Monday , April 23, 2018

Villanueva: How to end poverty?

THIS was the question posed to me by Ricky Francisco, a good friend of mine since high school after he posted a commentary on Facebook.

It took me a few minutes to think of an answer to this question. I wanted to give a profound answer that can have the right balance of sounding scholarly and using parlance but I cannot find the right words.

This should have been my reply.

Before we can even think of ending or alleviating poverty, we should understand what brought people into this trap that we are talking about.

Let’s first define what poverty is. Poverty may be described as a condition that a person is not meeting the basic necessities of life. Bradshaw (2006) emphasized that the basic needs are thought to be necessary based on shared values of human dignity.

The presence, therefore, of poverty is a reflection that there is inequality essentially in society; that there are people who have more and there are people who do not have anything.

Max Lorenz, the forerunner of the Lorenz curve, studied that indeed there is inequality in the income distribution in an economy, and there is a gap between the rich and the poor. For developing countries such as ours, this gap is getting wider and wider.

There are identified origins or cause of poverty. The first one is individual deficiencies. This explains that the individual is responsible for his own poverty, because they create their own problems and they would argue that if they only made better choices, they would not be in poverty.

Another origin is the cultural belief system that support subcultures of poverty. This theory states that the present day poor is a result of transmission through generations of a set of values, beliefs and skills that does not support progressiveness or prosperity. A subculture that can be described as dysfunctional.

The third origin of poverty is a socio-economic-political distortions or discrimination. There are structural barriers to getting better jobs through access to education and training, as well as looking at the relationship between wealth and power.

The wealthy have better access to education and of course hold positions of power in both the business sector and the government. Furthermore, there is social stigma or discrimination based on race, gender, religion and other demographic and economic groupings.

The fourth origin is geographical disparities. This is the reason why there are more people in Mindanao that are poor. The distance from the urban centers makes it hard for the people in the remote places to have access to wealth or opportunities to gain wealth.

The last origin of poverty is circumstantial origins. One instance is that there is poverty is cycle. The lack of employment opportunities leads to lack of consumption and spending due to lack of income and inadequate savings. This will result to lack of opportunities to invest or to start their own business, which will result to staying in the state of poverty.

When people fall into what we call the poverty trap, it is very difficult for them to get out without the intervention of a very powerful institution, which is the government.

The government's role is not to KILL the people who are in poverty, thus it would result to more poor people (circumstantial origins). The government's role is to provide more opportunities by providing them the necessary factors of production, particularly financial and physical capital, to get them out of this trap.

The government program, 4Ps or Conditional Cash Transfers, even if there is a lot of opposition from guess who, the elites and the working class, is a transfer payment used to equitably redistribute income.

Alleviating poverty is one of the most difficult programs that a government can take. I have no answer to the question on how to end poverty because there is no right or wrong way to solve this problem. All we can do is hope that in the future there will be no one who is poor and all of us have the same equal opportunities, and keep on working on having equality in the world.