Thursday, May 19, 2011

World Bank on Poverty Across India in 2011

In spite of recent poverty declines with its rapid economic expansion, India still has higher poverty rates than Pakistan, according to a 2011 World Bank report titled "Perspectives on poverty in India : stylized facts from survey data" released in 2011.



Overall, the latest World Bank data shows that India's poverty rate of 27.5%, based on India's current poverty line of $1.03 per person per day, is more than 10 percentage points higher than Pakistan's 17.2%. Assam (urban), Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are the only three Indian states with similar or lower poverty rates than Pakistan's.



Although consumption poverty has steadily declined in India, the number of people who actually consume calories above the minimum level associated with the poverty line—2,400 and 2,100 kilocalories per day in rural and urban areas, respectively—has not risen. As of 2004–05, as many as 80 percent of rural households were estimated to be “calorie poor.”

Agriculture Value Added Per Capita (Source: World Bank)


India’s middle-class lives barely or not far above India’s poverty line of $1.02 a day, and well below international poverty lines, especially in rural areas.



Large differences in poverty levels persist across India’s states and indeed are growing in urban areas. The rural areas of India’s poorest states have poverty rates that are the highest in the developing world. In contrast, urban areas of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have poverty rates that are similar to those found in countries such as Turkey or the richer Latin American countries.

The World Bank findings are consistent with the 2008 India State Hunger Index study by Purnima Menon, Anil Deolalikar, Anjor Bhaskar. It showed that Assam and Punjab have much less hunger than the rest of India. Madhya Pradesh has the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69 on the World Hunger Index.

India's Poverty Line Source: World Bank


The World Bank report discusses various causes of poverty in India, particularly discrimination against certain castes and tribes who make up most of the poor. It describes exclusion based on caste (SC or scheduled caste) and tribes (ST or scheduled tribes) and describes it as follows:

The Hindu hierarchy is said to have evolved from different parts of the body of Brahma—the creator of the universe. Thus, the Brahmans, who originated from the mouth, undertake the most prestigious priestly and teaching occupations. The Kshatriyas (from the arms) are the rulers and warriors; the Vaishyas (from the thighs) are traders and merchants. The Shudras, from the feet, are manual workers and servants of other castes. Below the Shudras and outside the caste system, lowest in the order, the untouchables engage in the most demeaning and stigmatized occupations (scavenging, for instance, and dealing with bodily waste).

Similarly, the scheduled tribes are also referred to as the Adivasis. .... we use the terms SC and ST, as these are standard administrative and survey categories. In
the text we use the terms Dalits and Adivasis or tribals interchangeably with SCs and STs, respectively.


The report acknowledges that "the Indian Constitution set the stage for almost unparalleled affirmative action and other forms of positive actions. These have been translated into laws, programs, and procedures".

The authors explain that "the combination of identity politics, inflexibility of the very systems that seek to promote inclusion, and the attendant poor implementation has resulted in patchy impact, affecting some groups more than others. To state the real challenge is to state a truism—that the implementation of policies and of reforms of institutions is the key to ensuring that growth becomes more equitable".

Here's a video clip on grinding poverty in resurgent India:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

New Index Finds Indians Poorer Than Africans

India 63 Years After Independence

South Asia Slipping in Human Development
OPHI Country Briefing: Pakistan

OPHI Country Briefing: India

Slumdog Inspires India's "Big Switch"

Mumbai's Slumdog Millionaire
Poverty Tours in India, Brazil and South Africa
South Asia's War on Hunger Takes Back Seat

British TV Accused of Making "Poverty Porn"

Orangi is Not Dharavi
Bollywood and Hollywood Mix Up Combos
Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

World Bank FAQs on Indian Poverty

Slumdog Is No Hit in India

Pakistani Children's Plight

UNESCO Education For All Report 2010

India's Arms Build-up: Guns Versus Bread

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

World Hunger Index 2009

Challenges of 2010-2020 in South Asia

India and Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/20/state-of-the-economy.html

Mayraj said...

That's a very low rate of poverty...I do not believe it!

Riaz Haq said...

World Bank FAQs on Indian poverty:

India has made steady progress against poverty. A look at the 25-year period between 1981 and 2005 shows that India has moved from having 60 percent of its people living on less than $ 1.25 a day to 42 percent. The number of people living below a dollar a day (2005 prices) has also come down from 42 percent to 24 percent over the same period. Both measures show that India has maintained even progress against poverty since the 1980s, with the poverty rate declining at a little under one percentage point per year.

But, although India has had significant success in reducing the number of the poorest of its poor - those living on less than a dollar a day – there are still a huge number of people living just above this line of deprivation. This is most evident when we study absolute numbers. The number of people living below a dollar a day is down from 296 million in 1981 to 267 million people in 2005. However, the number of poor below $1.25 a day has increased from 421 million in 1981 to 456 million in 2005. This the biggest challenge facing India today.

How do you explain the huge difference between your figures and the Government of India’s own poverty estimates?

The difference stems from the use of different poverty lines. To assess global poverty on comparable terms, we use an average of the national poverty lines of the world’s 15 poorest countries to determine the international poverty line at $ 1.25 per day at 2005 PPP prices. India, on the other hand, measures its poverty according to its own national poverty line which, in 2005 PPP, translates to $ 1.02 per day. As the two poverty lines are pegged at different levels, the number of people living below them is also different.

Is the World Bank suggesting that India’s poverty line is too low and it should revise it?

No, the new Bank paper does not suggest that India, or for that matter any other country using national poverty lines, should now peg their poverty line at $1.25. Each country does and will continue to determine its own national poverty line. As stated earlier, the Bank’s sole aim is to look at poverty across the globe on a comparable basis.

Do the new estimates show that India’s recent growth has not been able to make a dent in the fight against poverty?

The fact that poverty reduction in India has not been commensurate with its spectacular growth of recent years is not news. The government recognizes that its main development challenge rests on reducing inequalities and making sure that all its people, living in all its regions, are able to share the fruits of that growth equally. The Eleventh Plan seeks to address this issue of inclusive growth frontally.

However, this is not to say that India’s phenomenal growth has not helped lift people out of poverty. In order to improve the lives of a greater number of its poor, India will also have to reduce those basic inequalities – lack of access to education, healthcare and opportunities - that prevent poor people from participating in the growth process.

How does India compare with the rest of the world when it comes to fighting poverty?



India’s poverty declined by 19% between 1990 and 2005 as against 38% globally. However, when China is excluded from the count, the global decline falls to 18%, largely because China has achieved a much faster rate of poverty reduction.

Anonymous said...

Please refer google data and it will give the exact number with regard to the intensity of depravation.

http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=kthk374hkr6tr_&ctype=l&strail=false&nselm=h&met_y=indicator_38506&hl=en&dl=en#ctype=l&strail=false&nselm=h&met_y=indicator_38506&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=country&idim=country:4103:9203:15803&hl=en&dl=en

I donot thinks so neither india nor pakistan has to boast of anything as they are nowhere near the best values. Probably it can give the author the satisfaction.

However everybody know where and how the pakistan journey is going as a country.

satwa

Anonymous said...

By no count, india has to do a lot of work to reduce the gap between the haves and havenot.

Neo rich are nothing but the loot by the combination of the corrupt politican and business people.

India has started a good story by sending mk daughter kani to tihar jail.

Hope this brings down the corruption which in turn is affecting the welfare program of the government.

satwa

Mayraj said...

India's poverty line is a joke! The number of landless have increased, so let alone not reducing poverty, poverty has increased!
Commodity prices are sky rocketing.

Rahul said...

Riaz plans to attract FDI by publishing this article. Go on Riaz, billions of dollars are coming to pakistan.

Poverty has always been there. It has highly reduced. Poverty was there in USA in high rate when it reached the moon, it was high in Britain when it ruled the world in the 19th century. But this did not stop them from growing. A country takes 30-40 years to reduce it state of poverty. India has grown very high only for 7-8 years and it will take atleast a decade to stem out of poverty. don't worry about that. worry about your country i.e Pakistan. Just comparing with India will not get your countrymen jobs or FDI. Your poverty figures are increasing and jihadis are ruling. Its a shame that even after having so less population you are still in 50% poverty and no one is coming to invest(don't say chinese, they have to keep wagging your tail to let you serve them). Real progress come when you have world class industries in both manufacturing and services. Match that, then go on shouting..

Riaz Haq said...

World Bank is concerned about the failure of India's anti-poverty efforts, according to NY Times:

NEW DELHI — India spends more on programs for the poor than most developing countries, but it has failed to eradicate poverty because of widespread corruption and faulty government administration, the World Bank said Wednesday.

“India is not getting the ‘bang for the rupee’ that its significant expenditure would seem to warrant, and the needs of important population groups remain only party addressed,” John D. Blomquist, lead economist at the World Bank, wrote in a nearly 400-page study released Wednesday.

India spent 2 percent of its gross domestic product, or $28.6 billion last year, on social programs to alleviate and prevent poverty, the World Bank said, a higher percentage than any other country in Asia and about three times China’s spending.

The programs, central to the Congress party’s platform, include food distribution and health insurance initiatives that are supposed to reach hundreds of millions of households. The report was written at the “request of the government of India” and with full participation from various government bodies, the report said.

The World Bank on Wednesday recommended a radical overhaul of India’s social programs. “Marginal changes alone may not deliver the kind of safety net which a changing India needs for its poor and for its economy,” Mr. Blomquist wrote.

One of the primary problems, the World Bank said, was “leakages” — an often-used term in development circles that refers to government administrators and middle men stealing money, food and benefits. The bank said that 59 percent of the grain allotted for public distribution to the poor does not reach those households.

Instead of distributing food, the government might be better off giving out food stamps or cash transfers that can be easily traced through technology, the World Bank said.

India, the world’s the second-fastest growing major economy, after China, has had an economic boom in recent years that is transforming urban areas and creating a new class of extremely wealthy people. But social problems, including poverty, disease and illiteracy, remain widespread.

About 455 million Indian citizens live on less than $1.25 a day, the World Bank’s poverty line. A United Nations study released last year found more people living below the poverty threshold in eight states in India than in all of sub- Saharan Africa.

Riaz Haq said...

How many hundreds of millions of poor Indians are there? asks the NY Times:

Nobody can argue that India has hundreds of millions of poor people and that the government should help them. What remains a matter of significant dispute, however, is just how many poor people there are in India.

The government Planning Commission estimates that 27.5 percent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, which is calculated based on how much it would cost to buy 2,400 calories a day in rural areas and 2,100 in urban areas. (City dwellers are thought to exert less energy, so they should need to consume less.)

Many have challenged the way India measures poverty. The latest complaint came last week when a commission appointed by the country’s Supreme Court said the number of people living in poverty is probably at least 50 percent, because it asserts that the Planning Commission poverty line has been wrong for years because it does not properly adjust for the rise in food prices.

The difference is not merely technical.

A high poverty line means that the federal government has to give state governments more money for various anti-poverty programs. Even the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, acknowledged recently that higher measures of poverty could be tough on government finances, which are already severely strained.

Regardless of whether or not people can buy the requisite calories, data from a national survey taken every five years shows that most Indians are indeed not consuming 2,400 (or 2,100) calories each day, and many are now consuming less than they used to 10 years ago. The poorest 25 percent of Indians now consume 1,624 calories, from 1,683.

Moreover, most of the calories consumed by the poor come from cereals, whereas the diet of the rich includes more meat, vegetables, fruit and other foods with higher nutritional value.

Perhaps even more distressing is the finding by the Supreme Court panel that more than half of the country’s poorest 20 percent of people do not have the cards that identify them as poor and are necessary to access public welfare plans. At the same time, about 17 percent of the richest Indians have such cards.

Riaz Haq said...

According to chartbins.com, South Asians have the following calorie intake and composition:

India Pakistan

2300 Cal 2250 Cal

71% Carbs 63% Carbs

10% Protein 10% Protein

19% Fat 27% Fat

Anonymous said...

that says nothing:

1Calorie intake is a very poor substitute for well being there are some jains who are super rich but due to their religious beliefs take bland food with a net calorie intake on <2000/day.

Over millenia this sub caste has adapted to this diet and there is no physical incapacitaion due to this whatsoever.Infact they are some of the world 's best businessmen.

Btw FYI Jains though a separate religion are almost universally regarded as baniyas in India.They are also very well integrated to the extent that many ultra right Hindu organizations are often headed by Jains!

http://vhp.org/blogs/surendrajain/

This one's but one example.

Riaz Haq said...

Recommended Daily Alliance chartsbin.com, South Asians have the following calorie intake and composition:

India Pakistan

2300 Cal 2250 Cal

71% Carbs 63% Carbs

10% Protein 10% Protein

19% Fat 27% Fat

Riaz Haq said...

Recommended Daily Alliance (RDA) by US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) is for 2000 calories per day with 55% cabs, 30% fat and 15% protein.

According to chartsbin.com, South Asians have the following calorie intake and composition:

India Pakistan

2300 Cal 2250 Cal

71% Carbs 63% Carbs

10% Protein 10% Protein

19% Fat 27% Fat

Riaz Haq said...

