Why is Poverty a Persistent Global Reality? A Cross-Cultural Perspective

The purpose of this paper is to look deep into the issue of poverty that exist world over. This research paper will cover the social, economical, political and ethical perspectives of poverty which require a remedial action that need to be conducted with the collaboration of private sector, communities or families on the whole and with direct involvement by the state as well. Different people have different opinion on which of the above mentioned sectors should be held responsible for the reduction of poverty and in this process they may give reasons and arguments for why the other two sectors should not be held directly responsible for this issue. However, through this report, we will look into all the three sectors and their level of involvement and efforts that are being made today in an attempt to eliminate poverty and restore equity in the society. These three sectors will be evaluated on ethical, social and economic point of view separately. This report will also have a brief over view of what actually is poverty, what are its causes, disadvantages and at times advantages as well.

Methodology

The methodology adopted to make this report is entirely based on literature reviews and researches with respect to different economies, different communities and different societies. The communities and societies under discussion in the report are different countries which we have studied whose examples were provided in different books, articles and news journals. World Bank development reports have also been consulted in order to see how far each sector, discussed above, has been successful in eliminating poverty with respect to countries. For example, maximum involvement from private communities and NGOs might be sufficient for eliminating poverty to a significant extent in developed countries because of large resources and funds, however, for developing countries, such as in South East Asia, the private NGOs and communities may not be able to contribute to  poverty elimination to much expense due to lack of funds, rather they are only able to incite a need for change in the government policies and the way people think in those societies. Surveys and interviews have also been conducted for this report in order to get first hand experience from people on who they think should be held responsible for the elimination of poverty because after all it is the opinion of the people that matter for the authenticity of the report. Samples were selected from different societies and efforts have been made to take into consideration people from all sorts of life so that the results may not be biased towards any walk of life. Theoretical definitions of poverty that were used in the brief over view of what poverty actually is was taken from different text books that have been written on the subject that also highlighted the main theoretical causes of poverty as well.

What actually is Poverty?

Generally speaking many people think that poverty is all about being hungry, not having a roof and any job to work, however, according to texts, the scope of poverty is way beyond this general approach. For authors, poverty is actually a state of being in which one may have little or no money, little or no supply of goods, or little or no means of support. Thus poverty is not all about having nothing but it is to be looked upon by comparing the state and condition of those people who have very less then those who are in abundant. Poverty line in USA might be different from the poverty line in South East Asia because of the difference in the standard of living of the two societies[1]. In USA or European countries, anyone earning below the standard poverty line of that country is included in the population which is living in poverty whereas in third world countries, those who have nothing to eat , wear and who roam about the streets and sleep under the open sky are know to live under the poverty line. if we compare this phenomenon in monetary terms even we will see that in USA there are over 36 million who are living under the poverty line and earn less then $19157 per family of four whereas when we compare it with third world countries we see that any family of four that earns less then $1800 lives under the poverty line. in these third world countries , many people do not even have anything to eat, they are not sure of how and from will they get their next supper meal and where they will spend the night, whereas in developed countries this is not the case. Yet we cannot say that there is no poverty in developed countries and people there are quite well off. Therefore we can conclude through this discussion that poverty is not about having nothing, but it is a state of having lesser then the average population of the community or country these people live in.

The above mentioned case of poverty was mostly based on economic and monitory terms, whereas if come up to social and ethical perspectives of poverty, many scholars and researches are of the point of view that poverty should be measured in terms of the basic calories that an average human being needs in order to survive on daily basis. However, with this argument, again we see that that there will be almost no one in developed countries who wont get sufficient consumption of calories required daily as compared to those who live in developing countries, but this does not mean that there is no poverty in developed countries. Again we are exposed to economic and geographical limitations that we need to take into account whenever comparing two different societies on behalf of this concept.

Moving on when we come to analyze the pros and cons of the concept of poverty, before deciding what result of poverty is good and what is bad, we first need to see that what are basically the main results of poverty and how do they affect our society.

One of the most visible and prominent result of poverty is that inequality starts increasing between different classes in a society and discrimination due to these inequalities give rise to many other ills in the society such as crime and uneven playing field for all members of society. For example, those who are rich may be able to get the best education, medical facilities and other basic needs whereas those who are poor may not be able to use or access these facilities due to inequality even though they are entitled to them. A simple example of this problem is that a boy who comes from a family operating below the poverty line may not have the same facilities and level playing field to excel in life in comparison to boy who has been brought up in a rich and well off family[2]. The poor boy might not bee able to afford the best education which is expensive today and eventually would end up having a mediocre job. This inequality eventually leads to crime because those who are less privileged and who do not get the same level playing field to prosper start adopting un-ethical and unlawful means to get their basic rights and opportunities to live or raise the standard of living. For them they are justified that the institutions which we will be discussing in the rest of the report might have been failed to help them put, therefore helping themselves with the help of any possible mean becomes necessary for them to live[3]. These acts include theft, stealing, bribery and other criminal activities that are prevalent in out society today.

