Poverty and Development: The Struggle to Empower the Poor Essay

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Poverty and Development: The Struggle to Empower the Poor, written by Joe Remenyi, identifies key ideas and strategies to reduce poverty on a global level. Remenyi outlines some of the potential contributing factors that have created the ongoing chronic poverty. He contends that our treatment of poverty as a welfare issue will prolong chronic poverty. Further he states that the capacity of self-reliance will be improved if we empower the poor to have a voice. Remenyi has identified issues that deserve our attention and certainly will provide a basis for the poor to move up. His approach is idealistic and on a global level, probably impossible.

What it means to be poor? There is a general understanding of what it is to be poor, not having enough money when money is needed, not having adequate housing, not a sufficient food source, and not having adequate health care. There is also a general perception about the poor. In many societies, they are seen as a financial drain to communities and there often is a perception that poor people have created their own situation, that they are “welfare” people. Yet, the reality is that “poor” often runs in generations, in certain geographical areas, and occurs to people who have not made a choice to be poor.


Poverty is about lack of access, lack of power, lack of income and resources to make choices and take advantage of opportunities. Women are more likely to face poverty often including their children. People-centered strategies to fight poverty must directly involve the poor in finding solutions to their problems. The energy, creativity and assets of the poor are key human and social resources. In Poverty and Development: The Struggle to Empower the Poor, Joe Remenyi identifies key concepts that he sees as necessary to empower the poor and find a solution to chronic poverty. His central belief is that “so long as poverty is treated as a welfare problem, chronic poverty will exist.” (190)

A Poverty of Poverty Theory Remenyi states that poverty has been dealt with in a way that depicts it as the result of failure, the consequence of circumstances, that are deficient in the essential requirements for economic development or progress. “Poverty is associated with an absence of growth and an absence of wealth creation.” (191) Remenyi has valid points in the definition of poverty and the approach that has occurred over the past 40-50 years. Poverty has been considered as a welfare problem and it is seen as failure, although probably a personal failure. Internationally agreed poverty reduction targets In a step to globally reduce poverty, the United Nation and donor nations, identified a set of international development goals to reduce poverty by 2015.

Their target goals are as follows; • 50% reduction of people in extreme poverty • Universal primary education for all • Eliminate gender disparity in education • Reduction in infant mortality by 2/3 • Reduction in maternal mortality by ¾ • Access to reproductive health services for all (193) Poverty is a very complex multi-dimensional problem. It is a problem that will have no global solution. It will require country-specific programs and international efforts supporting national efforts, as well as the creation of a supportive international environment. The eradication of poverty and hunger, greater equity in income distribution and human resource development remain major challenges everywhere.

The struggle against poverty is the shared responsibility of all countries. Trends in the incidence of poverty in developing countries Remenyi identifies quality of life as the most important determinant of personal access as well as the accumulation of human capital. (195) Income is an important factor in determining poverty but not the only factor. Education is a critical investment in the eradication of poverty and improving quality of life and therefore increasing the accumulation of human capital. Increased government spending on education is critical and increasing access to quality education for everyone.

The Important of Capital Financial Capital: Although Remenyi cites that poor people do save their money, a substantially smaller income results in little saved. “The capacity of the poor to finance development initiatives from current income is limited.” (199) He identifies debt as the poor person’s constant companion but if the uses of the debt can be made more productive or the cost of the debt reduced, the benefits would be immediate. Human capital: Suspect environments, inadequate nutrition, substandard sanitation, and unreliable access to quality drinking water can seriously undermine the ability of the poor person to work consistently and productively. Institutional capital: Poor communities often have poor schools, poor health care, poor financial resources, and limited recreational resources.

Social capital: “The ability of a community to reach out and help its members overcome setbacks that exacerbate the slide into poverty or prevent poor people from escaping poverty is determined by the social capital that can be mobilized in times of need.” (210) Natural capital: Natural capital can largely be defined by the resource base of a community. Liquid capital: The spread of user-pays policies for services has increased the need for cash flow and can be a key determinant of whether or not a household is poor. Pro-poor growth: Investing in poverty reduction Remenyi identifies the common goal of participatory poverty reduction and pro-poor growth strategies is to enhance the creation and accumulation of the six types of capital.

The strategies of the pro-poor growth movement can be summarized as follows: • Reduce unemployment and under-employment • Increasing the capacity of poor households to save • Enabling entrepreneurship and innovation to flourish • Allowing new markets to be explored and served • Enhancing risk management • Address gender inequality issues • Compensate for the impact of market failures • Attend to environmental issues These strategies, while admirable, seem exhaustive and impossible. According to the World Bank, in its disturbing assessment on progress to date, the Global Monitoring Report says if present trends are continued, only one of the goals will be met—the goal of reducing by half the number of people living below $1 a day. (web.worldbank.org) The report shows that the least progress has been made in child and maternal mortality and in providing access to safe water and sanitation.

They predict that hardly any region of the world will meet those goals by the target date of 2015. Progress on reducing the number of children dying has been particularly weak. In 1999, some 10 million children under the age of five died in low income countries—2.1 million in India alone. One point five billion people around the globe need to be provided with access to safe drinking water, if an international target to halve the proportion of the world’s population without access to water is to be met by the year 2015. Two billion more people in the world need access to safe sanitation, if the MDGs call for halving the proportion of the world’s population without access to sanitation is to be met by 2015. Gender equity continues to be a struggle.

The prospects are better in education, than in health. With current trends, several regions will achieve or approach the goal of providing universal primary education The United Nations, World Bank and other authorities seem to agree that putting people back in the center of this problem will provide the best solution. Summary Remenyi describes the aim of sustainable poverty reduction is the need to give able- bodied poor the best opportunity to achieve a level of self-reliance above the poverty line. This will need to include a measure for managing resources. An environmental policy that focuses on the conservation and protection of resources must also include an assessment of those who depend on the resources for their livelihoods. If the balance shifts dramatically it could have an adverse impact both on poverty and on chances for long-term success in resource and environmental conservation. Policy that focuses on increasing the production of goods without addressing sustainable resources for production will eventually lead to declining productivity, which could also have an adverse impact on poverty.

An anti-poverty strategy is therefore one of the basic conditions for ensuring sustainable development. An effective strategy for reducing the problems of poverty, development and environment simultaneously should focus on resources, production and people and should cover demographic issues, enhanced health care and education, the rights of women, the role of youth and of indigenous people and local communities and a democratic participation process in association with improved governance. (www.un.org)

The focus or priorities of developing countries will be different than the focus and priorities of developed countries. Their overall goals should be consistent, but their methods of achievement will vary given their resources and their priorities.

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