The World Bank Tuesday released a report that indicates an increase in poverty levels across the world. The new report indicates that more people live in poverty compared to what had been earlier thought to be the case.
The report shows that 1.4 billion people in the world live in poverty up from 1 billion when the last study was conducted. What is unique about this report according to the Washington Post is that it does not suggest that people have gotten poorer but the researchers somehow adjusted their mode of determining poverty levels.
At the same time, according to the report, we learn the world financial institution has adjusted the meaning or determinant of poverty. It now means that to be regarded as poor one has to be living on less than $ 1.4 a day rather than the previous $ 1 a day.
What is clear in the report is the fact that Africa, sub–Sahara Africa for that matter remains in dire poverty compared to the rest of the world. Africans in effect remain the wretched of the earth.
So, how did we come to a point where by growth would be noted in other hitherto third world countries and that is not the case with the third world countries of Africa. By this, I mean the banana Sub-Sahara states of Africa.
Of course it ought to be remembered that even in the emerging economies like China and Brazil, there are still people living below the poverty line. But the absurdity of Sub-Sahara Africa’s poverty is very troubling to state it mildly.
The historical circumstances that rendered Africans poor or the wretched of the earth have been enumerated countless times. From the ills of slavery, colonial exploitation and bankrupt post independence dictatorships, the story has been told.
It is worth noting that, some countries like Botswana that have had stable governance, have made significant growth since the 1960’s when the wave of decolonization swept across the continent.
But at the same time it will be recalled that Botswana has a lucrative natural resource base in form of diamonds. Putting aside issues like the bad leadership that took over most of sub-Sahara African states, in the after math of independence by way of military coups, other questions must be asked.
This is in relation to the period starting in the early 1980’s, when the World Bank in concert with the International Monetary Fund, devised a shock therapy for African states and other developing countries.
This shock capitalism that gained momentum with the collapse of the East and the cold war, aimed at achieving many goals that have now been exposed for what they were. These goals have now been exposed as dubious and counterproductive.
African governments were forced to retrench workers, adopt western free market ideals and also multiparty democracy. Many governments as argued by Ugandan veteran journalist turned “Economic” intelligence operative Seezi Teddy Cheeye adopted this shock capitalism or pretended to be capitalists according to the Bretton Woods’ gospel for purposes of regime survival.
It can now be acknowledged with the benefit of hindsight that the policies of these Bretton Woods were either misguided or ill intentioned. The dire poverty levels in our midst vindicate this argument.
More over it will be recalled that many countries in South East Asia, rejected most of the conditions that the west was trying to force down their throats through the World Bank and IMF.
Many of these countries took up privatization but did retain a certain prominent role for the state in the strategic development of the countries.
The state in these countries continued to play not only a guiding role, but also a prominent role in the way the economy was being run.
More still, they never adopted wholesale, the western libel democracy as espoused in multiparty politics as a means of governance. They also maintained their traditional Confucian ethics which helped to spur a highly productive work ethic.
What is apparent now is that in many countries especially in Africa, people who were retrenched from service joined the ranks of the poor and many ended up becoming village drunkards, from middle class wage earners.
Thus such a policy only helped to achieve the opposite of what it was meant to achieve. In comparison, Africa, South of the Sahara did a lot to adopt World Bank policies and remained poor or even became worse.
While the Asian Tigers who never bought the World Bank gospel whole sale, went on to achieve astronomical levels of development.