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) by US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) is for 2000 calories per day with 55% cabs, 30% fat and 15% protein.

According to chartsbin.com, South Asians have the following calorie intake and composition:

India Pakistan

2300 Cal 2250 Cal

71% Carbs 63% Carbs

10% Protein 10% Protein

19% Fat 27% Fat

Anonymous said...

Riaz, out of curiosity, what is it that you're interested in: scoring points by putting India down or real concern for the poor? I'm fairly certain that most of the Indian middle-class is indifferent to the plight of the poor, and I get the sense that you perhaps gain some smug satisfaction at the failure of Indian policy makers to do much to control poverty. Is this perception correct? Also, how have YOU contributed to doing something about poverty (anywhere)?

Riaz Haq said...

Why is fat important in our diets?

Fat has many important functions as a nutrient. It is a concentrated source of energy and provides essential building blocks for the cells in the body. Fat is a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and it contains the essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6). It is also needed by the body to support natural growth, and for the maintenance of healthy skin, reproduction, immune function and development of the brain and visual systems. Dietary fat also improves the taste and texture of food.

http://www.margarine.org.uk/whatisfat-importance.html

A fascinating new study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that dietary fat is necessary for the absorption of nutrients from fruits and vegetables. In the study, people who consumed salads with fat-free salad dressing absorbed far less of the helpful phytonutrients and vitamins from spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and carrots than those who consumed their salads with a salad dressing containing fat.

This is interesting research, but not necessarily all that surprising. We've known for a long time that healthy fats are a critical part of a healthy diet, and that avoiding fats actually causes chronic disease. The key is in choosing the right kind of fats for your diet and making sure you don't overdo the fats, because fats have a very high caloric density and can add far more calories to your meal than you might expect.

In this study, the focus was on eating salads with either fat-free salad dressing or regular salad dressing containing fat in the form of canola oil. However, these findings apply to far more than just eating salads. Every meal that you consume should contain healthy fats, even if only in small portions. What are the healthy fats? Canola oil is what I consider a neutral fat, meaning it's not necessarily a bad fat, but neither is it considered one of the healthier fats. The healthy fats include extra-virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, and fats from plant sources such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconuts. These healthy fats should be consumed with every meal. Failure to include these fats in a meal will result in many of the nutrients consumed during the meal not being absorbed by the body. That's because many nutrients are fat-soluble nutrients. Beta carotene, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E are three such nutrients that require fat in order to be absorbed and used by the human body, but there are many other nutrients that also need fats for human metabolism.

----

We now know that this advice from the American Heart Association was, in effect, causing extreme nutritional deficiencies and actually reducing the life span of heart patients rather than helping them. Such is the case with information from many so-called disease organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Personally, I wouldn't listen to nutritional advice from any association that is so politically motivated and receives funding from pharmaceutical companies, as both of those organizations do.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/001545.html#ixzz1N2Dr0Jhj

Anonymous said...

U know I have no problems in admitting that I am as much focussed on Pakistan as much as you are focussed on India. As an Indian am not going to deny we are better off than Pakistan when it comes to poverty alleviation but I want to also remind u that we are getting ahead of Pakistan in another decade or so if there is still a Pakistan then. We have similar or worse problems of corruptions in India but at least Indians seem to have waken up with recent civil right movements and with a powerful RTI bill. Also another bill is being negotiated between civil rights and politicians for more trasperency. Pakistan in the meanwhile seems to be engrossed as how well to interpret Qurain and enforce it on people. We have similar problems but for sure Indians are making some progress while Pakistan seems to be on downhill path.

sushil said...

Here we go again. I remember my college days when you would select a topic to research then try to twist and spin any data to advance and fit your research conclusion.

You, understandably, want to please your self worth and that of other Pakistanis by selecting appropriate statistical data. If you think Pakistan is so great relative to India all the power to you.

However, I think your conclusions, sorry to say, are meaningless in the the grand scheme of things today. Your opinions are drowned out by the damage and carnage inside your country and globally which many attribute directly to Pakistan itself. All the major media magazines, online and print, TV and radio worldwide have either blamed the country or has criticized it for being incompetent.

Here you are, though, comparing Pakistan and India poverty rates. Foremost, statistical poverty data is always static whereas societies are not. Second, poverty is not uni-dimensional and it must incorporate other factors. For example, Human development Index(HDI)uses Multidimensional Poverty Index(MPI) which better reflects the deprivations in rudimentary services.

In terms of MPI 2010 (2007 data,India vs Pakistan):

% poor(H) 55.38 vs 50.97
(statistically insignificant SD 0.95)

AVG Intensity of MPI poverty(A)
53.50 vs 54.03
(insignificant SD 0.95)

MPI = H x A

Never forget that, ultimately, you are talking about Human Beings, Indian or Pakistani. The suffering and deprivation behind the stats is HUMAN! No one can feel good about that,

Thanks for putting India under the microscope so often; although shifting your focus to Pakistan may be better in the long run.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Counterpunch Op Ed by Yasmin Qureshi on "Militarization of India":

India is today the world's largest importer of arms. These include fighter jet planes, missiles and radar systems for strategic partnerships and geo-political power. India is also investing in security and surveillance to combat foreign threats and resistance from its own people in places like the Kashmir valley, and the North East and tribal regions of Central India. This provides tremendous opportunity for multi-national corporations to sell and invest in India, a country marching ahead as an economic and military power.

A report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (SIPRI) March 14, 2011 revealed that India received 9 per cent of the volume of international arms transfers during 2006–10. The international consultancy firm KPMG estimates that India will sign military contracts worth $112 billion by 2016.

This year India increased annual defense spending by about 11.6 percent to $36 billion in order to modernize the armed forces to counter the military inflation and strategic threats posed by China's rapidly expanding military capabilities..

In sharp contrast, allocation for agri culture and allied activities was reduced by 2 percent and allocation of non-plan expenditures on all social services declined by 14 percent from approximately $7.8 billion in 2009-10 to $6.6 billion for 2010-11. The World Bank estimates that 80% of India's population lives on less than $2 a day, comparable to sub-Saharan Africa.

Corporate Diplomacy to Secure Arms Deals

With assistance from their governments, arms corporations in countries such as Russia, US, France, Britain, Sweden and Israel are competing to procure million and billion dollar deals with India.

Last year India saw an unprecedented series of diplomatic visits from head of states of nuclear and defense powers. Notably chief executives of major nuclear and defense corporations had escorted the head of states on their visits. British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to India in July was followed by US President Obama's in November and by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's in December.

A $779 million contract was signed for 57 BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainers for the Indian military during Cameron's visit. Engine maker Rolls-Royce clinched a $280 million deal to supply engines for the jet trainers for the Indian air force and navy. Seven agreements in key areas such as defense, space and nuclear energy were signed during Sarkozy's visit.

US President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's visits in 2010 were also about strengthening economic and strategic partnerships. Twenty deals totaling nearly $10 billion dollars in U.S. exports were signed during the President's visit. Following that visit, the US reformed its export control regime and removed key Indian defense and civil space entities from U.S. restricted lists to help boost high technology exports and allow for enhanced defense and space cooperation with India.

The close nexus of corporations and governments is evident from the resignation of Timothy J. Roemer as US Ambassador to India on April 28, 2011, soon after the announcement that two US corporations, Boeing and Lockheed Martin had lost the race for procuring a $10 billion contract to supply 126 fighter jets to the Indian Air Force. The US is still hopeful a four billion dollar sale of C17 aircraft will be finalized soon. French company Dassault's Rafale and the Typhoon from the Eurofighter consortium (representing Germany and Spain, Britain's BAE Systems and Italy's Finmeccanica) have been shortlisted.

Riaz Haq said...

Though poverty is rampant in India, it's considered a bad world by rabid Hindu Nationalists.

Here's what the Financial Times advised David Cameron when he went to India:

"Avoid any references to poverty. More poor people (in India) than anywhere on earth. But not worth mentioning too loudly. Talk about the New India instead. Mention the aid review."

http://blogs.ft.com/westminster/2010/07/five-elephant-traps-for-cameron-in-india/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed on India's "stingy" poverty definition, as published by Huffington Post:

NEW DELHI — Every day, through scorching summers and chilly winters, Himmat pedals his bicycle rickshaw through New Delhi's crowded streets, earning barely enough to feed his family. But to India's government he is not poor – not even close.

The 5,000 rupees ($110) he earns a month pays for a tiny room with a single light bulb and no running water for his family of four. After buying just enough food to keep his family from starving, there is nothing left for medicine, new clothes for his children or savings.

Still, Himmat is way above India's poverty line.

Earlier this month, India's Planning Commission, which helps sets economic policy, told the Supreme Court that the poverty line for the nation's cities was 578 rupees ($12.75) per person a month – or 2,312 rupees ($51.38) for Himmat's family of four. For rural India, it's even lower at about 450 rupees ($9.93).

The revelation set off an angry debate in a country with soaring economic growth that has brought Ferrari dealerships and Louis Vuitton stores to cater to the new urban rich but left hundreds of millions of others struggling without access to adequate food and clean water.

The World Bank global poverty line, at $1.25 a day or about $38 per month, is three times higher than India's urban level. Local activists say a better name for India's standard would be "the starvation line."

"This number is a joke. There's no seriousness about the poor," activist Aruna Roy said.

The Planning Commission said it has to set the poverty line – which determines who gets government assistance – to make the best use of limited funds.

"When you have such a large number of people, given the resources that are available to the government, do you target the poorest of the poor or do you spread your net wider and succeed in covering nobody?" Pranab Sen, an adviser to the Planning Commission, recently told the NDTV news channel....
----
Using the commission's poverty line, 37 percent of India's 1.2 billion people qualify as poor.

The country currently spends 2 percent of its GDP – about 29 billion – in social protection, and half of that goes to the Public Distribution System, which provides the poor with subsidized food. Even with the low poverty line, the system – riddled with corruption and mismanagement – caters to over 440 million people, more than the entire population of the United States.

The World Bank poverty line would add about 60 million more people to that category.

Critics say even that is too few, and that India needs to extend its social security net to hundreds of millions more who like Himmat, the rickshaw puller, live in penury.

The Planning Commission's current approach implies that the coverage of social benefits will shrink if not disappear over time, said Jean Dreze, a development economist affiliated with the Delhi School of Economics.

"In a rapidly growing economy, one would like to see the opposite," he said.

For Himmat, who is illiterate and oblivious to what he can expect from the government, the debate has little meaning.

"My existence doesn't matter to the government. They don't care if people like me live or die," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on how India defines poverty:

India's cabinet has approved a proposal for a survey to identify people living below the poverty line, which also redefines what constitutes poverty.

It will classify the rural poor into "destitutes, manual scavengers and primitive tribal groups".

Urban poor will be defined as those in vulnerable shelters, low-paid jobs and homes headed by women or children.

The survey, to be conducted alongside a caste census later this year, will help identify those who need state aid.

There are various estimates on the exact number of poor in India.

Officially, 37% of India's 1.21bn people live below the poverty line. But one estimate suggests this figure could be as high as 77%.

The last poverty survey was conducted in 2002, but this is the first time that details about caste and religion will be included. The last caste census in India was in 1931.

Under the new system, in rural areas, families owning fixed-line telephones, refrigerators and farmers who have a credit limit of 50,000 rupees ($1,112; £688) will not be counted among India's poorest.

Government staff or those earning 10,000 rupees ($222; £137) a month will also be excluded. Home-owners with three or more rooms will also not be classified as poor.

Officials say the census to identify the people living below the poverty line is "a mammoth task", but it will help them to support those in the greatest need.

On Wednesday, a World Bank report said attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty were not working.

It said aid programmes were beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13450959

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report about health care costs pushing 39 million Indians into poverty each year:

(AP) ALIGARH, India (AP) — When Nasir Khan cried out at night from the searing pain of kidney stones, the entire slum could hear him.

A magic healer promised an inexpensive cure through chanting while pinching his side where the kidney stones were lodged, but it only made it worse. His condition became life-threatening, and doctors said he would need surgery for a fourth time.

The operation cost him — and his extended family — their home.

Without insurance and unable to get a loan, they sold the broken brick shack in the industrial north Indian city of Aligarh for 250,000 rupees, or about $5,500. It had been home to the 35-year-old Khan, his four brothers, three wives and 11 children.

"There is no choice. It is my life," Khan said in gasps, writhing atop a crude wooden cot as his relatives hovered helplessly nearby. He screamed for his mother. He screamed for Allah. He screamed for anyone to deliver him from the pain.

His story is repeated so often across India it evokes little sympathy, yet it represents one of the biggest threats to India's battle to lift its poor up from squalor.

Each year, the cost of health care pushes some 39 million people back into poverty, according to a study published in the Lancet medical journal. Patients shoulder up to 80 percent of India's medical costs. Their share averages about $66 (3,000 rupees) annually per person — a crippling sum for the 800 million or so Indians living on less than $2 a day.
----
Yet India's government spends comparatively little on health care: just 1.1 percent of the country's GDP, a figure that hasn't changed much since 2006 when China was spending 1.9 percent; Russia, 3.3 percent and Brazil, 3.5 percent, according to World Health Organization figures.

