. With the average Nigerian salary at $1,294, most Nigerians feel disconnected from their leaders because of this wealth gap. In most cases, optimal advocacy for Nigerian citizens translates to decentralizing power to more local government representatives. Consequently, this would ensure more groups of people receive equal access to policy implementation. The decentralization of government in Nigeria corresponding with democracy in Nigeria elevates the power of the population.

Reelection of President Buhari

The current democratic government, known as the Fourth Republic, attempts to restore hope to the Nigerian people. In February 2019, Nigeria re-elected its President, Muhammadu Buhari, for a second term. Only 28 million of the 80 million registered voters in Nigeria voted in the election. The majority of the four million votes that allowed President Buhari to win the election emerged from his popularity with the poor population in the north.

Democracy in Nigeria succeeds in giving a voice to the voiceless, as opposed to utilizing mass poverty to exclude impoverished people from the political process. In the end, the essence of democracy encompasses a nation that can elect its own representatives.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) helps to:

  • Establish civic organizations.
  • Strengthen political leadership.
  • Promote accountability and openness in governments around the world.

For over 35 years, NDI has partnered with more than 156 countries to advance democratic progress globally. By getting citizens to recognize elections as a fundamental human right, the NDI strengthens the political power of that country, which solidifies the idea of accountable democratic governance. The NDI also understands the importance of inclusion in policymaking and works to increase democratic participation from marginalized groups by addressing laws that target them.

As a result of this organization, Nigerians with visual impairments had the opportunity to vote for the first time in the 2019 election. Democracy in Nigeria exemplifies that growing global efforts to impose effective societal change starts with a government that truly reflects and endorses the interest of its citizens.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Singapore is seldom thought of as a poor country since the nation ranks fourth in the richest countries in the world; however, the reality is that many Singaporeans live in poverty. For far too many people, poverty in Singapore is a fact of life.

The Top 10 Poverty in Singapore Facts:

1. Singaporeans have to live on $5 a day

Four-hundred thousand Singaporeans live on $5 a day. Singaporeans Against Poverty, the campaign whose concern is “for those in Singapore caught in the cycle of poverty despite our economic success,” began the $5 challenge, where people can pledge money and try to live on a $5 per day budget.

2. Some Singaporeans have no income

A survey from the Housing Development Board showed that one-third of Singaporeans living in one or two room flats have no source of income. Additionally, an Ipsos APAC and Toluna study found that 62 percent of Singaporeans state that their dissatisfaction is a result of their personal financial situation.

3. There is no official poverty line in Singapore

According to Worldbank, there are several reasons to measure poverty: “to keep the poor on the agenda; if poverty were not measured, it would be easy to forget the poor.” Additionally, poverty lines “target interventions that aim to reduce or alleviate poverty,” and finally, measurements help to evaluate projects, policies and institutions that aim to help the poor.

In a Straits Times article, it was stated that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong doesn’t believe establishing poverty lines will be helpful as there are great disparities between poor groups in Singapore; each group requires “different sort and scale of help… This cannot be accomplished by a rigid poverty line, he said, which might be polarising and leave some outside the definition of poor.”

4. Singapore’s wealth gap is one of the widest

As noted in the CIA World Factbook, Singapore was ranked 36th out of 150 countries for income inequality in 2016 based on the Gini coefficient, a ratio of highest to lowest incomes. This means that the high-income households are extremely wealthy, while the low-income households are extremely poor. In fact, a Credit Suisse report showed that more than a quarter of the country’s wealth is held by the top 1 percent of the population.

5. The Gini coefficient has begun to decrease

According to the Singapore Management University (SMU) handbook, the government has begun to acknowledge the wealth disparity. Although Singapore is still ranked high for income inequality, the Gini coefficient has decreased in the past two years.

6. Wages fall for low-income households

In the SMU handbook, it was stated that the bottom 20 percent of workers saw a decrease in wages between 1998 and 2010.

7. Singapore is the most expensive city to live in

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore was the most expensive city to live in in 2017 for the 4th year running. This makes it increasingly difficult for the impoverished population to afford basic necessities.

