Poverty Reduction Strategies

Manila Bulletin, March 19, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Poverty Reduction Strategies


NUMEROUS ideas that have been followed during the past half century in the effort to eradicate poverty or at least reduce it. Over and over again, national and international leaders have pointed to poverty as the fitting target for collective and individual effort. A recital of the different approaches taken or proposed might be helpful to stimulate better ideas and to evaluate these efforts.

In previous centuries alms-giving was the main effort. Then the vogue became the now popular saying that it is better to teach a person to fish than to give him a fish. With macro economic theories, technology coupled with speed of communication, why the meager success in poverty reduction?

In the middle of the twentieth century the solution was "growth" i.e., to enlarge the economic pie, later to be disparagingly called the trickle theory. Investments in industries would make everybody prosperous. Even the poor would share in the bounty. Not much success except that the gap between the rich and the poor widened. The rich became richer while the poor became poorer, both within a country and between countries. The aid ideal target of giving one percent of GNP was done by only a few small countries.

The next emphasis was on participation by the recipients of the aid. Self-help and participation brought about the burgeoning of the NGOs. Then came focus on access by the poor to social, educational, and health facilities together with access to freedom and democracy. Then back to macro economics in structural reforms. Aid by donor countries and international aid agencies required as conditions for aid, control of inflation, and balancing of budgets.

For debt relief for highly indebted developing countries (HIDC) the condition imposed was for a recipient to make macro economic plans and monitoring strategies for implementation (PRS-poverty reduction strategies).

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