"The political will is simply not there yet. We have to help realign the country's priorities," said Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India and part of a government-commissioned committee recommending reforms.

Statistics that might highlight areas of need are scarce, thanks to erratic case reporting, few autopsies and a tradition of quick cremation that destroys evidence of disease. WHO reports often leave India out for lack of data. A recent study in the Lancet suggests malaria deaths could be 10 times higher than estimated.
---
Uttar Pradesh, one of India's poorest states and home to the padlock-manufacturing city of Aligarh, is a land of barren rural landscapes pocked by crumbling mud huts, wandering cattle and roadside shacks selling potato chips and curry.

Its infant mortality rate — 96 of every 1,000 newborns die — makes it one of the worst places on Earth to be born. The average Indian rate is better at 63 but still grim compared with China's 15 deaths out of every 1,000 births.

The state's leader, Mayawati, who uses only one name, rose from India's lowest caste to power and prominence. She calls health care a top priority. Yet since taking office in 2007 she has spent just $224 million on medicines for the state's 195 million people, while spending $569 million to build memorial parks and statues of leading dalits — also known as untouchables — such as herself.
-----.
Cities such as Aligarh, a three-hour drive east of New Delhi over potholed roads, are somewhat better off. They have hospitals, doctors and drugs — though often in short supply. The government says the nation needs tens of thousands of clinics and 700,000 more doctors.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an Op Ed in The Hindu on growing disconnect between mass media and mass reality:

•The mass reality in India (which has over 70 per cent of its people living in the rural areas), is that rural India is in the midst of the worst agrarian crisis in four decades. Millions of livelihoods in the rural areas have been damaged or destroyed in the last 15 years as a result of this crisis, because of the predatory commercialisation of the countryside and the reduction of all human values to exchange value. As a result, lakhs of farmers have committed suicide and millions of people have migrated, and are migrating, from the rural areas to the cities and towns in search of jobs that are not there. They have moved towards a status that is neither that of a ‘worker' nor that of a ‘farmer.' Many of them end up as domestic labourers, or even criminals. We have been pushed towards corporate farming, a process in which farming is taken out of the hands of the farmers and put in the hands of corporates. This process is not being achieved with guns, tanks, bulldozers or lathis. It is done by making farming unviable for the millions of small family farm-holders, due to the high cost of inputs such as seed, fertilizer and power, and uneconomical prices.
•India was ranked fourth in the list of countries with the most number of dollar billionaires, but 126th in human development. This means it is better to be a poor person in Bolivia (the poorest nation in South America) or Guatemala or Gabon rather than in India. Here, some 83.6 crore people (of a total of 110-120 crore) in India survive on less than Rs.20 a day.
•Eight Indian States in India are economically poorer than African states, said a recent Oxford University study. Life expectancy in India is lower than in Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
•According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, the average monthly per capita expenditure of the Indian farm household is Rs.503. Of that, some 55 per cent is spent on food, 18 per cent on fuel, clothing and footwear, leaving precious little to be spent on education or health.
•A report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations shows that between 1995-97 and 1999-2001, India added more newly hungry millions than the rest of the world taken together. The average rural family is consuming 100 kg less of food than it was consuming earlier. Indebtedness has doubled in the past decade. Cultivation costs have increased exorbitantly and farming incomes have collapsed, leading to wide-scale suicides by farmers.
•While there were 512 accredited journalists covering the Lakme India Fashion Week event, there were only six journalists to cover farmer suicides in Vidharbha. In that Fashion Week programme, the models were displaying cotton garments, while the men and women who grew that cotton were killing themselves at a distance of an hour's flight from Nagpur in the Vidharbha region. Nobody told that story except one or two journalists, locally.
Is this a responsible way for the Indian media to function? Should the media turn a Nelson's eye to the harsh economic realities facing over 75 per cent of our people, and concentrate on some ‘Potemkin villages' where all is glamour and show business? Are not the Indian media behaving much like Queen Marie Antoinette, who famously said that if people had no bread, they should eat cake.
No doubt, sometimes the media mention farmers' suicides, the rise in the price of essential commodities and so on, but such coverage is at most 5 to 10 per cent of the total. The bulk of the coverage goes to showing cricket, the life of film stars, pop music, fashion parades, astrology…

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the intro to an interview of Smita Narula, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University Law School, co-author of the report, "Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights and the Agrarian Crisis in India" as published by Democracy Now on Indian farmers plight:

A quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last 16 years—an average of one suicide every 30 minutes. The crisis has ballooned with economic liberalization that has removed agricultural subsidies and opened Indian agriculture to the global market. Small farmers are often trapped in a cycle of insurmountable debt, leading many to take their lives out of sheer desperation. We speak with Smita Narula of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University Law School, co-author of a new report on farmer suicides in India.
---
SMITA NARULA: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this report that you are just releasing today.

SMITA NARULA: Our major finding for this report is that all the issues that you just described are major human rights issues. And what we’re faced with in India is a human rights crisis of epic proportions. The crisis affects the human rights of Indian farmers and their family members in extremely profound ways. We found that their rights to life, to water, food and adequate standard of living, and their right to an effective remedy, is extremely affected by this crisis. Additionally, the government has hard human rights legal obligations to respond to the crisis, but we’ve found that it has failed, by and large, to take any effective measures to address the suicides that are taking place.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this number is unbelievable. Thirty—every 30 minutes, an Indian farmer commits suicide?

SMITA NARULA: And that’s been going on for years and years. And what these intense numbers don’t reveal are two things. One is that the numbers themselves are failing to capture the enormity of the problem. In what we call a failure of information on the part of the Indian government, entire categories of farmers are completely left out of the purview of farm suicide statistics, because they don’t formally own title to land. This includes women farmers, Dalit, or so-called lower caste farmers, as well as Adivasi, or tribal community farmers. In addition, the government’s programs and the relief programs that they’ve offered fail to capture not only this broad category, but also fail to provide timely debt relief and compensation or address broader structural issues that are leading to these suicides in the country....

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/5/11/every_30_minutes_crushed_by_debt

http://www.chrgj.org/publications/docs/every30min.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on dysfunction in Gurgaon, India:

Gurgaon, located about 15 miles south of the national capital, New Delhi, would seem to have everything, except consider what it does not have: a functioning citywide sewer or drainage system; reliable electricity or water; and public sidewalks, adequate parking, decent roads or any citywide system of public transportation. Garbage is still regularly tossed in empty lots by the side of the road.

With its shiny buildings and galloping economy, Gurgaon is often portrayed as a symbol of a rising “new” India, yet it also represents a riddle at the heart of India’s rapid growth: how can a new city become an international economic engine without basic public services? How can a huge country flirt with double-digit growth despite widespread corruption, inefficiency and governmental dysfunction?

In Gurgaon and elsewhere in India, the answer is that growth usually occurs despite the government rather than because of it. India and China are often considered to be the world’s rising economic powers, yet if China’s growth has been led by the state, India’s growth is often impeded by the state. China’s authoritarian leaders have built world-class infrastructure; India’s infrastructure and bureaucracy are both considered woefully outdated.

Yet over the past decade, India has emerged as one of the world’s most important new engines of growth, despite itself. Even now, with its economy feeling the pressure from global inflation and higher interest rates, some economists predict that India will become the world’s third largest economy within 15 years and could much sooner supplant China as the fastest-growing major economy.

Moreover, India’s unorthodox path illustrates, on a grand scale, the struggles of many smaller developing countries to deliver growth despite weak, ineffective governments. Many have tried to emulate China’s top-down economic model, but most are stuck with the Indian reality. In India, Gurgaon epitomizes that reality, managing to be both a complete mess and an economic powerhouse, a microcosm of Indian dynamism and dysfunction.

In Gurgaon, economic growth is often the product of a private sector improvising to overcome the inadequacies of the government.

To compensate for electricity blackouts, Gurgaon’s companies and real estate developers operate massive diesel generators capable of powering small towns. No water? Drill private borewells. No public transportation? Companies employ hundreds of private buses and taxis. Worried about crime? Gurgaon has almost four times as many private security guards as police officers.

“You could call it the United States of Gurgaon,” said Sanjay Kaul, an activist critical of the city’s lack of planning who argues that Gurgaon is a patchwork of private islands more than an interconnected city. “You are on your own.”

Gurgaon is an extreme example, but it is not an exception. In Bangalore, outsourcing companies like Infosys and Wipro transport workers with fleets of buses and use their own power generators to compensate for the weak local infrastructure. Many apartment buildings in Mumbai, the nation’s financial hub, rely on private water tankers. And more than half of urban Indian families pay to send their children to private schools rather than the free government schools, where teachers often do not show up for work.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/09/world/asia/09gurgaon.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=gurgaon&st=cse

Riaz Haq said...

Talking about foreign aid, British aid will continue to pour into India at least until 2015. Having the world's largest population of poor in India continues to be a magnet for aid from governments like the British govt and private charities like Gates Foundation.

Here's a recent report:

London, June 15: British MPs have backed the controversial issue of giving aid to India till 2015 to ensure that it meets the millennium development goals, despite the fact that its economic growth is surging over the period of time.

In a report published by the House of Commons international development committee on Tuesday, a cross-party group of MPs have said that despite India's huge economic growth over the last 25 years, average per capita income is one-twentieth of that in Britain, and over 400 million people still live in poverty, The Guardian reports.

According to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (UN MDG) monitor, over a third of India's population live on less than 1.25 dollars a day.

The committee insisted that future aid to Indian should aim to improve sanitation, tackle malnutrition and challenge social exclusion.

Insisting that the committee had examined the arguments for and against aid, its Chairman Malcolm Bruce said: "The test of whether the UK should continue to give aid to India is whether that aid makes a distinct, value-added contribution to poverty reduction which would not otherwise happen. We believe most UK aid does this."


http://www.dailyindia.com/show/445434.php

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed "Economic Growth Versus Human Development" by Prahlad Shekhawat published 02 July, 2011, Countercurrents.org:

Conventional indicators of development are being seen as unsatisfactory. The need for higher GDP leads to productive systems and consumption patterns that are not in harmony with the carrying capacity of the environment and our planet. GDP does not measure indicators of well-being, fair and equal distribution, unpaid labor and social sector indicators which assess the provision of effective employment, health and education.

India has consistently achieved the second highest rates of GDP growth but moved down to 134 position in the Human Development Index in 2009, compared to 128 a year before. The 2010 report puts India far behind in terms of achievements in tackling multidimensional poverty. The report concludes that economic growth has not lead to human development or less inequality. Similarly India is lagging far behind in its meager efforts to fulfill the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Since many years the composite Human Development Index has been combining income, health, education and gender equity. The 2010 report there is a proposal to enlarge the measures to include new indicators like equity, environmental sustainability and empowerment through people’s participation

Moving away from one sided focus on economic growth as a panacea and an end in itself developed is being redefined in terms of more meaningful, multidimensional and sustainable measures. According to the Research Group: Wellbeing in Developing Countries at the University of Bath, the concept of wellbeing examines three perspectives: ideas of human functioning, capabilities and needs, the analysis of livelihoods and resource use, and research on subjective wellbeing and happiness.
----
The recent report of the Commission points out that there is no consensus yet as to which indicators provide the greatest value, and how they should be applied in guiding public policy. The Commission’s most significant finding seems to be the need to track three distinct policy goals separately: economic, performance, quality of life, and environmental sustainability. Combining many dimensions of well-being would dilute clarity and provide numerical results with little practical utility.

Can the Indian Government respond by setting up a similar and much needed commission in India on the Impact of Economic Growth on Human Development, under the Chairmanship of Amartya Sen. India and its government celebrates Amartya Sen as a matter of Indian pride because he won the Nobel prize, yet completely ignores his advice that economic growth is a means for human development and not an end in itself

Riaz Haq said...

Source: Huffington Post
Posted May 27, 2011:

Earlier this month, India's Planning Commission, which helps sets economic policy, told the Supreme Court that the poverty line for the nation's cities was 578 rupees ($12.75) per person a month – or 2,312 rupees ($51.38) for Himmat's family of four. For rural India, it's even lower at about 450 rupees ($9.93).

The World Bank global poverty line, at $1.25 a day or about $38 per month, is three times higher than India's urban level. Local activists say a better name for India's standard would be "the starvation line."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/27/indias-poverty-definition_n_868171.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an OXFAM report about land for landless peasant women in Pakistan:

Oxfam Media Officer, Caroline Gluck, is currently travelling in Sindh district in Pakistan. She sends us this blog from there:

Mother of five, Sodhi Solangi, can’t stop smiling as she shows me her new eight acre plot of land. Cotton crops are growing and, a little further away, building work is almost finished on a large new house overlooking the fields where her family will soon settle.

Just a few years ago, 42 year old Sodhi, who lives in Ramzan Village, Umerkot district, in Sindh, Pakistan, was landless. She and her husband used to work on others’ lands, earning a share of the crops as payment. Daily life was a struggle.

“We often had problems”, Sodhi recalled. “Sometimes we had money, sometimes not. It was very hard for us. We’d spend all our days working on someone else’s farm and our children would be at home.

