Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are benchmarks of progress in a global attempt at alleviating poverty. The eight goals and their associated targets clearly address a complex set of effects the fundamental cause of which is poverty.

For the record, here are the MDG:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.

Poverty is manifested as an interrelated set of problems such as hunger, disease, child mortality, gender bias, and environmental degradation. All of the factors that the MDG seeks to address are causally related.

For instance, hunger is a consequence of poverty because even when the food supply is adequate, the poor suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Hunger and malnutrition is in part responsible for low productivity and low incomes. Low or even negative savings coupled with credit constraints do not allow investment in education. Lack of education leads to poor understanding of hygeine and health care, high birth rate and child mortality, and poor maternal health. Eliminating poverty therefore is a necessary condition for the eradication of the whole set of inter-related effects.

A Typology of Poverty

Poverty is the most common characteristic that defines the populations of developing countries. It can be broadly classified as income poverty and non-income poverty. Non-income poverty in terms of education, health-care, access to markets, etc., directly produce the income poverty that traps the average citizen of developing countries.

Thus, income poverty and non-income poverty are closely related. The problem appears almost intractable because the two kinds of poverty are mutually reinforcing. Any solution that does not address both kinds of poverty is unlikely to be successful in poverty alleviation. The question of how to raise huge populations out of this poverty trap is a formidable challenge that governments, multilateral organizations and policy makers face.

Another way of classifying poverty is to distinguish between urban and rural poverty. Urban poverty, to a certain degree, is the result of rural poverty. Often, lacking economic opportunities, rural populations are forced to migrate to urban areas. An excess rural migrant population which cannot be gainfully employed in the urban areas leads to urbanpoverty. Therefore, alleviating rural poverty is a precondition to solving a large part of the urban poverty.

The focus of the first Millennium Development Goal — Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger — therefore has to be rural poverty.

Author: Atanu Dey


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