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Crisis will slow already uneven fight against poverty

by Salil  Sarkar

Article published on the 2008-10-28 Latest update 2008-11-01 15:27 TU

Scavenging on a rubbish dump in Lahore, Pakistan(Photo: Reuters)

Scavenging on a rubbish dump in Lahore, Pakistan
(Photo: Reuters)

The fight against poverty has been uneven, with big changes in parts of Asia but little change in sub-Saharan Africa. Soaring prices in 2008 have been a major setback and economic crisis threatens to make matters worse.

A World Bank report says progress in fighting poverty has been uneven across the world’s regions.

The poverty rate in east Asia fell from almost 80 per cent to under 20 per cent over this period. Most of it, say other reports, happened in China.

By contrast it stayed at around 50 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, though with signs of progress since the mid-1990s.

The world’s total population is around 6.5 billion. World gross domestic product was 48.2 trillion dollars (38.4 trillion euros) in 2006. Three-quarters of that sum, 36.6 trillion dollars (29 trilliion euros), is accounted for by the world’s wealthiest countries, with a population of approximately one billion.

The world’s billionaires, just 497 people, roughly 0.000008 per cent of the world’s population, were worth 3.5 trillion dollars (2.7 trillion euros)  - over seven per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP).

Low income countries (2.4 billion people) accounted for just 1.6 trillion dollars (1.3 trillion euros) or 3.3 per cent, of global GDP. Middle income countries (three billion people) made up the rest, with just over ten trillion dollars (eight trillion euros), or 20.7 per cent, according to the World Bank's figures.

The poorest 40 per cent of the world’s population account for just five per cent of global income.

With the crisis, be it recession or depression, poverty levels look ready to soar. The results of grossly unequal social and economic systems are being made worse by the current rises in food and energy prices.