Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ending poverty – drama or whimper?

by Haris Gazdar

Incidence of multidimensional poverty in Pakistan, 2014-2015
Photo Credit: UNDP, Pakistan

The first sustainable development goal (SDG1) is dramatic: “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” by 2030. Is it even a logical possibility? Have learned economic philosophers not pondered over the relative nature of poverty – which means that no matter how well off everyone is, some will be poorer, and poverty is about those who are poorer. Perhaps because the “ending poverty” wish is so fantastic it has been helpfully broken down into more tractable targets: ensure that no one lives on less than $1.25 a day. This idea owes its origins to a debate about global poverty lines – or levels of income below which a person is considered to be poor. And if the $1.25 a day target seems too rigid then there is the more achievable goal to “reduce by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.” This gives quite a lot of leeway to national governments to come up with their own definitions of poverty reduction and then to try and achieve them.