“We wore torn clothes. But now things are very different. When you like something, you can go out and buy it. Before, we would have to ask the landlord to give us money if we wanted anything, but now we have money in our hands and we can buy things whenever we want.”

“Now we have our own land and are working on our own land. It feels so good when we work there. When we used to work for others, we would have to drag ourselves there.”

Her family’s luck changed when Sodhi was awarded eight acres of land, under a programme run by Sindh’s provincial government, which in 2008 began redistributing swathes of state-held land to landless women peasants. The landmark scheme was an attempt to lift more people out of poverty in the province, where more than two-thirds of the population work the land, but where bonded labour is still widely practiced and most land is still held by wealthy and political influential elites.

Sohdi and her family grew wheat and cotton on their new land. And they managed to earn enough profit to buy another eight acres.

“We were so happy when we go our land. Now, things are so different”, said Sodhi. “Whenever we want to eat anything, we can just buy it. Before, we used to eat dal and potatoes. Now we can buy all sorts of things – mangos, even chicken.”

“Everyday, we have a lot of food. It’s like a festival of food for us every time!” she said, laughing.

Meat is an unaffordable luxury for most poor farming families – and one telling sign of just how much Sodhi’s life has turned around.

Her neighbours and relatives jokingly call her “lady landowner” and many told me they planned to apply for land during the next phase of the redistribution scheme.

But Sodhi is one of the lucky ones. Her land, though parched and lacking proper irrigation, is still cultivable; and, unlike many women, Sodhi didn’t face legal claims disputing her right to the land from wealthy landowners or others living nearby.
-----
“The landlord sent officials to threaten the women here saying : ‘We will destroy your homes and take your tractors. ‘ He also threatened to send the police to our home”, said Shareefa Gulfazar, who is in her fifties, and was awarded 4.5 acres of land.

Her daughter, Dadli Kehar, who was awarded 3 acres of land, fears they are being tricked out of what is rightfully theirs. With the help of Oxfam’s partner Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI), both women plan to fight through the courts for what they believe is their right to the land.
----
Despite the threats and the likelihood of a lengthy legal battle, Shareefa and Dadli intend to fight for their land. They know that having their own land can empower them as well as help to feed their families and ensure they have a better future.


http://www.oxfamblogs.org/southasia/?p=1088

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen on economic growth and quality of life in India and China:

It could, however, be asked why this distinction should make much difference, since economic growth does enhance our ability to improve living standards. The central point to appreciate here is that while economic growth is important for enhancing living conditions, its reach and impact depend greatly on what we do with the increased income. The relation between economic growth and the advancement of living standards depends on many factors, including economic and social inequality and, no less importantly, on what the government does with the public revenue that is generated by economic growth.

Some statistics about China and India, drawn mainly from the World Bank and the United Nations, are relevant here. Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is 64.4 years. The infant mortality rate is fifty per thousand in India, compared with just seventeen in China; the mortality rate for children under five is sixty-six per thousand for Indians and nineteen for the Chinese; and the maternal mortality rate is 230 per 100,000 live births in India and thirty-eight in China. The mean years of schooling in India were estimated to be 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. China’s adult literacy rate is 94 percent, compared with India’s 74 percent according to the preliminary tables of the 2011 census.

As a result of India’s effort to improve the schooling of girls, its literacy rate for women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four has clearly risen; but that rate is still not much above 80 percent, whereas in China it is 99 percent. One of the serious failures of India is that a very substantial proportion of Indian children are, to varying degrees, undernourished (depending on the criteria used, the proportion can come close to half of all children), compared with a very small proportion in China. Only 66 percent of Indian children are immunized with triple vaccine (diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus), as opposed to 97 percent in China.

Comparing India with China according to such standards can be more useful for policy discussions in India than confining the comparison to GNP growth rates only. Those who are fearful that India’s growth performance would suffer if it paid more attention to “social objectives” such as education and health care should seriously consider that notwithstanding these “social” activities and achievements, China’s rate of GNP growth is still clearly higher than India’s.


http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/may/12/quality-life-india-vs-china/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times report on Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) in Pakistan:

The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is ready to share its experiences with the world, especially with the poverty stricken Asian nations, so that the menace of poverty can be eradicated from the region and the goal of mutual growth and prosperity can be achieved, BISP Chairperson Farzana Raja ssaid on Thursday. She stated this while speaking to Asian Development Bank (ADB) Executive Director Siraj Shamas ud Din, who called on her at the BISP Secretariat in Islamabad.

Farzana also apprised the ADB Executive Director of the various components of BISP and the progress made by the programme in the last three years. According to her, the activities of BISP have helped to bring about positive economic changes in the lives of its beneficiaries. She told the visiting ADB official that BISP had launched various strategies which provide interest free micro financing, demand driven vocational and technical training, along with a Life Insurance Scheme, which helps families become self-reliant.

Farzana Raja also informed the ADB executive director of an initiative by BISP for increasing school enrolment in the poverty-hit areas of the country, using a system known as the Conditional Cash Transfer. This would provide free education to the children of beneficiary families, thus helping to bring out a positive social change within the country.

The ADB executive director appreciated the efforts of BISP regarding poverty alleviation and was of the view that ADB’s current assistance to BISP, amounting to $150 million, was being properly utilised by the programme.

Shamas ud Din informed Farzana that various countries in the region were interested in observing the methods and procedures adopted by BISP so that they could implement similar social safety nets for the eradication of poverty. Farzana agreed to share BISP’s expertise and support with such countries of the region as may be recommended by the ADB. Shamas ud Din also called the Scorecard Survey being carried out by BISP throughout Pakistan to identify deserving beneficiaries a remarkable achievement.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\07\08\story_8-7-2011_pg7_24

Mayraj said...

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/07/20117810358528978.html
India's food security emergency

Corporate influence on food production and large, chemical monoculture farms is causing a severe food insecurity crisis.

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/faultlines/2011/07/2011711112453541600.html
Outsourced: Clinical trials overseas

As US pharmaceutical companies move their operations abroad, India has become a testing ground for trial medicines
http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/faultlines/2011/07/201171110234485146.html
Big pharma and illiteracy in India

Zeina Awad asks why clinical trials are conducted in markets where research subjects will not see any benefit.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post story on slowdown in India:

....In developments that parallel events in the other Asian powerhouse, neighboring China, rising prices have forced the government to steadily tighten monetary policy. Interest rates rose for the 10th time in 16 months last week.

But business leaders are unhappy. They say the medicine could be making the economic situation worse.

Much of the inflation in India is a function of higher oil and food prices, factors that respond poorly, if at all, to higher interest rates. Instead of depending on the central bank, the government needs to push through the kind of agricultural reforms and investment it has been talking about for years, analysts say.

“Government policy should be focused on improving agricultural productivity, but because that isn’t happening, the burden is falling more and more on monetary policy,” said Sanjay Mathur, Royal Bank of Scotland’s Asia emerging markets economist in Singapore. “Consequently, a number of sectors that shouldn’t be getting hurt are getting hurt.”

That means growth could fall back toward 7 percent, some economists warn, still faster than that of any major economy except China but below what India could achieve — and needs, if it is to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

“There is no point substituting one bad policy with another bad policy,” said Surjit Bhalla, chairman of Oxus Investments. “When the patient is down, don’t give him another kick in the pants.”

In the early 1990s, India’s government pushed through a series of economic reforms that unshackled the private sector and laid the foundation for two decades of strong growth. With that growth has come rising incomes, an expanding middle class and changing eating patterns. No longer dependent solely on rice, lentils and grains, Indians are demanding more vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat and fish.

Local agriculture has not kept pace. Farmers grow the wrong mix of crops, and about 40 percent of production is wasted before it reaches market because of inadequate distribution, warehousing and cold-storage systems.

Add to the mix a rural employment scheme that has boosted the incomes and appetites of India’s poorest, and a demographic bulge in hungry 15- to 24-year-olds, and it is little surprise that food prices are rising steadily year by year.

That in turn has pushed up wages, while production of raw materials such as coal, ores and cotton is also struggling to keep up with rising demand. Inflation hit 9.1 percent in May, and the central bank says it is expected to remain high through at least September.

To get food prices down, the government needs to promote horticulture and revolutionalize agricultural marketing and distribution, economists say. Allowing foreign companies such as Wal-Mart to set up supermarkets in India and invest in cold-storage facilities, a long-promised but still undelivered policy goal, would also help, they say.
------------
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last week underlined the need for a new set of reforms in India to bolster growth, and no one in the finance or planning ministries seemed to disagree. The problem is getting it done.
----------
Higher interest rates are choking much-needed investment, which was almost flat in the first quarter of this year and grew just 4.1 percent year over year, as overall economic growth slipped to 7.8 percent.

The stock market is sliding — shares are down more than 14 percent this year, making India the worst-performing market in Asia. That in turn makes it more difficult for companies to raise the capital they need to invest.
----

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nepal Monitor report on MPI poverty in South Asia:

Among the 104 countries, Nepal ranks 82 in the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) with UNDP support. Sri Lanka (32) tops South Asia followed by Pakstan (70), Bangladesh (73), India (74) and Nepal.

UNDP’s Human Development Report for this year, to be published in late October, will be based on this new MPI method. The new method incorporates 10 indicators of poverty, and these are clustered under three dimensions— education (years of schooling and child enrolment), health (child mortality and nutrition), and standard of living (electricity, drinking water, sanitation, flooring, cooking fuel, and assets).

UNDP’s earlier reports measured poverty in terms of survival, access to knowledge and decent standard of living (overall economic provisioning).

The latest MPI is based on surveys conducted on various countries between 2000 to 2007. Nepal’s statistics are from 2006.

Nepal is better positioned than Pakistan and India in terms of years of schooling for children and enrolments. Pakistan had 32.50 percent and India had 23.99 percent deprivation in the educational dimension whereas Nepal had 21.32 percent deprivation. Sri Lanka (6.26) and Bangladesh (18.70) fared better than Nepal and other countries in the region.

In the health dimension Nepal is better than the other surveys countries in the region—Sri Lanka (35.40 percent), Pakistan (36.35), Bangladesh (34.68), and India (33.53).

In the living standard measure Nepal was better than Sri Lanka (58.34) or Bangladesh (46.81), but worse than Pakistan (31.14) or India (41.33).

For the surveyed year 2006, Nepal’s MPI value was 0.350, the highest in the region. The MPI value reflects the percentage of people who are MPI poor and the average intensity of their poverty. Nepal’s Incidence of Poverty was 64.7 percent and her Average Intensity Across the Poor was 54.0 percent.

Slovenia, Czech Republic, Belarus, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Albania, respectively, are the countries ranking in the top ten on the index for 104 developing countries. The surveyed countries have a combined population of 5.2 billion, which comprise 78 percent of the human total. The study reveals that a third of population in all surveyed countries combined live in multidimensional poverty.

Half of the world’s poor, according to the MPI, live in South Asia (51 percent or 844 million people). India, in particular, has more MPI poor people in eight of her states alone (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million). The overall figure for the entire of African developing countries is 28 percent (458 million).


http://www.nepalmonitor.com/2010/07/post_22.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Soutik Biswas of the BBC on challenges of reform in India:

The reforms also unleashed the entrepreneurial spirits of the "caged" Indian. The new economy has thrived - software has become a powerhouse industry. Most importantly, a substantial middle class has come into being between what one political scientist called a "small elite and a large impoverished mass". The newly confident middle class have gleefully abandoned Gandhian austerity for hearty consumerism, splurging on goods and services. India has produced the cheapest car, and offers the cheapest telephone calls, as well as heart and eye surgeries. It weathered the recession gamely, clocking nearly 7% growth during the worst of the downturn. Domestic savings remain robust.

That is where the India reform story comes to a halt, may say. These days, the world's 10th largest economy - which aspires to become the world's third largest by 2030 - is hobbled by what many call "policy paralysis", runaway inflation (nearly double the government's own "tolerable" estimate of 5%-6%) and is snowed under an avalanche of corruption scandals which smack of crony capitalism. Rising oil prices haven't helped matters. Interest rates have risen nearly a dozen times in almost an equal number of months. Spending is down.

But the bigger challenges lie ahead. Many believe that they will eventually decide whether India becomes a highly iniquitous and restive society or a more inclusive, stable one. How fast will the country be able to lift its poorest of the poor - mainly its tribespeople and Dalits (formerly untouchables) - out of poverty? Or will India continue to be a land where there are people "who sell newspapers they will never read, sew clothes they cannot wear, polish cars they will never own and construct buildings where they will never live", as Eduardo Galeano had once said evocatively, writing on a Latin American city.

A third of Indians still live below the poverty line, according to various estimates. A study by C Ravi of the Centre for Economic and Social Studies in Hyderabad actually found that poverty levels in 2009-2010 were 32%, an increase over 2007-2008, possibly due to the recession and severe drought. Other estimates point to a modest drop in poverty in recent years. Even the chief of India's Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, agrees that the drop in poverty is well below the government's own targets.