Yet, if we see the positive side of poverty as advocated by the article, we see that poverty comes with certain advantages as well because it serves as an indicator for a society and a government in order to guide them where does the system becomes inefficient in resource allocation and then gives the society an opportunity to revive back provided that the institutions use their efforts with maximum responsibility and for only one cause, that is, elimination of poverty.

Who is to be blamed?

In this part of the paper we will now analyze who is actually to be blamed and held responsible for eradicating poverty from the social class that is living under the poverty line.

This paper will take into account three sectors that we have discussed earlier in the beginning as well, families and communal society, NGOs and the government itself.

Families and Communal Society

First of all we will take up individual families and communal societies who are held responsible for both increasing and then eradicating poverty from them by taking measures. In order to see how families and communities can overcome the problem of poverty from among themselves we need to take into the reasons why they are poor first, so that we can hold them responsible for first eliminating those reasons from among themselves and make their lives better.

In south East Asia and other third world countries, those who live under the poverty line mostly have large families and a single family member, that is mostly a father, is responsible to feed the entire family. The concept of large families in these societies is that they believe that a larger family would eventually mean that when the children grow up, the family will have more helping hands to support them and make their lives better but they forget that in process of bringing up so many children at the same time decreases the standard of living even further then it could be maintained with a smaller family base. In a small family, all the family members can be fed more easily and sufficiently as compared to feeding a larger family with more eating hands rather then helping hands initially. In large families, when all family members cannot be provided with sufficient basic food quantity, obviously health and other similar issues start to arise in these families. When all the members cannot be fed sufficiently, there is no way that they will get basic health, medical, educational and other social facilities adequately by any chance. Thus these families due to their unnecessarily large family sizes are not able to be educated enough, fed enough and cured medically from diseases which eventually decrease their poverty level even further[4].

Therefore, those who hold these families responsible for having elevated their poverty level themselves are to a great extent right because it is very hard for government and NGOs to make the lives of these families better when they themselves do not want to internally.

Hence in order to overcome the problem of poverty, what these families and communities should realize among all other issues is that they should try to have smaller families so that they can feed all the other family members sufficiently keeping in mind the extremely limited budgets that already have. In this way, these families will also be able to apportion some of their funds and money for the education of their upcoming generation and safeguard them from diseases by also being able to access medical facilities. It will also be easier for governments and NGOs in order to provide education and basic health and medical facilities to these families because the growth rate would be limited and resources can be put into the right place easily.

GOs

Moving on, when people hold NGOs responsible for eliminating poverty, we see that the functioning of these NGOs again vary from country to country and from society to society. All these NGOs are charity based organizations and their functioning depends on the funds that they receive from the local community and other international institutions.

From the beginning when we see why are NGOs held responsible for eradicating poverty more, rather then government bodies, we see that people think that government can come down to the level of a society when it comes to provide funds and other facilities in an attempt to eradicate poverty from that society, whereas people who hold NGOs responsible for eradicating poverty from these societies is that they have the ability to go down to even individual levels in these societies and operating at individual level should be the basic focus of these NGOs. These organizations should join hands with governmental bodies in order to enable them to disperse funds and basic services to the lowest level in order to eliminate poverty from its base. However, when we look at the problem from the point of view of these NGOs we see that they also face many problems while reaching to the lowest level.

According to them they do not have enough funds to reach to the individual level and help all of those who are need[5]. Due to limited funds these NGOs in developing countries can only contribute to a limited extent in over coming a single problem at a time, be it hunger, medical facilities or education. Catering to all of the three would mean that they would require triple the resources to actually register their work as significant in the society?

Moreover, when we come to developed nations, though these NGOs have many times more resources then the NGOs in developing countries but at the same time the needs and the standard of living in these countries is also very high in developed countries as compared to developing countries, thus they need a lot more funds to bring those living under the poverty line to come to the average standard of living in the society.

Also, NGOs can help the government in providing human resource for allocation of funds to the poor, but they cannot provide the entire infrastructure such as economic activities or other developmental projects.

Thus NGOs defend themselves that they can only perform when they are provided with an infrastructure to work on and otherwise there efforts might not be helpful in the long term. For example, NGOs may provide medical facilities, doctors and medications in a society living below the poverty line but this is not a permanent solution as the problem will rise again due to lack of proper infrastructure like hygienic living conditions, food supplies, clean water and most importantly economic activities to finance poor people to access these facilities[6].

