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Poverty Alleviation: Let’s become part of the solution

30 December 2016 07:22 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The National Government has declared the New Year 2017 as the year of poverty alleviation. We hope that political leaders especially will not only take effective steps but also set the example needed for it while the people actively cooperate in this vital and noble mission.   


Regarding the issue of poverty there is little by way of clear-cut figures. For instance the Department of Census and Statistics in its November 2016 report says the official poverty line is Rs.4,089 a person. What that is supposed to mean could be interpreted by different parties or people in different ways. What we need to remember is that behind these statistics or figures, there are people suffering in different degrees of deprivation and destitution, degradation, discrimination and despair.   


As we have pointed out before, millions of poor people suffer from the lack of basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, proper healthcare, education and job opportunities. But what makes them suffer even more is their discrimination and rejection from mainstream society and the decision-making processes not only in politics but also in society and even in religion. So it is seen clearly here that poverty alleviation needs to go beyond the convenient aspect of doling out some charity or the trickle-down theory as the world’s capitalist financial institutions have described it. 


During the past four decades of the globalised capitalist market economic system we have seen that the trickle-down theory does not work and what is trickling down is becoming less because the rich want to become richer at the expense of making the poor poorer. The latest estimates show the extent of this selfishness and greed, vices which sometimes go to the extent of wickedness. It is reported that 62 of the world’s richest super billionaires own or control much more than 62 per cent of the world’s population. Over the past 40 years the gap has grown to monstrously dangerous proportions and we need to tackle it at a deep structural level before all are gobbled up.   


So as we begin this New Year of poverty alleviation, the government and other leaders need to be aware that this is a mission going beyond charity and touching the dimensions of social justice essentially through a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources so that for millions of people, caught up or enslaved in the poverty trap, it will mean an end to their social humiliation and rejection from the decision-making processes.   


In terms of example, politicians, social and religious leaders need to turnaround to the hallowed concept of a simple and humble lifestyle or ‘alpechchathawaya’. They need to avoid wasteful expenditure of public funds or indulgence in luxuries and extravagance such as tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve balls, where some people will spend in one night what most families find it difficult to earn in one month.   Capitalist market economic experts believe that if the people spend more there will be overall economic growth. But the tragedy, especially in most developing countries, is that we see a minority of the rich and ruling elite spending more while for a majority of people it is a case of struggling from day to day to meet basic needs. 


So there is a need for a transformation in attitude and concept whereby we become aware that by saving more we are not called upon to have bigger bank accounts but share more with the impoverished people. For instance during festive seasons if those who have could cut down on wasteful expenditure and share with an impoverished family it could go a long way towards bringing about social justice.If 10,000 families could save Rs.10,000 from their festive expenditure and share it with an impoverished family to start some form of self employment we would be going a long way towards social justice.   


If we want change then we need to be the change that we wish to see. Perhaps most people have been part of this crisis. A good new year resolution would be a decision to become part of the solution, step by step.   

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