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Global poverty far from being eradicated

April 23, 2002

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WASHINGTON: The World Bank and its civil society critics appeared to reach agreement on one point over the weekend: the world is far from banishing poverty. The number of people living on less than $1r per day fell slightly from about 1.28 billion in 1990 to 1.15 billion in 1999 and seems set to fall to around 753 million by 2015, the Bank said in its World Development Indicators 2002 report.

That projection — which assumes no major economic catastrophes — would fall short of the so-called Millennium Development Goal of halving the incidence of poverty from its 1990 levels by 2015. Excluding China, the outlook appears more grim: The number of poor actually rose from 916 million in 1990 to 936 million in 1999 and is unlikely to fall below 700 million by 2015, the report said.

Critics long have said the Bank and IMF add to indebtedness and insist that borrowing countries implement economic and legislative changes that augment, rather than ameliorate, poverty.

South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia stand a chance of roughly halving poverty by 2015. In contrast, the number of absolute poor, living on less than $1 per day, will: rise in sub-Saharan Africa, from 242 million in 1990 and 300 million in 1999, to 345 million in 2015; remain static in the Middle East and North Africa, with six million in 1990, seven million in 1999, and six million in 2015; and fall from 74 million in 1990 and 77 million in 1999, to 60 million in 2015 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

South Asia should see its numbers fall from 495 million in 1990 and 490 million in 1999, to 279 million in 2015, according to the Bank. East Asia and the Pacific stand to reduce their numbers from 452 million in 1990 and 260 million in 1999, to 59 million in 2015 (or, excluding China, down to six million, from 92 million in 1990 and 46 million in 1999). Europe and Central Asia, having seen a surge from seven million in 1990 to 17 million in 1999, should be able to reduce its number of absolute poor to around four million.

Nigeria, the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa, accounts for nearly one-fourth of the continent’s poor, the Bank said. Urban poverty has grown faster than rural poverty, owing to massive migration from rural areas to the cities. —Dawn/InterPress Service.