There are more worries. Half of Indians earn most from their farms, where growth has slowed down worryingly. Lack of access to basic services remains the most worrisome malaise, dragging down India's social indicators. Some 40% of children are suffering from severe malnutrition, more than 45% of them are not fully vaccinated and 41% of women are unable to deliver their children safely. There are worries, too, over the quality of education, with 43% of children dropping out of elementary school by their early teens, according to figures for 2007-2008. More than a third of 8-9 year-olds in villages cannot pass simple tests in reading and arithmetic. So the picture of inclusiveness, in the words of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, remains "mixed". He concedes that "both the extent of poverty and the lack of access to the essential services remain a serious problem".


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14300534

Riaz Haq said...

India's main planning body has said half a dollar a day is "adequate" for a villager to spend on food, education and health, according to the BBC:

Critics say that the amount fixed by the Planning Commission is extremely low and aimed at "artificially" reducing the number of poor who are entitled to state benefits.

There are various estimates on the exact number of poor in India.

Officially, 37% of India's 1.21bn people live below the poverty line.

But one estimate suggests the true figure could be as high as 77%.

The Planning Commission has told India's Supreme Court that an individual income of 25 rupees (52 cents) a day would help provide for adequate "private expenditure on food, education and health" in the villages.

In the cities, it said, individual earnings of 32 rupees a day (66 cents) were adequate.

The Planning Commission was responding to a direction from the court to update its poverty line figures to reflect rising prices.

India has been struggling to contain inflation which is at a 13-month high of 9.78%.

Many experts have said the income limit to define the poor was too low.

"This extremely low estimated expenditure is aimed at artificially reducing the number of persons below the poverty line and thus reduce government expenditure on the poor," well-known social activist Aruna Roy told The Hindu newspaper.

The Planning Commission also told the court that 360 million Indians are now being supplied with subsidised food and cooking fuel through the network of state-owned shops.

A World Bank report in May said attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty were not working.

It said aid programmes were beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14998248

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an opinion piece about India's talk of setting up a sovereign wealth fund (SWF):

Unlike China and other East Asian countries, which have established such funds on sustained current account surpluses, India has been running persistent current account deficits. Its current account deficit touched $ 29.8 billion in fiscal 2009 as against $ 15.7 billion in fiscal 2007. Unlike West Asia, India does not have any dominant exportable commodity (such as oil or gas) so as to generate significant surpluses. It continues to be a huge net importer of oil and gas. The country’s current account deficit is widening despite steady growth in software services exports and a rise in workers’ remittances from overseas Indians.

Its persistent current account deficits have been financed by large capital inflows in the form of portfolio investments and other volatile capital flows that are subject to capital flight. Given the overriding presence of volatile capital flows in India’s forex reserves, coupled with vulnerability to external shocks, it would be erroneous to consider its foreign exchange reserves ($ 280 billion) as a position of strength.

India’s external debt has been rising steadily for the past few years on account of higher borrowings by the Indian companies and short-term credit. Besides, India also runs a perennial fiscal deficit which means that raising substantial money for sovereign fund from budgetary allocation would be extremely difficult.

Santiago Principles

AS far as the proposed fund’s objectives to invest directly in strategic cross-border assets are concerned, the Indian policy-makers need to recognise that the overwhelming majority of sovereign funds are passive investors. In the rare cases where SWFs have made direct investments, they have not sought controlling interests or active roles in the management of invested companies, as private investors do. Even the large-scale direct investments made by SWFs in US and European banks during 2007-08 were minor in terms of bank ownership and did not come with any special rights or board representation.

Any direct investment in strategic assets by a sovereign fund will invite severe criticism for its alleged political and non-commercial objectives. Not long ago, the Western world had characterised SWFs as "villains" and introduced new policy measures, popularly known as the Santiago Principles, to regulate the investments of SWFs globally. Thus, acquisition of strategic cross-border assets (including natural resources) will not be a cakewalk. Also $ 10 billion is not enough to acquire strategic assets abroad-unless they become very cheap.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that investments made by the Indian fund will be profitable. As witnessed during the global financial crisis, SWFs from West Asia, China, Singapore and Norway suffered huge losses for their investments in Western banks and private equity funds.

Paradoxical as it may sound, extreme poverty and hunger still pervades India. For New Delhi, the first priority should be to free the nation from hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy rather than financing the acquisition of strategic assets or rivals abroad.

In this regard, a portion of the country’s forex reserves could be prudently used in the improvement of physical infrastructure, education, health and financial services, particularly in rural India.


http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article2285.html

Riaz Haq said...

Indian activists have dared the head of the country's planning body to live on half a dollar a day to test his claim that it is an adequate sum to survive, according to the BBC:

Last week the Planning Commission said the amount is "adequate" for a villager to spend on food, education and health.

But prominent campaigners Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander asked the panel chief, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and members to either withdraw the figure or resign.

Officially, 37% of India's 1.21bn people live below the poverty line.

But there are various estimates of the exact number of poor in India and one suggests the true figure could be as high as 77%.

But the Planning Commission recently told India's Supreme Court that an individual income of 25 rupees (52 cents) a day would help provide for adequate "private expenditure on food, education and health" in the villages. In the cities, it said, individual earnings of 32 rupees a day (65 cents) were adequate.

Critics say this amount is extremely low and aimed at "artificially" reducing the number of poor. They argue that this will deprive millions of state benefits they would otherwise be entitled to.
Estimate ridiculed

"The right to food campaign challenges you and all the members of the Planning Commission to live on 25 rupees or 32 rupees a day till such time that you are able to explain to the public in simple words the basis of the statement that this amount is 'normatively adequate'," an open letter to the commission signed by Ms Roy, Mr Mander and various other activists said.

"If it cannot be explained then the affidavit [filed by the commission stating the figures] should be withdrawn or else you should resign."

The Planning Commission submitted the figures after the Supreme Court asked the government to update its poverty line figures to reflect rising prices.

The low figures, at a time when India has been struggling to contain inflation which is at a 13-month high of 9.78%, have been ridiculed not just by activists but also by many citizens.

Many experts have said the income limit to define the poor was too low.

And a World Bank report in May said attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty were not working.

It said aid programmes were beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-15121304

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece from WSJ on poverty line in India:

In an affidavit filed to the Supreme Court, India’s Planning Commission shared new estimates on India’s poverty line, setting it at 965 rupees per month for people living in cities and at 781 rupees for people living in rural areas. This averages to about 32 rupees and 26 rupees per day, respectively, to spend on food, education and health.

While this was higher than the Planning Commission’s earlier estimates –which set the benchmark at 19 rupees a day for urban dwellers – it sparked a debate on how little people in India are expected to live on and on the limits of the country’s welfare system.

The poverty line matters because it determines how many people are eligible to government welfare schemes. Currently, this is capped at 37.2% of the population, a figure that is unlikely to change before the end of the year.

In an editorial titled “How little can a person live on?” in The Hindu newspaper on Friday, Utsa Patnaik said that the updated estimates “exposed how unrealistic ‘poverty lines’ are.” The author drew attention to costs people were meant to cover with that amount and noted that “even a child knows that working health cannot be maintained, nor necessities obtained, by spending so little.”

She questioned the methodology used to determine the figures: “The Planning Commission’s laughable estimates of the poverty line follow from a mistake in method that it made 30 years ago and has clung to ever since.” She questioned economists’ excessive reliance on price indices and the insufficient weight given to nutritional requirements.

“The method of indexation that is actually used has not kept constant the nutritional standard against which poverty is measured, but has lowered it continuously,” she said.

In an open letter, more than 25 experts including social economist Jayati Ghosh, Sukhdeo Thorat, the chairman of the University Grants Commission, and West Bengal’s former finance minister Ashok Mitra, slammed the government’s latest benchmark for measuring poverty.
----
Jug Suraiya, in an editorial titled “Rich man, poor man” in the The Times of India, noted that although India’s poverty line is very low, the country is also “poised to overtake Japan as the world’s third largest economy.” This, the author writes, highlights “an increasingly obvious reality: India is fast emerging as the richest poor country in the world.”
--------
Mr. Suraiya said that “the paradox is all the more cruel in that India’s poor…will grow even poorer and more numerous as the country’s prosperity increases.” He pointed at the root cause for this: “a criminally inefficient and inequitable system – or rather, non-system – of wealth distribution.”

In an editorial titled, “Which world do economists live in?” Faizur Rehman in The Asian Age also questioned the methodology used to the determine the poverty line and pointed at possible political motives underlying it: “The truth is that through the Planning Commission’s affidavit to the Supreme Court, the government has sought to grossly understate endemic poverty in India — perhaps to escape censure by the aam (common) voters in the next general election.”

“One wonders if members of the Planning Commission are aware of the cost of living in urban India,” he said. If the “Planning Commission feigns ignorance of this reality, it must be living in a time warp.”


http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/10/01/what-they-said-india%E2%80%99s-poverty-line/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an NPR interview of Siddhartha Deb, the author of "The Beautiful and The Damned":

......
DEB: Well, I was interested in the changes that were happening there. Obviously, it's a lot of people experiencing change in new ways, in some sense, and I had gotten the impression that there was a very triumphalist version of this change, which is that the country is doing very well.

There was even a slogan that was coined by one of the political parties. It was called India Shining. And I was going back. I was writing feature articles. I was a freelance writer. And I was somewhat skeptical of this. It was pretty obvious that at the upper levels people were much better off materially than they had been in the past.

But certainly large numbers or swaths of people seem to be untouched or mired in the same poverty, or sometimes even worse because they could now see this incredible contrast. So I wanted to examine that. I wanted to do that by checking, by looking at the new rich. I wanted to look at people who were in the middle, people who were middle class.
----------

DONVAN: Well, and the style in which the book is written still reads like a novel. It is full of color and texture and even sights and sounds and smells.

DEB: Thank you. That was very much the intention, to write something like a nonfiction novel, if that's possible. So the facts aren't made up, they're very scrupulously researched. I've tried to be as accurate as possible, but I wanted the texture, the flavor of a novel, of people in motion in some sense.

DONVAN: Can I say that the story that you've written reads to me as a very sad story?

DEB: That would be - that's a fairly, I think, reasonable, actually, interpretation. I think it's a sad story to me too, in many ways.

DONVAN: Even among those who feel that you describe - you describe an engineer named Chuck who is building a house. He had lived in the United States, and he's now building a house in the American model. He gives you a tour. He even uses American language. This is the open-plan kitchen, this is the master bedroom.

And yet you portray him as - his desires as being somewhat hollow, as though he's not a happy man himself.

DEB: Well, I mean, I think Chuck would see himself as a happy man, and I think that's reasonable. I've tried to allow people that space. But yes, I as a narrator come in, and I do sometimes question what some of my characters are saying.

So when someone like Chuck says, you know, he did say this, that there are these incredible contrasts in India, but that's okay, we're kind of one big happy family, and I question whether that's really the case, when, you know, you have at the very top end of the country, say you have, say, something like 66 billionaires.

And these numbers might be slightly old, but there are probably a few more billionaires since I last checked. But 66 billionaires who seem to have something like 30 percent of the country's wealth.

On the other end, you have like 800 million people, over 800 million people living on less than $2 a day. When you have a country where 40 percent of the children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, it seems to me that these contrasts aren't really healthy. They're not just differences. They are really like living different worlds within the same country.

So yes, I actually come in as a narrator, and I question when, say, Chuck is a character, he sees his life as striving and successful. And I think that's reasonable, again, but I also question the fact that this house, this special zone in which the house is constructed, is being built on what is a demolished village, and I have very hard questions......


http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=141213308

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Razib Khan of Brown Pundits on Washington Post's piece about "demographic dividend" in India:

"Amid population boom, India hopes for ‘demographic dividend’ but fears disaster. The article is OK, but I feel as usual it doesn’t do a good enough job highlighting the huge variation in fertility across India the nation-state. Tamil Nadu has the fertility of Northern Europe while Uttar Pradesh is like West Africa. Unfortunately the “demographic dividend” is going be driven by the most backward and unproductive regions of the nation on a per unit basis…."

http://www.brownpundits.com/2011/10/15/indias-demographic-dividend-and-despair/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/amid-population-boom-india-hopes-for-demographic-dividend-but-fears-disaster/2011/10/12/gIQA9I4nmL_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some of the findings of a recent paper by Durre-e-Nayab of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) titled "Estimating the Middle Class in Pakistan":

Depending on the definition applied, it is found that the size of the middle class ranges drastically in the country, as can be seen from Table 2. Applying the definitions having solely an economic rationale, we find the middle class to range from 60 per cent of the population (Table 2, Definition One) to being totally non-existent (Table 2, Definition Five). Translating it in number of people, using the population base of 187 million as it stands on mid-year 2011 (USCB, 2011 and UN, 2009), the size of the middle class ranges from a huge 112 million to no one. This variability, as stressed earlier, reflects the complexities and
arbitrariness associated with defining and measuring the middle class.