Governments

Many text books and surveys have come up to the conclusion that it is the government who should be held responsible for eradicating poverty at the first place because it is the inefficiency of a government which actually leads to poverty. These inefficiencies of the government can be explained by the following case that this paper deduced after surveys and literature reviews.

The basic reason why people live below the poverty line is that they do not have sufficient funds and economic activities in order to finance their living and expenditures. Previously we saw that people did rely on subsistence where they were they produced only what they needed to consume. An example of such a family is a family of a village where different farmers cultivated different crops and exchanged them through batter system in order to full fill their food supplies, but, can these farmers or this community also afford the provision of basic medical, educational and developmental facilities? The answer is NO.

Since the industrial revolution, governments and administrative bodies have shifted their interests towards raising the standard of living in the urban areas by shifting their concentration from the rural ones. In the process of developing the service sector in the urban areas, governments have failed to bring along the rural and agricultural sector and ignored their well being in the process of development. Thus the gap between the standard of living of those living in urban areas and rural areas increased with time and by now, we can see that rich is getting richer and poor poorer. Unless governments provide economic activities for those living below the poverty line and in the rural areas (which are globally ignored) the problem of poverty cannot be solved. People in these societies will not realize the importance of education until and unless they are actually sure from where are they going to support their next meal[7]. Once the basic problem of hunger and monetary problems is resolved, then automatically these people will have a psychological shift towards getting education and elevation of their health standards because they will have both time and funds for looking up to issues beyond hunger[8].

Therefore from the above case we see that provision of economic activity is the basic responsibility of governments and it is only them who can finance these activities in order to provide a base for any other project that is focused on eradicating poverty from the society. Aids in the form of food supplies and medications are only temporary solutions and a permanent economic solution can bring these societies out of the trenches of poverty.

Feminism and Poverty

This is another that is prevalent world over and is widely ignored by governments NGOs and communal societies on the whole. If we look at the population which is living below the poverty line, we see that it is mostly the women who add up to more then fifty percent of the entire population under consideration. Most of the programs and reforms that are brought by governments NGOs and communal societies are male centered and do not cater women as a helping hand and an important in the process of eliminating poverty from the society. One of the basic reasons of poverty is inequality and when there will be inequality in those societies which are already operating under the poverty line then how we can even think of eliminating poverty from that society on the whole. It might be possible that governments and NGOs are able to provide solutions and economic activities for the male class of these societies, but these solutions and resources will again be divided into two because these males will obviously be supporting the women in these societies who have no other option other then to be dependant on males.

Therefore all those who are responsible for eliminating poverty cannot pursue their goals until and unless they consider the female population living under poverty in their funding and developmental plans as well. A lot of NGOs are already working for the rights of women and development of women in the sense that efforts are being made to provide them equal opportunity in service and labor sector and also in third world countries, efforts are being made to promote the cottage industry that is solely operated by women. These women have the ability to produce good quality handicrafts but rich business organizations and traders exploit this talent from women and do not compensate them well, this it is required by NGOs and also at the state level to promote this talent of women living under the poverty line in order to provide them an opportunity to generate their own economic activity[9].

 

Conclusion

We can conclude after taking into account all the three sectors which are held responsible for the elimination of poverty that it is not the responsibility of only one sector, but a collaborative effort is required to solve this problem worldwide. Individuals, families and the state should join hands together to reach to the core reasons of poverty and take steps that are planned as to be a permanent solution rather then a temporary aid only.

By this we mean that the basic role of a government in a society is to provide infra structure to its people in order for them to exploit opportunities for economic activities, while at the same time a government also manages the entire system and population. Thus the people themselves and the entire communities they live in must also assume responsibility for their own benefit. They must realize that by expanding their families, they are only increasing their eating hands rather then earning hands in the short run, and as these families face serious problems in the short run they need to think on short run basis rather then thinking for long run by having more children. At the same time, many NGOs today are concentrating on similar areas and topics where they feel that they can work better , thus, these NGOs fail to address so many other issues that they feel are not worth enough for which voice should be raised. Thus when many small problems like these are ignored by NGOs, in the long run, all these small problems add up to become several other big problems. Moreover governments should also help NGOs with much more concern by aiding them with information, logistics and finances so that NGOs can work for the governments in a much better and efficient way.

By eliminating poverty we do not mean that every one is rich, because the lower class of the society does perform all the services for the upper class that are named as ‘dirty’, but it means that every one has the right to opportunity to earn oneself a living, fulfill the basic food, clothing and living requirements and the right to avail the opportunity for betterment in life.