8. Increase in cost of goods and services

Likewise, the past three years saw a 13.1 percent increase in goods and services, according to Singaporeans Against Poverty.

9. More Singaporeans are being covered under ComCare

ComCare was established by the Singaporean government in 2005 to provide assistance to needy families who are either unable to work or are currently searching for employment.

As reported in the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the number of Singaporeans being covered under ComCare grew from 13,479 in 2012 to 18,996 in 2015, but the government claims this is not due to higher poverty levels; rather, it says it’s due to changes to the program.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development has extended coverage so that more families can apply for ComCare.

10. Singaporean government is taking steps towards alleviating poverty

As noted in The Observer, the government has put plans into place to fight poverty. Of these are plans are the goals to reduce the cost of education, to exempt lower-income families from paying taxes and to contribute cash payments to those in need.

These top 10 poverty in Singapore facts demonstrate the acute issues for low-income houses. However, the Singaporean government is making considerable strides to help its people, enough so that these top 10 poverty in Singapore facts may eventually become irrelevant.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

Mexico’s Hidden War
Mexico‘s poverty rate fell 0.6 percent between 2010 and 2012 to 53.3 million people, the government’s social development agency Coneval said. Factoring in the population growth for Mexico, the ranks of the poor grew by half a million people at that time. This statistic shows the startling conclusion that half of the country’s population lives in poverty, signifying Mexico’s hidden war.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has to help lift millions of people out of poverty and boost growth in Mexico, but there continues to be a large wealth gap. With his approval hitting an all-time low, the problem seems worse than it appears.

In Zitlaltepec, a village in the municipality of Zumpango toward the south of Mexico, 86 percent of residents are poor and 30 percent live in extreme poverty. This is the highest rate of poverty in the state, the total area being Mexico’s fifth poorest. Almost all people living in the area lack unemployment and retirement benefits.

The Coneval defines poverty as living on no more than 2,329 pesos a month ($135) in cities, and 1,490 pesos ($86)  a month in rural areas. The benchmark for extreme poverty was 1,125 pesos in cities and 800 pesos a month in the countryside. Coneval also takes other factors like health care and education into account.

While the number of people living in extreme poverty fell to 11.5 million by the end of 2012, or 9.8 percent of the population, many more Mexicans are now worse off than they were when former President Felipe Calderon entered the last two years of a six-year term in which poverty swelled by nearly three percent.

“The only feasible, permanent answer to reducing poverty in Mexico is through economic growth,” Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said in a press conference after the Coneval data was published.

However, there are efforts to revitalize the current situation in Mexico. Government policy is underway to try and address the issues of poor-quality jobs, retirement benefits and care for those below the poverty line. In 2013, UNICEF worked with the Mexican government to research the factors that address child poverty within the country.

While these efforts are gradually making a difference, it will be a long way for Mexico to recover. However, as long as these and more programs come into effect, hopefully Mexico will see a brighter future.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Coneval, Al Jazeera, Poverties, UNICEF, WSJ
Photo: Al Jazeera

Having access to healthy green recreational areas has, for years, been known to improve mental health and well-being in communities. Contact with nature is said to be therapeutic for those who are stressed or fatigued. A new study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, suggests that this same access could conceivably reduce socioeconomic inequalities.

“Researchers looked at data that covered more than 21,000 urban residents from 34 nations recorded in the 2012 European Quality of Life Survey.” This research accounted for general demographic information among other data, and the results showed that those with reliable access to green space had a 40 percent lower socioeconomic gap than those that did not.

According to a similar study performed by the University of Glasgow, “green places are not only good for our health and well-being, but could also play an equalizing role in our cities.” This makes sense because green spaces do require a kind of maintenance, which opens up many jobs and volunteer opportunities in their communities.

“The research does not prove the strength of the relationship between individual neighborhood services and well-being, but does show that well-being gaps are smaller where services are better.” However, the research does show that green space has the largest bearing on the reduction of those gaps.

One example of a green space that is highly beneficial to its community is Lexington, Kentucky’s Gratz Park. This park borders Transylvania University, is used as a venue for local artists and performers during events, and is an accessible area for college students. Those who work to maintain Gratz Park are well-respected, and students that network there during events have been known to be much more at ease. Inhabitants also take great pride in the park’s historical significance as it was established in 1781.