Among all the definitions given above, Definition Eight and Definition Thirteen, based on gradation of income and expenditure per person per day, respectively, are currently the most
extensively used measure employed to estimate the middle class (as also used by Chun (2010) and Bhandari (2010) among others)3. This definition too, however, suffers from the same drawback of relying solely on one criterion. As also pointed out by Eisenhauer (2008), Atkinson and Bourguignon (1982), Kolm (1977), Bourguignon and Chakravarty (2003) and Gilbert (2003), being a part of the middle class should be ascertained by a person’s socio-economic attributes holistically. Income is an important aspect but other qualities like level of health, wealth,
education and specialised knowledge are also significant factors for constituting a class. Technically speaking too, most of the definitions suffer from serious drawbacks. For instance, the ‘quintile approach’ can be useful in measuring or comparing income or expenditure growth but cannot be used as a method to estimate the middle class as the size cannot shrink or expand and by definition would permenantly remain at 60 percent. Any denomination of the median income should also be used with caution in low income countries like Pakistan. Taking 75 per cent of the median income might lead to the inclusion of people below the poverty line in countries with very low income levels. In the above-stated definitions and resulting estimates there are issues with the lower bounds
set for inclusion in the middle class. While some of the definitions (like Definition Three and Five) set the limit too high4, resulting in a very small middle class or in the absence of a middle class altogether, there are other definitions that set the limit too low, like those that set the lower
bound at $2 per person per day. Does the middle class begin where poverty ends? Ravallion (2010: 446) supports, “the premise that middle class living standards begin when poverty ends”.
This paper, however, supports the argument forwarded by Horrigan and Haugen (1988:5) when they posit, “to ensure that the lower endpoint of the middle class represents an income
significantly above the poverty line”. The middle class should, hence, include only those households that do not face the risk of experiencing poverty at all, and are not just those who
are outside the the realm of poverty at a particular time.


http://www.pide.org.pk/pdf/Working%20Paper/WorkingPaper-71.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Benazir Income Support Program:

ISLAMABAD: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has proved to be highly effective programme for poverty alleviation and women empowerment considering its efficiency, technology based operations and transparency; the programme ought to be replicated in the other countries of the world as well.

According to a press release, Michal Rutkowski, Director Human Development South Asian Region, World Bank, said this during a meeting with Federal Minister and Chairperson of BISP, Farzana Raja while heading a delegation here at BISP Secretariat Wednesday.

Rutkowski said that the World Bank is proud of working with organization like BISP and appreciates its performance and reliability. While taking special interest in vocational training scheme of BISP, he said that the corporate sector and foreign employers may also invest in this particular initiative.

He termed Waseela-e-Taleem initiative of BISP, instrumental in the promotion of education, as similar initiatives have been proved successful in the other countries as well.

Earlier, Farzana Raja presented details of various initiatives of BISP for uplifting the living standards of millions of poor families across Pakistan. She said that one million out of school children of these poor families will be enrolled in the schools under Waseela-e-Taleem.

She said that BISP has employed state of the art technology in all of its mechanisms to facilitate its beneficiary in a more efficient and transparent manner. Farzana Raja said that BISP is seeking cooperation from various public and private organizations of the world working in the social sector to continue its various initiatives aiming at poverty alleviation in an effective manner.

She added further that BISP needs support of the World Bank for marketing BISP in the world especially for replication of such experiences in the other countries.


http://www.onlinenews.com.pk/details.php?id=185387

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a critical analysis of Tom Friedman's "Flat World" on India:

In the first chapter of his bestseller on globalization, The World Is Flat, three-time Pulitzer Prize–winning foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times Thomas Friedman suggests that his repertoire of achievements also includes being heir to Christopher Columbus. According to Friedman, he has followed in the footsteps of the fifteenth-century icon by making an unexpected discovery regarding the shape of the world during an encounter with “people called Indians.”

Friedman’s Indians reside in India proper, of course, not in the Caribbean, and include among their ranks CEO Nandan Nilekani of Infosys Technologies Limited in Bangalore, where Friedman has come in the early twenty-first century to investigate phenomena such as outsourcing and to exult over the globalization-era instructions he receives at the KGA Golf Club downtown: “Aim at either Microsoft or IBM.” Nilekani unwittingly plants the flat-world seed in Friedman’s mind by commenting, in reference to technological advancements enabling other countries to challenge presumed American hegemony in certain business sectors: “Tom, the playing field is being leveled.”

The Columbus-like discovery process culminates with Friedman’s conversion of one of the components of Nilekani’s idiomatic expression into a more convenient synonym: “What Nandan is saying, I thought to myself, is that the playing field is being flattened… Flattened? Flattened? I rolled that word around in my head for a while and then, in the chemical way that these things happen, it just popped out: My God, he’s telling me the world is flat!”

No compelling justification is ever provided for how a war against deterrables will solve the problem of undeterrables who by definition cannot be deterred.

The viability of the new metaphor has already been called into question by Friedman’s assessment two pages prior to the flat-world discovery that the Infosys campus is in fact “a different world,” given that the rest of India is not characterized by things like a “massive resort-size swimming pool” and a “fabulous health club.” No attention is meanwhile paid to the possibility that a normal, round earth—on which all circumferential points are equidistant from the center—might more effectively convey the notion of the global network Friedman maintains is increasingly equalizing human opportunity.

An array of disclaimers and metaphorical qualifications begins to surface around page 536, such that it ultimately appears that the book might have been more appropriately titled The World Is Sometimes Indefinitely Maybe Partially Flat—But Don’t Worry, I Know It’s Not, or perhaps The World Is Flat, Except for the Part That Is Un-Flat and the Twilight Zone Where Half-Flat People Live. As for his announcement that “unlike Columbus, I didn’t stop with India,” Friedman intends this as an affirmation of his continued exploration of various parts of the globe and not as an admission of his continuing tendency to err—which he does first and foremost by incorrectly attributing the discovery that the earth is round to the geographically misguided Italian voyager.

Leaving aside for the moment the blunders that plague Friedman’s writing, the comparison with Columbus is actually quite apt in other ways, as well. For instance, both characters might be accused of transmitting a similar brand of hubris, nurtured by their respective societies, according to which “the Other” is permitted existence only via the discoverer-hero himself. While Columbus is credited with enabling preexisting populations on the American continent to enter the realm of true existence by reporting them to European civilization, Friedman assumes responsibility for the earth’s inhabitants in general without literally having to encounter them.


http://www.guernicamag.com/features/3284/fernandez_12_1_11/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on rapid growth of inequality in India:


Inequality in earnings has doubled in India over the past two decades, a new report says, making it one of the worst performers among emerging economies.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says the top 10% of wage-earners make 12 times more than the bottom 10%, compared to six times 20 years ago.

The OECD says India has the highest number of poor in the world.

Some 42% of its 1.21 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.
Poverty line

"Brazil, Indonesia and, on some indicators, Argentina have recorded significant progress in reducing inequality over the past 20 years," the report, entitled Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising, says.

"By contrast, China, India, the Russian Federation and South Africa have all become less equal over time."

In India, the report says, the ratio between the top and the bottom wage-earners has doubled since the early 1990s.

India has also not fared well in poverty reduction, the report says.

It says 42% of Indians live below the poverty line, as against the official Indian figure of 37%.

The Paris-based OECD is a grouping of 34 advanced and emerging economies.

Recently, the Indian government was criticised for saying that an individual income of 25 rupees (52 US cents) a day would help provide for adequate "private expenditure on food, education and health" in villages.

In cities, it said, individual earnings of 32 rupees a day (66 US cents) were adequate.

Many experts said the income limit to define the poor was too low and aimed at artificially reducing the number of people below the poverty line.

A World Bank report in May said attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty were not working.

It said aid programmes were beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-16064321

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Times of India on philanthropist Dominique Lapierre citicism of India's rich:

KOLKATA: Celebrated author Dominique Lapierre is upset and frustrated by affluent Indians' "reluctance to help the underprivileged in this country". He has been funding projects for the needy in West Bengal for nearly three decades, emphasizing on deprived and inaccessible areas in the Sunderbans.

The City of Joy Aid, Lapierre's non-profit organization, has funded and operated a network of health clinics, hospitals, rehab centres, boat hospital and schools for the poor since 1981. He has contributed extensively through royalties generated from his international bestsellers, lecture fees and donations from readers.

In the city to celebrate his 80th birthday, he said it's quite sad that neither Indians nor their government have done enough for the poor and downtrodden. "India is shining but a part of it is still lying in darkness. I request every Indian to come forward and do something for their very own people so that they, too, enjoy a better life," he said.

The Padma Bhushan recipient and his wife visited Goramari Island in Bengal's South 24-Parganas district with 40 international donors and friends who contribute to his charities and other humanitarian work in India. Lapierre was concerned by the plight of poor children who, he said, are yet to get a proper livelihood despite money flowing in for nearly three decades. "I am surprised that India's rich and famous have been ignoring the reality of this country," he said.

Lapierre has been a major benefactor of Southern Health Improvement Samity (SHIS) for over 30 years. "It is an absolute delight to have Dominique Lapierre among us. We are extremely grateful to him and his eminent compatriots from Western Europe who come and visit us every year, without fail," said SHIS president Sabitri Pal.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata-/Indias-rich-not-doing-enough-for-the-poor-Lapierre/articleshow/11025282.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on "the newest god in the Indian pantheon: money:

Chezi K. Ganesan looks every inch the high-tech entrepreneur, dressed in the Silicon Valley uniform of denim shirt and khaki trousers, slick smartphone close at hand. He splits his time between San Jose and this booming coastal metropolis, running his $6 million a year computer chip-making company.

His family has come a long way. His grandfather was not allowed to enter Hindu temples, or even to stand too close to upper-caste people, and women of his Nadar caste, who stood one notch above untouchables in India’s ancient caste hierarchy, were once forced to bare their breasts before upper caste men as a reminder of their low station.

“Caste has no impact on life today,” Mr. Ganesan said in an interview at one of Chennai’s exclusive social clubs, the kind of place where a generation ago someone of his caste would not have been welcome. “It is no longer a barrier.”
-------------
A crucial factor is the collapse of the caste system over the last half century, a factor that undergirds many of the other reasons that the south has prospered — more stable governments, better infrastructure and a geographic position that gives it closer connections to the global economy.

“The breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession, and released enormous entrepreneurial energies in the south,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a professor at Brown University who has studied the role of caste in southern India’s development. This breakdown, he said, goes a long way to explaining “why the south has taken such a lead over the north in the last three decades.”

India’s Constitution abolished discrimination on the basis of caste, the social hierarchy that has ordered Indian life for millenniums, and instituted a system of quotas to help those at the bottom rise up. But caste divisions persist nonetheless, with upper castes dominating many spheres of life despite their relatively small numbers.
-----------
It remains to be seen if the political agitation around caste in northern India will produce prosperity for lower caste people there, experts say. In India’s liberalizing economy these communities must prepare themselves to compete, not simply demand a bigger slice of the shrinking government cake, said Rajeev Ranjan, the chief bureaucrat in charge of industrial development in Tamil Nadu.

He is originally from Bihar, a northern state thoroughly in the grip of caste politics, but he has been stationed in the south for 25 years. He said northern states must heed the southern example. “Without that kind of social change it is very hard to do economic development,” he said. “One depends on the other.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/world/asia/11caste.html

Riaz Haq said...

India fares worst in terms of low birth weight and underweight children, and under-five infant mortality compared to Brazil, Russia and all South Asian neighbors, says BBC's Soutik Biswas:

Will the proposed law to provide cheap food to more than half of India's people eliminate hunger, the most shameful scourge of an aspiring superpower?

The jury is still out on how the $19bn (£12bn) scheme will work, as is the case with similar big-ticket welfare schemes launched by what many believe is an endemically weak and corrupt state.

But there is little doubt that India needs to fight malnutrition on a war footing, and the food security scheme may well be its last chance to redeem itself.

Many believe that it does not behove a country which never tires of gloating about its red hot economic growth to have millions of malnourished and starving people.

The facts on the ground are startling. India has the largest number of malnourished children in the world, a rate worse than the average in Africa.

Nearly half of India's children under three are malnourished. More than half of the tribes' children are underweight and stunted.

India fares worst in terms of low birth weight and underweight children, and under-five infant mortality compared to Brazil, Russia and all South Asian neighbours.

India also has the highest number of Vitamin A deficient children in the world: nearly 6% of the children suffer from eye problems related to the deficiency. Of the 37m people in the world who are blind, about 15m are from India. More than 320,000 children suffer from avoidable blindness.
----------
Then there are India's notoriously fickle public distribution system shops aimed at providing food security to people. Over 500m people are supposed to benefit through a gigantic distribution network of half a million fair-price shops supplying cheap food grains.

Here too, the results are mixed and contested. In many states, it has failed to make cheap food grains available to the poor. Theft of supplies, fraudulent beneficiaries and hoarding by the shop-owners is not uncommon.
Cart before horse?

So will the latest food security scheme aimed at providing subsidised food grains to 75% of the rural population and half of the urban households work?

There are many economists who wonder how India will cough up the funds to finance the scheme which will see the country's food subsidy bill climb to $19bn from $13bn. The government insists money will not be a problem.

There are also questions about how beneficiaries will be identified and targeted in a transparent manner in a country where there are different official estimates of the poorest of the poor - from 37% to 77% of the people, depending on whom you believe.

India's state-run cold storage system is shambolic, so where is the guarantee that some 65m tonnes of food grains procured from farmers for distribution for the scheme - up from 55m tonnes presently - will not rot before reaching the beneficiary? How can the food grains be distributed through the leaky public distribution system shops without reforming them?

