What would you give up to continue using your mobile phone? For most of the six billion mobile subscribers around the world, the sacrifice might be measured in terms of a marginal loss of privacy, or of time.
Not so long ago, those countries designated as “low-income countries” (LICs) in the World Bank’s World Development Indicators accounted for the bulk of the world’s poor, such as by the $1.25 a day standard. Today many very poor people live instead in what are called “middle-income countries” (MICs). The change seems dramatic. Almost all (94%) of those below $1.25 a day in 1990 lived in LICs. By 2008 the proportion was down to 26%, with the rest in MICs. Andy Sumner attracted much attention to this aspect of how the global profile of poverty has changed in his paper “Where do the Poor Live?.” Amanda Glassman, Denizhan Duran and Sumner dub this emergence of large poverty counts in MICs as the “new bottom billion.”
There has been much discussion about the implications of this change for overseas development assistance (ODA) and development policy more broadly. In particular, there have been calls for concentrating ODA on the LICs, assuming that the MICs can now look after their own poor.
But we need to look more closely at this “LIC-MIC” distinction, to understand why we have seen this change in the global poverty profile, and what relevance it might have for development policy.
Do you sometimes wonder if the average person is benefiting when the economy is doing well? Aren’t the poor left behind, even in the most rapidly growing economies? Concerns around rising inequality exist in many countries, rich and poor, East and West. Kenya is among them.
Over the last 10 years, the economy grew at an average of about 4 percent. With population growth of 2.7 percent, every Kenyan would have benefited by a modest 1.3 percent per year, but that assumes the growth was distributed evenly.
Even though many governments around the world want to avoid rising inequality — at least this is what many say — they often don’t achieve it. One challenge is that the already well off tend to benefit more during periods of economic growth. The poor typically also benefit, but their income rises more slowly. Does this mean rising inequality is here to stay?
When World Bank President Jim Yong Kim addressed the joint boards of governors of the Bank and the IMF in Tokyo last month, he took a powerful theme.
Like a Bollywood dance sequence, South Asia’s growth numbers tend to dazzle. It is the second-fastest-growing region in the world after East Asia. But behind the glamour lies a paradox. Despite robust economic growth, the total number of people living in poverty in South Asia has not fallen fast enough. Today, there are more poor people living under $1.25 a day in South Asia than in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Social indicators are lagging as well. South Asia has the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, with 250 million children undernourished. More than 30 million children still do not go to school. Gender discrimination remains a scar. Women’s labor-force participation in the region is among the world’s lowest, boys outnumber girls in school enrollment, and legal and judicial systems still do not address systemic gender violence.
Whether it is in the U.S. presidential election campaign or as a result of the debt crisis in Europe, people on both sides of the Atlantic are debating the role of the state. Do we need more government or less of it? Do we want more public services provided by the state and funded with taxpayers’ money? Or are we better off with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) doing the job?
What are the chances that Hania and Abdallah will have adequate access to basic services that are crucial for their growth and development? What are the difficulties that children like Hania face due to factors, such as gender, birthplace, and family wealth, which are beyond their control? How does Egypt perform in ensuring equitable access to basic services for all of its children?
Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.
Energy fuels economic development and the evidence is before our eyes every day. Businesses require a steady supply of energy to produce goods and services. Electricity allows school children to study after sunset and hospitals need it to save lives Insufficient or irregular energy supply is associated with significant economic cost for businesses and households. Lack of access to clean energy also creates a myriad of health and environmental hazards, such as indoor pollution from cooking on traditional open-fire stoves and deforestation.
Unfortunately, affordable access to clean energy remains an elusive dream for most Tanzanians, especially those living outside of urban centers and the poor:
The figures don’t lie. Today, about 11 million Tanzanians live in poverty. This is too much. Equally worrisome is that since 2001 the national poverty rate appears to be stuck at approximately a third of the total population despite rapid and stable economic growth.
People need jobs
For a long time, the Tanzanian Government has defended itself: poverty reduction will catch up thanks to the massive public investment made in social and infrastructure sectors over the past decade. More children, including girls, are going to school, and the efforts to reduce infant mortality have registered spectacular achievements. However, it is estimated that those improvements will take one generation to translate into actual productivity gains and higher incomes.