Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On Poverty

It's hard, I think, for those of us here in the privileged UK to truly conceive what poverty means.

We hear the newsreaders and our esteemed politicians pontificate on poverty in this country, yet the truth of real poverty is something that doesn't really exist here in the UK.

In many countries, poverty means watching your children die of malnutrition in front of you. Here, it means you don't get to order a pizza.

In this country, we have a welfare 'safety net' ensuring that the vast majority of the poor in this country have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. In other nations, the only safety net is having enough surviving children bringing in a couple of dollars a day. We have full state education, allowing the children of the poor the chance of lifting themselves out of their situation through aspiration. In truly poor nations, children scavenge landfill for anything worth cash and for their daily sustenance.

I don't know how to fix the problem. The problem of poverty isn't my normal subject matter.

But let me focus on what IS - and I'll allow you to draw your own inferences and opinions from that.

In the UK alone, we've spent billions in credit sustaining an artificial boom economy. To salvage that, this Government has spent (so far) over £500bn. Let me spell that out.

Five Hundred Billion Pounds Sterling.

The US Government has so far bailed its bankers out to the tune of $950bn.

Nine Hundred and Fifty Billion Dollars.

Regime-change in Iraq has so far cost in excess of $500bn.

Five Hundred Billion Dollars.

Perhaps we need to change our priorities - to start asking questions, specifically asking our statesmen why, if all this money can be found at the drop of a share price, we wilfully refuse to use a small portion of these astronomical sums to change, permanently, the lives of those who really do need it.

We can ask the same question of those who profit from the poor and their cheap labour - companies like Nike, Gap and the like who have previously been alleged to profit from cheap labour in poverty-stricken nations.

We as ordinary citizens can - and in most cases do - make contributions, through charities like Children in Need, telethons and sponsorships. But we can't do it ourselves. The time has come, I believe, when Governments across the world need to stand up and say 'no more', and make some of the vast billions used to support their financial industries work for a right and proper cause.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel the same as you. Unfortunately Big Business is Government and visa-versa. These institutions are built on debt and geared for profit which limits their capacity for benevolence. Even the successful charities end up going the same way--how much of our contributions go towards large charities' pension funds and vehicle fleets( and I don't mean a fleet of mini's)

From personal experience, a lot of the poverty in Africa is kept that way in order to get at resources and keep competition out. One example is the Angolan war. It was kept going for twenty years by a certain huge diamond company in order to gain a monopoly. They now have so many diamonds in their vaults that if they opened them all, diamonds would be instantly worthless.

The perfect scenario would be to take govt money and physically hand it out to those in need. Again, unfortunately this is never allowed. Through the usual routes, the money never gets channeled down far enough and "re-building" projects are given to foreign contractors who charge above the odds because they can.

It will take an event of supernatural proportions to change the " me, me, me" mentality of the world and I don't see that happening anytime soon. We just have to personally affecting what we can, however small.