– Anna Brailow

Sources: Fast Coexist, Optimist World, National Park Service
Photo: The Conservancy

Churches and mosques alike have been burned in Nigeria’s most religiously segregated city, Jos. The key city in Nigeria’s middle belt, Jos splits the predominantly Muslim north from the primarily Christian south. Christian tribes receive preferred access to public education, government jobs and other benefits, even though Muslim tribes (deemed “settlers” to their Christian counterpoints, who are viewed as the state’s indigenous people) hold the same obligations, including paying tax and upholding state laws.

While discrimination across Nigeria takes another form in states where Christians are controlled by Muslims, the fight for religious dominance in Jos has quickly escalated. In 1994, a Hausa (a group of Muslim “settlers”) was appointed as Jos North local government chairman, catalyzing the religious conflict in Nigeria between the indigene, who were upset at a settlers’ appointment to office. Nearly 4,000 people have been killed since 2001 in the conflict.

Twenty years ago, Hajiya Badamasi, a practicing Christian, married her Muslim husband in the central city of Jos, where she later converted to Islam. Badamasi claims that, prior to Jos’ evolution as the epicenter of religious strife in Nigeria, religious identification hardly mattered. Now, as the fighting continues to increase between the indigene and settlers in what Human Rights Watch has described as “horrific internecine violence,” many agree Jos remains at a violent standstill.

Some attribute increasing conflict in Nigeria to the country’s wealth gap. In fact, violence and religious conflict in the country is not unique to the city of Jos alone. While Southern Nigerian states boast economic growth through multinational corporations, Northern states suffer extreme cases of poverty. Poverty in the North is perhaps exactly what makes the territory so susceptible to widespread attacks – most recently those perpetrated by Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group.

Around 1,505 Nigerian Christians have been killed so far this year by the extremist group Boko Haram. While the group kills Christians for their religious beliefs, their approach with Muslims is a bit different; according to claims, Muslims are killed for a “reason,” such as working for the government or refusing to pay the group extortion taxes. The group has killed almost as many Christians in seven months as were killed in all of last year.

While most claim these religious problems will not fully disappear until the constitution grants settling tribes equal rights, some Muslim leaders have voiced optimism toward the religious conflict. “I’m an optimist,” said Mohammed Hashir Saidu, a state government official. “People are getting more enlightened.”

Still, older Nigerian couples remember a time when Jos was home to acceptance of inter-religious families and people. “When my parents went to visit my wife’s parents, they were received wholeheartedly,” said Alhaji Abdulaziz Haruna, a 59-year-old Muslim who is married to a Christian. Now, just four decades later, the fate of similar couples seems much more bleak.

Nick Magnanti

Sources: IBI Times, Yahoo News, Naharnet, BP News
Photo: Naharnet

Amidst the joy over the DOW reaching an all-time high, as well as the numerous other positive signals that the American economy is in recovery mode, it can be easy to miss the nuanceshidden in the statistics. While Americans on the whole are getting rich again, these gains are not being seen by everyone. When the data is parsed carefully, it is evident that the poorest in our society have failed to see many benefits from the so-called economic recovery. As a result, the wealth gap in the United States continues to grow.

Impoverished people rarely, if ever, have any forms of investment. So when huge gains are seen in financial markets, these benefits do not actually bring any kind of respite from the day-to-day hardships of poverty. The recent gains in American wealth have been largely concentrated among the richest members of society, raising “the bar for success while leaving fewer haves and more have-nots.”

The economy as a whole has managed to get back to its pre-recession figures without bringing back the same levels of employment, home ownership, home value, or income inequality. Companies have been unwilling to hire for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is uncertainty about which way Washington’s budget struggles will play out. Without knowing what tax rates will be, it can be hard for a business to make any kind of large expenditure determinations. At a time when calls have been renewed to raise the minimum wage to be in line with inflation, these new figures from the Federal Reserve should work to galvanize support for policies which work to reduce poverty using the powerful engine of capitalism—an approach which is as American as baseball and apple pie.

–  Jake Simon

Source: US News