The latest World Bank Global Monitoring Report boasted that only 9.6% of the world's population — 702 million people — are forecast to be living in extreme poverty in 2015, 200 million fewer than in 2012. And this even with the WB now raising its official poverty line from the 2008 US$1.25 a day level to US$1.90.
WB president Jim Yong Kim declared that the world has a good chance of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
An orgy of official backslapping followed and the champagne flowed. The UN also adopted 17 new “sustainable development goals” starting with “End poverty, in all its forms, everywhere”.
But now for a reality check …
Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, notes that the WB statistics are very dodgy. There is no recent data from the Middle East and other areas plagued by the longest wars in modern history.
And the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa have long had the funds for any reliable statistic gathering cut — often in the process of governments implementing neoliberal policies pushed by the WB, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the rich nations.
Indeed, WB researchers admitted that half the countries they studied “are deprived of adequate data on poverty”. This awkward fact did not make the headlines.
Then there is the total inadequacy of the US$1.25 (or even the US$1.90) poverty line.
“If we measure poverty by the more accurate $5/day line,” Hickel argued in Jacobin on August 8, the total poverty headcount rises to 4.3 billion people, more than 60% of humanity.
Hickel added that the UN “sustainable development goals” were also ecologically unsustainable as they mean growing the global economy by 175 times its present size. This would require the resources of 3.4 planet Earths!
It is unfashionable to use the term “trickle down” economics, so the UN and WB speak instead of “inclusive growth”. But the discredited approach has not been abandoned. The poor are supposed to “catch up” while the rich continue getting richer.
Green Left Weekly believes we need to face up to the fact that the extreme concentration of wealth has to be recognised as a central cause of the ongoing extreme poverty of billions of people. Oxfam reminded the rich and powerful gathered in the World Economic Forum this month in Davos that by next year the richest 1% in the world will own more than the world's poorest 99%. Less than a double-decker bus load of super-rich individuals own more than the poorest 3.5 billion.
We refuse to ignore the naked corporate power grabs through secretive deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its Atlantic counterpart.
We refuse to ignore the insatiable demands for more tax cuts for the rich, even while rampant corporate tax evasion and tax avoidance drain developing countries of US$1.7 trillion each year.
However, we can only keep countering the relentless propaganda of the ruling elites with your help. Please make a donation today to the GLW Fighting Fund on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia). Donations can also be made to Green Left Weekly, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account no. 00901992. Alternatively, send a cheque or money order to PO Box 394, Broadway NSW 2007.