What Causes Poverty in Developing Countries?
Poverty Causes Poverty
I decided to publish this lens about the causes of poverty after coming across the same question that was posted two years ago on Hubpages and found most answers completely beside the point, whereas those which were to the point were incomplete and superficial.
Poverty is a vicious circle. Poverty causes poverty. Just as the rich get richer because they are already rich, poor people get poorer because they live in poverty. In a sense, the same logic can be applied to countries which are down the poverty line. They will get poorer and poorer because they are already poor, and there are many factors which will contribute to ensure that this vicious circle is hardly ever broken. the effects of poverty can therefore be devastating.
In this lens I have analyzed eight causes that I have identified as being the main causes which maintain poverty in developing countries. It is clear, however, that some causes apply to some countries more than others, while there are also other causes, specific to certain countries, that I haven't mentioned here.
Note: Income disparity and concentration of wealth are major causes of poverty but as I am dealing with these factors in my Bill Gates lenses I have decided not to write on them here for the time being to avoid repetition.
"POVERTY IS THE WORST FORM OF INJUSTICE." Mahatma Gandhi
There are an estimated 1 billion undernourished people on the planet. $2 per day would be enough to feed them. If we assume for a moment that the "greed limit", i.e the fortune of a person beyond which it would be considered greed, is $10 million, that would mean there would be billions and billions available to:
1. Develop a new type of agriculture so that not one person on the planet will ever sleep on an empty stomach. This will at the same time create millions of jobs throughout the planet.
2. This would be accompanied by research on how to prevent the rise of sea levels because of melting ice caps, e.g by transporting drifting icebergs to the Sahara or the Sahel and transform these deserts into oases, or by installing pipelines to create artificial seas in vast arid areas of poor zones of the earth.
This shows that the survival of humanity is related to the survival of the poor. By killing the poor, the greedy are pushing humanity toward destruction.
Photo courtesy Flickr.com
Table of Contents Photo Credits
Slavery: infobarrel.com; dictators: schol.wordpress.com; tank: Wikimedia Commons; drought: stopthewaterwaste.org ; AIDS: Flickr; education: the influentials.wordpress.com; brain drain: Flickr; burqa: Flickr.
href="http://www.cinemavenus.com/top-10-prison-movies-1">Cinema Venus | Top 10 Prison Movies 1
I have an injustice section (prisons and Holocaust) and will soon add pages on poverty, apartheid, racism, exploitation, slavery etc.
Some figures on global poverty
More than 1.1 billion people (one fifth of the world's population) live on less than $1 per day.
About half the world - well over three billion inhabitants - live on less than $2.50 a day.
80% of mankind (about 5.6 billion people) live on less than $10 per day.
Here are the figures concerning the percentage of the population of some countries who live on less than $1 per day:
Central African Republic
*The home country of the richest man on Earth, Carlos Slim, fortune $74 billion
Books about poverty
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Historical causes of poverty
Colonization, slave trade, indentured labour
Most poor countries had at one time in history been colonized. During the years of colonization the ruling countries did everything to exploit their colonies.
Great Britain built a very vast empire, and at its summum it was the largest empire in history. In 1922 the British Empire dominated more than 450 million people, a quarter of the wold's population, spread over about a quarter of the planet's land area.
Several other countries had also colonized other countries: France (over almost all of Africa), Spain (more than half of South America), Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands. Colonization was a very lucrative business. They had free resources and very cheap manpower and could avail themselves of cheap produce from their colonies.
When the colonizers left the colonies, even peacefully, they not only left behind impoverished nations, but they had laid the foundation for long-lasting poverty. In some colonies, they left division, or divided them before leaving: India is a great example.
Colonization is therefore one of the most important causes of poverty in developing countries, if not the most important.
I would also like to mention the particular case of Haiti. Haiti has been one of the poorest countries since a long time. many people think it is due to the reign of Papa Doc, but Papa Doc only reinforced Haiti's poverty.
Haiti was a French colony until 1925, when it became independent after a slave revolt. France demanded 150 million gold francs (reduced to 90 million in 1838). It was only in 1883 that Haiti finally paid the final instalment on that huge sum (evaluated at 23 billion Euros today). Haiti could never rise on its feet again after being strangled by France.
