Inequality, extreme poverty and 2030 target

 Jim Yong Kim. PHOTO:AFP

Jim Yong Kim. PHOTO:AFP

Nigeria, others home to 800m of worlds’ poorestInequality, with its consequences- the breeding of extreme poverty, is actively ravaging the world’s population. But the World Bank said that at the count of 800 million people under the ugly condition, it is an improvement, at least, better than the 2012 record.

Unfortunately, the sub-Saharan Africa is leading the number with half of the estimation and Nigeria, the giant of Africa in population, but second in economic activity, is in the mix.

From the years of fight against terror in the North, with millions of displaced persons and starvation in the land, the ongoing fiscal crisis, to the global affirmation of recession, it would not be surprising to find Nigeria recording the chunk of the sub-region’s poorest.

A new World Bank study on poverty and shared prosperity warned that despite the “improvement”, reducing high inequality has become a necessary component to reaching the world’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

The inaugural edition of “Poverty and Shared Prosperity”, a new series that will report latest and most accurate estimates and trends in global poverty and shared prosperity yearly, showed that the nearly 800 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013.

“Progress on extreme poverty was driven mainly by East Asia and Pacific, especially China and Indonesia, and by India. Half of the world’s extreme poor now live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and another third live in South Asia.

“In 60 out of the 83 countries covered by the new report to track shared prosperity, average incomes went up for people living in the bottom 40 per cent of their countries between 2008 and 2013, despite the financial crisis. Importantly, these countries represent 67 per cent of the world’s population,” the report noted.

But the World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, said: “It’s remarkable that countries have continued to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity at a time when the global economy is underperforming, but still, far too many people live with far too little.

“Unless we can resume faster global growth and reduce inequality, we risk missing our World Bank target of ending extreme poverty by 2030. The message is clear: ‘to end poverty, we must make growth work for the poorest, and one of the surest ways to do that is to reduce high inequality, especially in those countries where many poor people live.”

Although the number of world’s poorest is still high, the report said it is not true that inequality rising, but it may not have been declining faster. It noted that inequality between all people in the world has declined consistently since 1990. And even within-country inequality has been falling in many places since 2008—for every country that saw a substantial increase in inequality during this time period, two others saw a similar decrease.

Inequality, it admitted, is still far too high and important concerns remain around the concentration of wealth among those at the top of the income distribution.

Noting “no room for complacency”, it also noted that in 34 of 83 countries monitored, income gaps widened as incomes grew faster among the wealthiest 60 percent of people than among the bottom 40.

In 23 countries, the bottom 40 saw their incomes actually decline during these years: not just relative to wealthier members of society, but in absolute terms.

It harped on early childhood development and nutrition, measures that help children during their first 1,000 days of life, as nutritional deficiencies and cognitive underdevelopment during this period can lead to learning delays and lower educational achievement later in life.

“Universal health coverage: Bringing coverage to those excluded from affordable and timely health care reduces inequality while at the same time increasing people’s capacity to learn, work, and progress.

“Universal access to quality education: school enrollments have grown across the globe, and the focus must shift from simply getting children into school towards ensuring that every child, everywhere benefits from a quality education. Education for all children must prioritize universal learning, knowledge, and skills development, as well as teacher quality.

“Cash transfers to poor families: These programs provide poor families with basic incomes, enabling them to keep children in school and allowing mothers to access basic health care.

“They can also help families buy things like seeds, fertilizer, or livestock, and cope with drought, floods, pandemics, economic crises, or other potentially devastating shocks. They have been shown to considerably reduce poverty and create opportunity for parents and children alike.

“Rural infrastructure- especially roads and electrification: Building rural roads reduces transportation costs, connects rural farmers to markets to sell their goods, allows workers to move more freely, and promotes access to schools and health care clinics.

“Electrification in rural communities in Guatemala and South Africa, for example, has helped increase women’s employment. Electricity also makes small home-based businesses more viable and productive, which is particularly of use in poor, rural communities.

“Progressive taxation: Fair, progressive taxes can fund government policies and programs needed to level the playing field and transfer resources to the poorest, and tax systems can be designed to decrease inequality while at the same time keeping efficiency costs low,” the report concluded.

But Kim added: “Some of these measures can rapidly affect income inequality. Others deliver benefits more gradually. None is a miracle cure. But all are supported by strong evidence, and many are within the financial and technical reach of countries.

“Adopting the same policies doesn’t mean that all countries will get the same results, but the policies we’ve identified have worked repeatedly in different settings around the world.”

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