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RETHINKING POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGIES Dominic Liche The harsh realit o!

"o#ert in the $orl% Statistics and other indicators on poverty continue to be depressing. International institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations cite the following indicators: There are .! billion people in the world living on less than US" .#$ a day% over three billion people living on less than "#.$& a day% '(& )illion people are chronically undernourished% ## thousand children die every day due to poverty% !& )illion people are living with *I+ and,or -I.S% ./ billion people are living without electricity% billion children out of #.# billion children in the world are living in poverty. 0eople lack access to clean water1 good health and education. Infant and )aternal )ortality rates continue to be very high. .espite the fact that poverty is slightly declining globally1 the reality of poverty continues to be harsher and worse without )uch hope for total poverty eradication in a few decades to co)e. 2or once1 it see)s poverty )ight be that vice that is here to stay. What )akes poverty a harsher reality is the fact that1 although at the )o)ent1 we have ade3uate food1 )edicines1 resources and technologies to eradicate it1 yet it persists1 and the division between the rich and the poor continues to widen. In fighting poverty1 there have been )any approaches that have been seen to work. Unfortunately going by poverty statistics fro) 4'& till now1 there hasn5t been a substantial decrease in poverty levels. 6et us briefly look at so)e of the approaches that have so far being used to deal with poverty. Po"&list a""roaches Traditional populist approaches to eradicating poverty have often involved the following: 6ooking at the cause of poverty as belonging to certain geographical areas where )ost people are )ostly poor 7e.g.1 resource rich countries and war8tone countries9% :oncentrating on lack of ade3uate resources 7)ostly in )onetary ter)s9 especially in -frica1 6atin -)erica and -sia% I)proving on knowledge levels of )ost national leaders to apply workable solutions to eradicating poverty% 0u)ping resources through aid and debt to eradicate poverty% ;radicating corruption and )isapplication of public funds% 0roviding incentives or political will so that political leaders will have the <eal to fight poverty% I)proving on the rule of law and good governance. *owever1 these approaches to the fight against poverty see) not to be working very well in substantially reducing poverty levels. :ountries that are )aking significant strides in reducing the nu)bers of poor people in their countries 7e.g.1 Bra<il1 :hina1 and =hana9 are showing that these approaches to poverty eradication do not have the e>pected outco)es in ter)s of substantially reducing poverty. 0overty is a proble) that goes beyond historical concerns such as slavery or colonisation1 ignorance1 resources1 geographical locations1 and the political will of politicians. 0overty see)s to )ostly involve bad decisions of political leaders and the elites. With the current high poverty levels1 it would be good to assess current approaches to fighting poverty in order to see if they are working. If they are not1 we should find what could be the underlying proble)s that perpetuate poverty. 6et us look at ?ust so)e of the issues that could be hindrances in fighting poverty. Politicisin' e#er as"ect o! li!e

0artisan politics in )ost countries continue to be the order of the day. In )ost de)ocracies1 partisan politics re)ain the )ainstay of de)ocracy. @et in )any other countries1 such politics1 coupled with tribalis) and elitis)1 continue to be a curse to the general population. In )any countries where there is war1 partisan politics play a )a?or role and1 in )any of these cases1 it is the politicising of al)ost every aspect of the lives of the citi<ens that is a huge proble). Aobs and ?ob security1 rule of law1 functions of governance institutions1 religion1 civil society1 and the security of individuals are all politicised to an e>tent where those against the powers that be continue to suffer at the hands of their leaders. 0opular slogans such as1 Byou will not see develop)ent in this area unless you vote for the govern)ent of the dayC1 go beyond )ere electoral fraudulent rhetoric to actually deter)ining how develop)ent agendas are delivered. When econo)ics1 governance1 )edia1 and civil society are badly politicised1 it is hard for anyone to really look at the needs and proble)s of the poor with the ai) of lifting the) out of poverty. The poor beco)e an asset for political parties that can be used for whatever ends. They are striped of dignity and worth as hu)an beings. (ra&%&lent Lea%ers 2or )ost people and for international develop)ent organisations1 develop)ent and poverty reduction are a very feasible agenda and1 in )ost cases1 such people and organisations have workable solutions1 no )atter how trivial or bitter1 towards poverty reduction. @et our leaders fail to capitalise on these widely available solutions to the proble) of poverty. It see)s that so)e of our leaders1 especially in poor1 least developed1 undeveloped1 and non8viable states1 do have a political will1 but that will is to safeguard their own selfish interests and that of a few elites in society. The poor stop )attering to the leaders ?ust after the polls. Such leaders know very well what they are doing and they know that their policies1 plans and decisions will not significantly reduce poverty. Dost decisions by such leaders are centred on the rich and elite knowing very well the negative conse3uences to the poor and the future generations of poor people. Lac) o! $i%e &se o! technolo' to !i'ht "o#ert The evidence is everywhere for us to see that intelligent use of technology has significantly reduced sicknesses1 unnecessary deaths1 and to a larger e>tent1 poverty. Technology has i)proved the 3uality of life for )any in the world. @et leaders re)ain too cautious and so)eti)es naive to use newer technologies to further i)prove the lives of the people. -lthough technology at first is costly and inaccessible to the general )asses1 it 3uickly beco)es cheap and accessible as newer technologies are developed. *ybrid food seeds1 pesticides1 herbicides1 artificial hor)ones1 genetic )odification1 high yield crops1 and nutrient induced foods are all available now even for the poorest of nations to shop fro) to i)prove the lives of their citi<ens. It would be naEve to think that every technology should be used without doing a proper cost8benefit analysis and the effects to hu)an beings and the environ)ent. But it would be e3ually naEve to ?ust sit and venture in so)e of the technologies that )ight be safe to use and be of substantial benefit to hu)an beings. While so)e rich countries 7like :hina9 are busy harnessing technology for their positive benefits 7or si)ply investing in assessing the possible benefits of these technologies91 poor countries continue to be too cautious of these technologies citing the precautionary principle. -s )uch as the precautionary principle is helpful in avoiding negative effects where one is not so sure about the effects of so)ething1 a consistently cautionary approach leads to lack of develop)ent because )ost new strategies involve a substantial a)ount of risk. Taking intelligent risks in technology could be a necessary prere3uisite to using technology to reduce1 or realistically eradicate poverty. In so)e countries a technological culture has helped to significantly unlock bottlenecks to develop)ent and poverty eradication.

(r&itless reli'io&s *elie!s an% "ractices 0overty and religion see)s to go hand in hand. -t the ape> of poverty1 religion and religious beliefs thrive. Dost newer religions and sects are centred on a)assing wealth and using prayer as a way of getting out of poverty. 0overty is seen as being caused by lack of faith1 sin or indeed possession of evil spirits. .eliverance and reconnection with =od is seen as a way out of poverty. Such religions and sects have the effect of diverting people5s attention fro) the real issues that affect the) to bla)ing all on =od or evil spirits. Fther causes of poverty are not dealt with co)prehensibly because of such views. Concl&sion 6ooking at such factors and addressing the) could help deal with poverty in a fresh way other than ?ust continuing with populist approaches to poverty eradication. We should stop using approaches that are not working1 but try to e)ploy newer approaches that could help in the fight against poverty. Ironically1 )any of the poorest are very rich in resources. @et1 )ost of these countries that are rich in resources re)ain locked in poverty. -lthough so)e authors clai) that natural resources are a curse that has continued to plunge )any nations into poverty1 few resource8rich nations 7like Botswana9 are showing that resources the)selves are not a curse but having leaders who knowingly and selfishly )ake decisions that perpetuate poverty. Dominic Liche is a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Applied Ethics at the University of Zambia.