2. Slave Trade
Many of the poorest countries are situated in Africa. These African countries and Madagascar are still suffering from the mark left by slave trade.
Some historians believe that upon the abolition of slavery, the total loss in persons through slave trade in Sub-Saharan Africa far exceeded the remaining 65-75 million inhabitants.
3. Indentured Labour
The system of indentured labour invented by the French and also largely implemented by the British after the abolition of slavery in 1934 was a disguised form of slavery. They started by exporting 25,000 laborers to Mauritius from India in 1938 as from 1942 thousands to their colonies and protectorates of the West Indies. the French also exported large numbers of Indian laborers to Reunion Island. between 1842 and 1870, more than 525,482 Indians had been enticed to immigrate to the British and French colonies. By 1920, nearly 1.2 million had been exported.
Indentured labour robbed India of its children, making it poorer, and after the system of indentured labor made sure that the laborers remained poor. After the abolition of indentured labor and the granting of independence (except Reunion Island) the newly independent countries has as only legacy poverty and a poor population, as only a minority, those who had been lucky to migrate as traders, were well-off.
Political Causes of Poverty
I could have entitled this part "Effects of corrruption on poverty" but isn't politics and corruption synonymous? There's no doubt about it, especially in developing countries.
I thought it would be interesting to deal with the political causes by taking the example of Tunisia. Tunisia has been in the limelight recently because of the popular upheaval which overthew the Be Ali/Trabelsi clans out of power.
The Ben Ali/Trabelsi Family reigned over Tunisia for more that 25 years. So strong was their grip on all spheres, especially through their corrupt practices, that investments were kept low and unemployment and inflation always rising.
Ben Ali and his wife's family, the Trabelsis, reigned over Tunisia like a mafia. It is said that about 50% of the businesses in Tunisia have a Ben Ali/Trabelsi connection. Tunisia's financial sector was also strangled by the family. Members of the clan held many non-performing loans (the banking sector had a staggering 19% non-performing loans) and used their membership in the Family to avoid repayment.
Evidently, this state of affairs has prevented the majority of Tunisians from coming out of poverty.
The same scenario can be met in many developing countries.
Wars, Wars and Wars...
Wars, tribal wars, ethnic wars, religious wars, genocidal wars... so many wars that worsen the case of some already underdeveloped countries.
Take the example of India. We just have to look at the casualty statistics before and after partition:
1946: The Great Calcutta Killings: 5,000
Bihar massacre against Noakhali: 7,000-8,000
1947: Violence in Punjab, March: 3,000
The Rawalpindi Massacre: 2,000
Ferozpur District: 1,000
After partition (August 1947): about 500,000
Bangla Desh after partition from Pakistan (1971): 1,500,000 casualties (plus 10,000,000 refugees).
Genocide in Rwanda: more than 900,000 massacred in 1994.
No continent has been free from wars over the past Century. We have had so many wars, and wars continue. Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine. Now Libya is plunging in a civil war. Wars don't seem to be ending soon. They will continue to help consolidate global poverty as long as man will be foolish enough to fight wars.
Climate and Catastrophes Create Havoc...
and cause poverty to increase
Desertification is affecting many parts of the world. It has been provoked both by natural climatic change or man's irresponsible actions. The countries of the Sahel, Madagascar, Chile, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, several Central Asian countries, Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan and several other countries are all prone to desertification.
Desertification means less fertile land. Agriculture is badly affected. Desertification therefore helps to maintain Africa and many other countries in poverty and contributes to worsen world hunger.
Several East and West African countries are hit by severe droughts. Ethiopia and Somalia, two of the world's poorest countries, are perfect examples. 17 million Somali and 14 million Ethiopians face hunger. Kenya is also being caught in a cycle of drought.
10 million people face famine in West Africa in countries like Niger, Cameroun, Mali, Senegal and Chad.
When they hit a country, floods can have devastating effects on the economy of a country. Floods affect poor countries regularly. In 2008, floods affected more than 500,000 people in Peru. Bangla Desh, most often on top of the hit-parade of the poorest countries with Haiti, is regularly hit by floods because of its its topography.
Floods, apart from destroying homes, crops and livestock, often cause the population to flee. The cycle of poverty rolls on.
