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You are twice less poorer because the Chinese are becoming richer — World Bank

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“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

If you think today I have decided to set the tone for the Easter holidays which are just around the corner or I am encroaching with Pastor Makarimayi’s territory, then you may need to think again. LO and behold, the almighty World Bank has announced a miraculous progress in poverty reduction. You may not see it or feel it but they say you are actually less poor than you were a few years ago.

It may be the biggest public relations spin of the decade, if not of our recent times in international development. If you missed this obscene facade, let me run it for you once again.

The World Bank recently announced that, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined in almost every region of the developing world. According to the World Bank, the percentage of people living on less than $1,25 a day and the number of poor declined between 2005 and 2008, a historical phenomenon ever since the World Bank took over the responsibility of defining and monitoring other people’s poverty.

If you haven’t woken up to this political juggling, let me remind you that in September 2000, at the United Nations Centre in New York, 189 world leaders gathered and unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration, committing to reach eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015. It was the world’s biggest promise which among others, seeks to half extreme poverty by the year 2015. The World Bank had a strong hand in it as it pushed its Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper model.

Reports in 2005 and 2010 painted a gloomy picture of the possibility of reaching the goals. According to these reports, the MDGs on poverty and hunger seemed to be retreating, and the World Bank concurred with this assessment by estimating that 50 million more people would be pushed into poverty as a result of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s – equivalent to almost 100 people for every minute of 2009.

There was no evidence to suggest that those goals would be achieved given the varying social, political and economic circumstances and other intervening factors. It is only fifteens months after this observation and yet today we are faced with a completely opposite story.

The MDG came to heal the wounds and scars caused by the failed and high exploitative structural adjustment programmes prescribed by the World Bank and IMF which left many countries even poorer especially African countries coming out of liberation wars. The result of the Structural Adjustment Programme was a sharp increase in the number of people living below the poverty line and a widening gap between the rich and poor. In order to quell dissent, a new initiative had to be contrived and the MDGs were born, touted the world’s biggest promise.

The latest World Bank report suggest that actually by 2010, it appears that the $1,25 a day poverty rate fell to less than half the 1990 rate, which means that the United Nation’s first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for cutting extreme poverty in half has already been achieved, five years ahead of schedule. Obviously, this should be cause for celebration that is if the people felt they have become less poorer. But the World Bank spin doctors seem not so dumb in hiding their obscenity as they admit that this unbelievably positive macro picture was mainly due to China’s rapid economic rise. A close look at this analysis suggests that if we exclude China in the global poverty picture, the number of people living in extreme poverty in the developing world has actually increased to the same rate as in 1981.

To understand this better, let’s break it down into simpler terms. If a member of a family of ten poor people wins a lotto jackpot of one thousand dollars, that family ultimately has a thousand dollars from zero which is a significant increase in the family’s income — at an average of hundred dollars per person. But then in reality, the one thousand dollars belong to one person and there is no guarantee that the lotto winner will agree to share the money or be part of a poor family anymore. And in this case, the jackpot winners are the Chinese, and the billions of dollars they are pushing into Africa are also masking the true poverty picture.

It is vital to understand that the World Bank has become an authority in defining poverty using an income-based approach, a system that has attracted so much controversy over the years. It does not take into account the important role the natural environment plays to the quality of life of people. For instance, if you live on matamba not oranges; use firewood from the bush not commercial power; if you can count in your local language and not in colonial language; use herbs to cure ailments not modern medicine, then you are most likely classified as less than a dollar income earner, therefore poor.

This has made the World Bank a monopoly provider of global poverty figures, which are used to push and justify a number of agendas such as regime change, trade liberalisation, globalisation and the exploitation of developing countries. It is no secret that the World Bank has a good taste for a free market model which favours the West.

On that account, they gutlessly tell us that poverty levels have declined globally even though we know that there was a global recession, an increase in unemployment which triggered unrests in a number of Western countries and the Arab spring, hunger remains a global challenge and hundreds of children are malnourished. Perhaps they are setting the agenda for another initiative to succeed the MDGs.

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