A new World Bank report on the state of poverty in the world suggests that the number of people living on $1.25 a day have declined over the past decade. Even raisig the bar to $2.00 a day indicates great gains in the world fight against poverty.
Much of the improvement in world poverty numbers come from Asia, specifically China, which can boast that nearly 662 million people now no longer live on less than $1.25 a day compared to 1981. In 1981, nearly 77% of people in East Asia lived in poverty. Now, only 14% do.
Though this is cause to celebrate, the world is not out of the woods yet. Africa, though slowly recovering from the disastrous structural adjustment era, which erased previous gains in poverty reduction, still provides home to large numbers of ultra poor households, particularly in rural areas. Nearly 45% of Africans live in poverty at present.
One should praise the great successes of economically emergent Sub-Saharan African countries. One should not forget to ask why Asia has been a success story and why Africa has not. Most relevant, the World Bank should at least make mention of their complicity in creating conditions of entrenched poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.
When I saw Robert Zoellick of the World Bank last year, he only made passing mention of the programs which erased Africa’s past economic gains, dismissing the matter as a fringe concern of political freaks and over-reactionaries. The simple truth is that it is impossible to dismiss policies which have favored narrow US interests and reflected a narrow view of economics only appropriate for the most developed of countries, policies which have been implemented at the expense of the very poor.