It is estimated that tropical cyclones have caused about 1.9 million deaths worldwide during the past two centuries, both in developed and undeveloped countries.
However, many undeveloped countries are cyclone-prone zones. Cyclones have a bigger effect on the economy of poor countries than rich ones. They often cause mortality, destroy buildings and disrupt harvest, thereby creating homelessness and, if the affected country does not have the means to subsidize food, hunger.
Infectious diseases can also follow cyclones. Malaria, gastro-enteritis are common after the passage of a cyclone in a poor country.
Earthquakes are probably the worst natural disaster that can hit a country, as they can't be predicted. Whereas they do not severely affect the economy of rich nations (e.g the recent Christchurch and Honshu earthquake will probably not bear long-term consequences on the economy of New Zealand and Japan), they are normally devastating in poor countries where they also provoke homelessness.
Example of Pakistan: In 2005, an earthquake hit the country, killing 80,000 persons and causing 3.5 million people to be homeless. In 2008, another earthquake killed 215 persons and caused 120,000 to be homeless.
AIDS and infectious Diseases Are a Major Cause of Poverty
AIDS is now becoming an important cause of poverty in developing countries.
An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million deaths in 2004. The disease is seriously affecting some Sub-Saharan countries where it has reached an epidemic stage. Sub-Saharan countries account for 67% of all people living with HIV worldwide and for 72% of AIDS-related deaths in 2008. In that same year more than 14 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS in that region. These poor countries are seeing their productive forces diminishing while at the same time they have to provide healthcare to the growing numbers of patients and take care of the children in poverty..
There are 350-500 million cases of malaria every year, with 1 million fatalities. Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide. AIDS is leading Africa more and more into poverty.
Lack of Education Causes Poverty
Education and poverty are closely interrelated in developing countries.
According to official enrollment reports, more than 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world do not attend school. 57 per cent are girls. Experts believe that these figures are conservative.
More than a billion people are unable to read a book or sign their names.
It is estimated that less than one per cent of what the world spends every year on weapons is sufficient to put every child on the planet into school, yet nothing is being done seriously about this global issue
Education is a major factor that can help people out of poverty. Yet, nothing is being done in poor countries to break the cycle of poverty due to illiteracy. In many poor countries, those forming part of the elite are satisfied with the situation. Illiteracy means availability of cheap labor and the assurance that they will stay at the top forever. They will get richer and richer, and the uneducated poorer and poorer.
Brain Drain Does Cause Poverty
Education is a major factor of poverty in developing countries. Poor countries fund the education of their children, yet the rich countries rob them of their elite as soon as they become productive. Many do leave voluntarily, but many are "hunted' by the rich countries and enticed to emigrate. Poor countries, through brain drain, fund the development of rich countries, and thereby get poorer and poorer.
It is estimated that brain drain has cost the African continent over $4 billion in the employment of 150,000 expatriate professionals annually. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, lost 75 per cent of its skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991
India loses about $2 billion a year due to computer experts emigrating to the US.
To put it crudely, the poor countries are in the end left with mostly "mediocre" talents who contribute to keep the vicious circle of poverty turning.
Traditions Often Cause Poverty
Let us take the example of Afghanistan, probably the most traditional country in the world.
The Talibans banned girls from attending school. Their nearly ten-year reign deprived millions of women from getting an education and a decent job. Even now, though they are not in power, they are doing everything to jeopardize the education of girls. Many schools have been closed after receiving threats from the Talibans.
Today there are 2,4 million girls attending school in Afghanistan, compared to 5,000 when the Talibans were vanquished in 2001. This figure would have been much higher if there were more female teachers in rural areas. Many parents do not send their daughters to school because of another tradition: they do not want male teachers to teach their daughters.
Another factor affecting girls' attendance is forced marriage.
The Talibans are also powerful in Pakistan. In Pathan they have been threatening girls who attend school, and many parents do not send their daughters to school for this reason, and many schools have been forced to close.
Lack of education, as we have seen already, is a major cause of poverty. Tradition, by preventing women from being educated, reinforces poverty.
Squid Angel Blessings
This lens has been blessed by the following Squid Angels:
Thank you, sukkran, darcie-french, LisaAuch, TamaraKajari, aesta1, sherioz and RickBasset.