So is India again putting the cart before the horse? Without reforming its laws and public institutions, welfare schemes with the best intentions run the risk of floundering.

For the scheme to work, the government will need to target beneficiaries properly and revamp the distribution system. The public distribution system, for example, could be made accountable by issuing smart cards to beneficiaries to eliminate bogus cards and fraudulent withdrawal.

If the food security scheme does not work, economists believe, India is doomed to remain a hungry republic. It is already one of the fast-growing economies with the hungriest people in the world. And it can get worse.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-16291300

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a shocking story by BBC's Soutik Biswas about a battered Indian toddler girl:

For close to two weeks, the distressing story of a two-year-old toddler has grabbed India's attention.

A teenage girl brought the battered toddler to a hospital in Delhi and left her there. Doctors found she had serious injuries - human bite marks all over her body, broken arms and a partially smashed head. They said they had not seen abuse of this level on such a small child. Nearly a fortnight after she was brought to the hospital, the toddler is on life support in the intensive care unit.

It is still not clear who the mother of the toddler is, and who assaulted her and why. Sketchy details emerging in the media suggest she was passed around by a number of women before she landed in the hands of a 14-year-old girl. The girl has reportedly told the police that she got the toddler from a married man, who had befriended her and lived with her.

The man, a taxi driver, apparently acquired the child from a woman and wanted to raise her. The story of the teenage girl, if reports are to be believed, is equally shocking. She has apparently told investigators that her parents beat her when she was a child and when she arrived in the city, a number of men raped her and she was forced into the sex trade.

We still do not know who the toddler's parents are, why she was abandoned and why she suffered such brutality.

The story is, sadly, not unusual and mirrors the neglect, abuse and social bias that girl children suffer in largely patriarchal India. India has one of the highest female infant mortality rates in the world. Unchecked illegal sex selection abortions have led to a skewed sex ratio - 112 boys are born for every 100 girls in India, against the natural sex ratio at birth of 105 boys for every 100 girls.

India's record on protecting its children is shoddy. Thousands go missing every year and it doesn't appear to be a major concern for the authorities. A report by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) found that 11 children go missing in India ever hour. The 2010 National Crime Records Bureau says 10,670 cases of kidnapping and abduction of children were reported during the year, up 19% over 2009. The majority of these children belong to poor, marginalised families living in slums and resettlement colonies.

Most of us believe that a nation that cannot protect its children is a failure. The least the authorities can do is declare war on gangs who kidnap and traffic in children. Six years ago, federal investigators told the Delhi High Court that there were more than 815 gangs, comprising more than 4,000 people, involved in kidnapping children for the sex trade, for begging or for ransom in India. Was there ever a crackdown on them? We still don't know.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-16828725

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of an NPR Fresh Air interview of Katherine Boo, the author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers:

.......Some inhabitants (of Mumbai slum Annawadi) lack any shelter and sleep outside. Rats commonly bite sleeping children, and barely a handful of the 3,000 residents have the security of full-time employment. Over the course of her time in Annawadi, Boo learned about the residents' social distinctions, their struggles to escape poverty, and conflicts that sometimes threw them into the clutches of corrupt government officials. Her book reads like a novel, but the characters are real.
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BOO: Well, I'll describe it (the slum) this way. You come into the Mumbai International Airport, you make a turn, and you go past a lavish Hyatt and a beautiful hotel called the Grand Maratha. By the time you get to the Hyatt, which is about three minutes in your car, you've already gone past this place.

There's a rocky road that goes into it, and you turn in, and the first thing you notice when you get into this landscape of hand-built, makeshift, crooked huts is one of the borders of the slum - or it was I came in 2008 - was this vast lake of extremely noxious sewage and petrochemicals and things that the people modernizing the glamorous airport had dumped in the lake.

And so it was almost beachfront property on this foul, malarial lake, and all around it in this, the single open space in the slum were people cooking and bathing and fighting and flirting. And there were goats and water buffalo. There was a little brothel, and men would line up outside the little brothel. And there was a liquor still.

And mainly there were families and children who were trying their best to find a niche in the global market economy. Almost no one in Annawadi had permanent work. Six people out of 3,000 last I checked had permanent work.
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DAVIES: One of the most remarkable things to read here was that you tell us in the book that no one in Annawadi was actually considered poor by traditional Indian benchmarks. Is that right? I mean, if they're not poor, who is poor?

BOO: Go to the village, and you'll see what poor is. No, so officially, the poverty lines in many countries, including India, are set so low that officially the people that I'm writing about look like part of the great success narrative of modern global capitalism. They look like the more than 100 million people who have been freed since liberalization in India in 1991 from poverty.

So usually in my work, I'm not looking to write about the poorest and abject. I'm not looking to make you feel sorry for people. I want readers to have a connection more blooded and complex than pity or revulsion. But really, the main point I have to say is that on the books, these men, women and children have succeeded in the global economy. They're the success stories.

But I hope what my book shows is that it's a little more complicated than that.

DAVIES: Well, I mean, so many of them are just on the edge of losing, you know, food and shelter for the day. I mean, are the truly poor, are they rural poor who sleep out in the open? I mean, who are the...?

BOO: Well, many people in Annawadi sleep out in the open, too, but when Asha(ph) - in the book, I follow Asha, the mother, who has used politics and corruption to try to give her daughter a college education, I follow her back home to Vidarbha, a very poor agricultural region.

And when Asha walks through the door, everybody can see on her face and the face of her children how good life is in the Mumbai slums. Asha's grandmother walks on all fours, she's so bent from agricultural labor. And when Asha walks in that door, she stands mast straight.,,,


http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=146575908

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of Pulitzer-winning New Yorker reporter Katherine Boo's "Beautiful Forevers":

"We try so many things," a girl in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai tells Katherine Boo, "but the world doesn't move in our favour".

Annawadi is a "sumpy plug of slum" in the biggest city - "a place of festering grievance and ambient envy" - of a country which holds a third of the world's poor. It is where the Pulitzer prize winning New Yorker journalist Boo's first book Behind the Beautiful Forevers is located.

Annawadi is where more than 3,000 people have squatted on land belonging to the local airport and live "packed into, or on top of" 335 huts. It is a place "magnificently positioned for a trafficker in rich's people's garbage", where the New India collides with the Old.

Nobody in Annawadi is considered poor by India's official benchmarks. The residents are among the 100 million Indians freed from poverty since 1991, when India embarked on liberalising its economy.
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She used more than 3,000 public records, many obtained using India's right to information law, to validate her narrative, written in assured reported speech. The account of the hours leading to the self-immolation of Fatima Sheikh derives from repeated interviews of 168 people as well as police, hospital, morgue and court records. Mindful of the risk of over interpretation, the books wears its enormous research lightly.
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The local councillor runs fake schools, doctors at free government hospitals and policemen extort the poor with faint promise of life and justice, and self-help groups operate as loan sharks for the poorest. The young in Annawadi drop dead like flies - run over by traffic, knifed by rival gangs, laid low by disease; while the elders - not much older - die anyway. Girls prefer a certain brand of rat poison to end their lives.
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Boo has an interesting take on corruption, rife in societies like India's. Corruption is seen as blocking India's global ambitions. But, she writes, for the "poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained".

On the other hand, Boo believes, corruption stymies our moral universe more than economic possibility. Suffering, she writes, "can sabotage innate capacities for moral action". In a capricious world of corrupt governments and ruthless markets the idea of a mutually supportive community is a myth: it is "blisteringly hard", she writes, to be good in such conditions. "If the house is crooked and crumbling", Boo writes, "and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17038326

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Russian analyst Anatol Karlin on India's prospects and its comparison with China:

It is not a secret to longtime readers of this blog that I rate India’s prospects far more pessimistically than I do China’s. My main reason is I do not share the delusion that democracy is a panacea and that whatever advantage in this sphere India has is more than outweighed by China’s lead in any number of other areas ranging from infrastructure and fiscal sustainability to child malnutrition and corruption. However, one of the biggest and certainly most critical gaps is in educational attainment, which is the most important component of human capital – the key factor underlying all productivity increases and longterm economic growth. China’s literacy rate is 96%, whereas Indian literacy is still far from universal at just 74%.
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The big problem, until recently, was that there was no internationalized student testing data for either China or India. (There was data for cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it was not very useful because they are hardly representative of China). An alternative approach was to compare national IQ’s, in which China usually scored 100-105 and India scored in the low 80′s. But this method has methodological flaws because the IQ tests aren’t consistent across countries. (This, incidentally, also makes this approach a punching bag for PC enforcers who can’t bear to entertain the possibility of differing IQ’s across national and ethnic groups).
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Many Indians like to see themselves as equal competitors to China, and are encouraged in their endeavour by gushing Western editorials and Tom Friedman drones who praise their few islands of programming prowess – in reality, much of which is actually pretty low-level stuff – and widespread knowledge of the English language (which makes India a good destination for call centers but not much else), while ignoring the various aspects of Indian life – the caste system, malnutrition, stupendously bad schools – that are holding them back. The low quality of Indians human capital reveals the “demographic dividend” that India is supposed to enjoy in the coming decades as the wild fantasies of what Sailer rightly calls ”Davos Man craziness at its craziest.” A large cohort of young people is worse than useless when most of them are functionally illiterate and innumerate; instead of fostering well-compensated jobs that drive productivity forwards, they will form reservoirs of poverty and potential instability.

Instead of buying into their own rhetoric of a “India shining”, Indians would be better served by focusing on the nitty gritty of bringing childhood malnutrition DOWN to Sub-Saharan African levels, achieving the life expectancy of late Maoist China, and moving up at least to the level of a Mexico or Moldova in numeracy and science skills. Because as long as India’s human capital remains at the bottom of the global league tables so will the prosperity of its citizens....


http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2012/02/04/china-superior-to-india/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post blog on India's claim of poverty reduction:

India’s Planning Commission says the number of poor people has dropped by 51 million — more than the entire population of Spain or Argentina — in the past five years. This, officials say, is the sharpest drop in poverty rate in India — from 406 million to 356 million, out of 1.2 billion Indians — since the country introduced an ambitious economic reforms program in 1991 that brought unprecedented economic growth and wealth. Poverty in rural India declined at an even faster pace, the report said.

But many Indians are not ready to believe this rare good news. Some accuse the government of statistical jugglery — first, lowering the definition of the poverty line, so as to include fewer people, and then claiming that the number of Indians living in poverty has declined.

According to the commission, Indians are defined as poor if they spend the equivalent of 56 cents or less daily in urban areas and 44 cents or less in villages. This is lower than the earlier level of 65 to 75 cents a day or less in cities, and 50 to 55 cents daily or less in villages, which was set by the commission.

“Is this the poverty line or the starvation line?” S. S. Ahluwalia, a lawmaker with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, asked in parliament on Tuesday, accusing the government of playing with lives of the poor.

“India’s poverty line is the most austerely defined line in the whole world,” said M. S. Swaminathan, an agricultural economist. “It is lower than other emerging economies.”

The government’s data triggered fear among many activists that fewer people will benefit from the government’s proposed free food program for the poor.

But Planning Commission chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, an ardent advocate of free market policies, dismissed such fears on Tuesday.

“The focus of this exercise is to determine whether inclusive growth is working,”said Ahluwalia. “It is not to determine who will get food entitlements.”

One official at the commission said welfare programs like the rural public works guarantee scheme launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has reduced destitute poverty in the past five years,

But in India’s poorer, populous northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the poverty decline has only been marginal, and the absolute number of poor has risen.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/is-india-misrepresenting-its-poverty-numbers/2012/03/20/gIQA1dtXPS_blog.html

Riaz Haq said...

Top adviser says 70% of Indians are poor, according to IANS:

Debunking the government's claim that the number of poor in India has come down, a top adviser has claimed that around 70 percent of the country's 1.2 billion population is poor, and stressed the need for a multi-dimensional assessment of poverty.

"The government claim that poverty has come down is not valid... there is a need for a multi-dimensional assessment of poverty as around 70 percent of the population is poor," National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena told IANS in an interview.

According to Saxena, the various poverty estimates the government relies on to assess the impact of developmental schemes are faulty as they fail to factor in the lack of nutritional diet, sanitation, drinking water, healthcare and educational facilities available to the people.

The former bureaucrat, who now is part of the NAC that reports to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, claimed that not only the National Sample Survey Organisation data is faulty, the ongoing Socio-Economic and Caste Census, which is expected to throw up the latest poverty estimates, is highly flawed.

"The NSSO data is unreliable and the SECC is highly flawed," said Saxena.

The National Advisory Council (NAC) was set up as an interface with civil society. The NAC provides policy and legislative inputs to the government with special focus on social policy and the rights of disadvantaged groups.

After the government faced flak over its latest poverty estimates, according to which anyone earning over Rs.28 per day in urban areas and Rs.26 per day in rural areas is not poor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a multi-layered approach is required to assess poverty as the widely accepted Tendulkar committee report "is not all inclusive".

The government now plans to set up another expert panel to devise a new methodology to assess poverty levels in the country, said the prime minister.

The government recently revised its poverty estimates from earlier Rs.32 per day in urban areas and Rs.26 per day in rural areas based on 2011 prices, to the current estimate which is based on 2009 prices.

Using the Tendulkar panel report, the Planning Commission pegged poverty at 37.5 percent of the population.

Saxena said in reality out of about 200 centrally sponsored schemes, only 5 or 6 are linked to the poverty estimates, pegged at 37.5 percent by the Planning Commission.

Having a realistic assessment of poverty in not only crucial for the government to ensure that around Rs.80,000 crore that it spends on various welfare schemes annually reaches only the genuinely poor, it is also important for the United Progressive Alliance which hopes to roll out the ambitious National Food Security Bill, which aims to provide subsidised rations to around 65 percent of the 1.2 billion population some time next year.


http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/70-percent-india-poor-top-055810676.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on Benazir Income Support program in Pakistan:

Clutching photocopied ID cards in bony fingers, a roomful of Pakistan's poorest women sit on gray plastic chairs and wait in silence for something many have never experienced: a little bit of help from the government.

It comes in the form of a debit card that is topped up with the equivalent of $30 every three months, enough to put an extra daily meal on the table, buy a school uniform or pay for medical treatment in a country where soaring food and fuel costs are hurting millions who already live hand-to-mouth.

The program is something of a success story for a government widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, as well as for international donors that help implement and fund it. But the very need for the scheme highlights the poverty stalking a country whose stability is seen as key to the fight against Islamist extremism.

Other cash-transfer programs in Pakistan have been plagued by graft and allegations that only supporters of the party in power received the funds. Many feared this program, named after Benazir Bhutto, the late wife of President Asif Ali Zardari, would go the same way.

But that hasn't happened, at least not significantly. The Benazir Income Support Programme is modeled on similar efforts in Africa and South America, part of a quiet revolution in the way countries and development agencies are helping the poor. Initial concerns that recipients would fritter away the money have proven unfounded, and giving cash is now accepted as a vital and cost-effective aid tool.

"I spend the money on my kids, what else would I do?" said Rifat Parveen, a mother of five who sometimes has to serve only bread and boiled chili peppers for the evening meal. "Even if a poor person gets 10 rupees (5 cents), he or she will be grateful."

When a woman is called, she goes to a room where her identity is checked against an electronic database and her thumb print taken electronically. A bank employee then gives her the card — and a crash course in how to use it — before she returns to her village.

As they do elsewhere in the world, women in Pakistan must receive the money on behalf of their families because research shows they spend it more responsibly than men do. They must also first obtain a valid identity card to be eligible. Both requirements have been credited with pushing women, discriminated against in Pakistan, a little into the mainstream.


http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/17/in-pakistan-welfare-scheme-shows-signs-success/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on poverty decline in Pakistan:

Their biggest challenge at the moment is to explain how nearly seven million Pakistanis have come out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

According to the survey, the incidence of poverty has declined from 17.2 per cent in 2008 to slightly over 12 per cent in 2011. It was conducted by a committee constituted to calculate the incidence of poverty on the basis of Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey 2010-11.

“The biggest challenge in front of us is how to explain this figure to the masses and economists when the economy grew at an average rate of 2.6 per cent and average inflation remained above 15 per cent during the last four years,” a member of the committee told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity due to political sensitivity attached to the figure.

He said poverty declined to slightly over 12 per cent with sharp declines in both rural and urban poverty. He said rural poverty declined more than urban poverty but, “the behaviour was the same and consistent with previous years’ results.”

In 2007-08 when the Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition government took over, poverty had been assessed at 17.2 per cent. But the government decided not to release the figure saying poverty was at 35-40 per cent. It shared 40 per cent figure with Friends of Democratic Pakistan in its maiden meeting held in Tokyo.

It is facing the same dilemma exactly after four years, as its own people are now telling that poverty has declined to 12 per cent.

According to the United Nations Multi Dimensional Poverty Index, half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line.
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In 2007-08 the country’s estimated population was 164.7 million. By that account in 2008 as many as 28.3 million people lived below the poverty line. In 2010-11, the estimated population was 175.3 million and around 21.5 million people were in abject poverty.

The committee member said that poverty has been worked out on the basis of consumption method. According to this method, if a person takes 2,350 calories per day that costs him slightly over Rs1,700 per month that person is taken as above the poverty line.

The official said that the committee has not formally submitted the poverty report to the Planning Commission, but it is expected to submit the report over the next couple of weeks. However, the committee has already shared its findings with the commission.

A senior government official, who also wished to remain anonymous, said that the concerned authorities were considering the poverty figure and framing their mind whether to release it or not. It is not yet clear whether the government would publish the poverty estimates in the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-12.

The committee member, while giving justifications for the decline in poverty despite harsh ground realities, said that poverty declined because of higher support price of major crops, especially wheat, healthy trend in inflows of remittances and impact of assistance provided by both the government and private sectors in the flood affected areas of the country.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/374384/solace-among-confusion-5-decline-in-poverty-surprises-govt/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on BISP program:

ISLAMABAD: Rt Honorable Justine Greening, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, has congratulated Federal Minister and Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Chairperson Farzana Raja in turning BISP into an impressive and successful programme of social sector.
She particularly appreciated the fact that by adopting technology based payment mechanisms; the complex procedure of disbursements to millions of BISP beneficiaries has been made simpler, efficient and most transparent. She said this during her meeting with Farzana Raja here at BISP Secretariat.
Justine Greening was leading a delegation consisting of Mark Richardson, DFID Minister’s Private Secretary, Victoria Crawford, DFID Minister’s Special Adviser, Moazzam Malik, Director, George Turkington, Head of DFID Pakistan, Alexis Ferrand, Head of Economic Growth and Fatime Naqvi, Team Leader Social Cash Transfers.
Justine Greening also acknowledged the fact that BISP’s innovative technology in the form of Benazir Debit Card and Mobile Phone Banking etc has been introduced to the lower segments of society which is quite remarkable achievement.
She said, “The UK and Pakistan have a unique bond, tied together by family, friendship, trade, history, and culture. I look forward to continuing to work closely together as partners for the long term, to help lift millions of people in Pakistan out of poverty.”
Earlier, the BISP chairperson while thanking the continuing support of British government informed the delegation about various interventions of the programme aiming at poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment and to make Pakistan a social welfare state. She said that the government is focusing on targeted subsidies moving away from the general subsidies and BISP is playing a pivotal role in this regard.
Farzana Raja on the occasion apprised the members of the delegation that BISP is contributing significantly in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of United Nations regarding women’s empowerment and education.
It is a “one-window programme” providing various services to the beneficiary families simultaneously, she added.
She said that targeting the most deserving families was a big challenge, but with the help of the first ever nation-wide poverty census, BISP has accurately identified more than 7.3 million families.
She said that BISP is regarded as an apolitical programme as its act was unanimously passed by all the political parties in both Houses of parliament. Farzana Raja said that the use of the state of the art modern technology by BISP has proved to be a great help in enhancing the transparency employed in the programme further. She said that despite the difficult ground situation, BISP has completed countrywide poverty survey including in the region of FATA.She added that BISP is an asset of all Pakistanis and serving people without any discrimination or any other consideration.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\01\23\story_23-1-2013_pg7_18

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of an interesting story published in The Hindu:


Can anyone really live on Rs. 26 a day, the income of the officially poor in rural India? Two youngsters try it out.

Late last year, two young men decided to live a month of their lives on the income of an average poor Indian. One of them, Tushar, the son of a police officer in Haryana, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and worked for three years as an investment banker in the US and Singapore. The other, Matt, migrated as a teenager to the States with his parents, and studied in MIT. Both decided at different points to return to India, joined the UID Project in Bengaluru, came to share a flat, and became close friends.

The idea suddenly struck them one day. Both had returned to India in the vague hope that they could be of use to their country. But they knew the people of this land so little. Tushar suggested one evening — “Let us try to understand an ‘average Indian', by living on an ‘average income'.” His friend Matt was immediately captured by the idea. They began a journey which would change them forever.

To begin with, what was the average income of an Indian? They calculated that India's Mean National Income was Rs. 4,500 a month, or Rs. 150 a day. Globally people spend about a third of their incomes on rent. Excluding rent, they decided to spend Rs. 100 each a day. They realised that this did not make them poor, only average. Seventy-five per cent Indians live on less than this average.

The young men moved into the tiny apartment of their domestic help, much to her bemusement. What changed for them was that they spent a large part of their day planning and organising their food. Eating out was out of the question; even dhabas were too expensive. Milk and yoghurt were expensive and therefore used sparingly, meat was out of bounds, as were processed food like bread. No ghee or butter, only a little refined oil. Both are passionate cooks with healthy appetites. They found soy nuggets a wonder food — affordable and high on proteins, and worked on many recipes. Parle G biscuits again were cheap: 25 paise for 27 calories! They innovated a dessert of fried banana on biscuits. It was their treat each day.
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Living on Rs.100 made the circle of their life much smaller. They found that they could not afford to travel by bus more than five km in a day. If they needed to go further, they could only walk. They could afford electricity only five or six hours a day, therefore sparingly used lights and fans. They needed also to charge their mobiles and computers. One Lifebuoy soap cut into two. They passed by shops, gazing at things they could not buy. They could not afford the movies, and hoped they would not fall ill.

However, the bigger challenge remained. Could they live on Rs. 32, the official poverty line, which had become controversial after India's Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court that this was the poverty line for cities (for villages it was even lower, at Rs. 26 per person per day)?
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... Do we really need that hair product or that branded cologne? Is dining out at expensive restaurants necessary for a happy weekend? At a larger level, do we deserve all the riches we have around us? Is it just plain luck that we were born into circumstances that allowed us to build a life of comfort? What makes the other half any less deserving of many of these material possessions, (which many of us consider essential) or, more importantly, tools for self-development (education) or self-preservation (healthcare)?

We don't know the answers to these questions. But we do know the feeling of guilt that is with us now. ....

....And above all — in Matt's words — that empathy is essential for democracy.


http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Harsh_Mander/barefoot-the-other-side-of-life/article2882340.ece

Riaz Haq said...

Here's The Economist on ending poverty:

IN HIS inaugural address in 1949 Harry Truman said that “more than half the people in the world are living in conditions approaching misery. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of those people.” It has taken much longer than Truman hoped, but the world has lately been making extraordinary progress in lifting people out of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2010, their number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21%—a reduction of almost 1 billion people.
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Starting this week and continuing over the next year or so, the UN’s usual Who’s Who of politicians and officials from governments and international agencies will meet to draw up a new list of targets to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were set in September 2000 and expire in 2015. Governments should adopt as their main new goal the aim of reducing by another billion the number of people in extreme poverty by 2030.

Nobody in the developed world comes remotely close to the poverty level that $1.25 a day represents. America’s poverty line is $63 a day for a family of four. In the richer parts of the emerging world $4 a day is the poverty barrier. But poverty’s scourge is fiercest below $1.25 (the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines, measured in 2005 dollars and adjusted for differences in purchasing power): people below that level live lives that are poor, nasty, brutish and short. They lack not just education, health care, proper clothing and shelter—which most people in most of the world take for granted—but even enough food for physical and mental health. Raising people above that level of wretchedness is not a sufficient ambition for a prosperous planet, but it is a necessary one.

The world’s achievement in the field of poverty reduction is, by almost any measure, impressive. Although many of the original MDGs—such as cutting maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds—will not be met, the aim of halving global poverty between 1990 and 2015 was achieved five years early.

The MDGs may have helped marginally, by creating a yardstick for measuring progress, and by focusing minds on the evil of poverty. Most of the credit, however, must go to capitalism and free trade, for they enable economies to grow—and it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution.

Poverty rates started to collapse towards the end of the 20th century largely because developing-country growth accelerated, from an average annual rate of 4.3% in 1960-2000 to 6% in 2000-10. Around two-thirds of poverty reduction within a country comes from growth. Greater equality also helps, contributing the other third. A 1% increase in incomes in the most unequal countries produces a mere 0.6% reduction in poverty; in the most equal countries, it yields a 4.3% cut.

China (which has never shown any interest in MDGs) is responsible for three-quarters of the achievement. Its economy has been growing so fast that, even though inequality is rising fast, extreme poverty is disappearing. China pulled 680m people out of misery in 1981-2010, and reduced its extreme-poverty rate from 84% in 1980 to 10% now.

That is one reason why (as the briefing explains) it will be harder to take a billion more people out of extreme poverty in the next 20 years than it was to take almost a billion out in the past 20. Poorer governance in India and Africa, the next two targets, means that China’s experience is unlikely to be swiftly replicated there......


http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21578665-nearly-1-billion-people-have-been-taken-out-extreme-poverty-20-years-world-should-aim

Riaz Haq said...

Agriculture Productivity Per Capita in Pakistan is almost double of agriculture productivity in India and Bangladesh, according to World Bank data. Most Indians (60%), Pakistanis (45%) and Bangladeshis (70%) work in agriculture. There are lower levels of poverty in Pakistan than India and Bangladesh because Pakistani farmers are more productive. http://www.pakalumni.com/profiles/blogs/indias-information-technology