1 Ambitious plan to end global poverty by 2030 (Linda Yueh on BBC) Later this year, the UN is expected to adopt the World Bank’s ambitious target of ending extreme poverty by 2030. It would mean that for the first time, everyone in the world would able to afford a refrigerator and other goods that would make life a bit easier. But, what would it take? Could we really see the end of poverty within a generation?
First, there’s been a great deal of progress already. The poverty rate in the developing world has more than halved since 1981. Back then, 52% of people in developing countries lived on less than $1.25 per day. That’s now dropped to 15%.
In terms of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, it meant that the target of halving poverty by 2015 from 1990 levels was achieved five years early. In 1990, more than one-third (36%) of the world’s population lived in abject poverty. That was halved to 18% in 2010.
But, it was due largely to China. So, there are still about a billion people who live in extreme poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the number of poor people has increased during the past three decades.
But, what about the billion people who still live in poverty? The World Bank projects that it’s possible to end extreme poverty by 2030. But, it would take a heroic effort. The number of people in poverty will have to decrease by 50 million each year. That is the equivalent of about a million people each week for the next 15 years.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is confident, but emphasised that it would require funding and a raft of targeted policies to raise incomes and productivity. Even so, the task of reducing poverty at that pace is so daunting that economists forecast that the global poverty rate is more likely to be 8% in 2030. That works out to be about 664 million people still living in poverty out of an estimated 8.3 billion people on the planet.
2 Teen libertarian captures Brazilian minds (San Francisco Chronicle) Microphone in hand and standing atop the sound truck, the raspy-voiced protest leader jabbed his finger into the air shouting for the ouster of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, igniting wild cheers from the crowd below him.
“What Lula and Dilma have done shouldn’t just result in their being banned from politics. It should result in them being in jail!” Kim Kataguiri yelled, denouncing Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The March 15 demonstration was the largest Sao Paulo had seen in more than three decades, since 1984 protests demanding democratic elections after a long dictatorship. But more surprising than the crowd of more than 200,000 was the fact it was being led by Kataguiri, a skinny, 19-year-old college dropout, and other young Brazilian activists inspired by libertarianism and conservative free-market ideals.
The grandson of Japanese immigrants, Kataguiri is a social media star whose quirky videos skewer Rousseff and the ruling party’s social welfare policies. His ascent as a protest figure has been rapid. Two years ago, when protests erupted across Brazil over corruption and poor public services, Kataguiri was a high schooler who avoided the unrest.
Today, he is the public face of the Free Brazil Movement, a growing force that is more focused than the 2013 unrest that expressed a wide range of middle-class anger. Brazil’s new wave of protests are seen as a right-leaning movement clearly channeled against Rousseff and her Workers’ Party.
3 The other Singapore (Rahul Goswami in Khaleej Times) The idea of a “founding father” of Singapore is as misplaced as the idea that here is a city which was once “third world” and through trade and globalisation became “first world”. Both ideas are untrue but both are popular, partly because the Republic of Singapore’s official machinery worked hard to get these views popularised.
The development of Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s is due to the efforts of a large and committed group of people – amongst them were Toh Chin Chye, S. Rajaratnam and Goh Keng Swee. This group was the peer group of the man who recently passed away, and whose passing has occasioned all the new, mostly misinformed, analysis.
Perhaps until the middle of the decade of the 1980s Singapore’s economic development actually helped the majority of Singaporeans. The lives of ordinary Singaporeans did improve, especially when compared with countries that were yet to become the misnamed ‘Asian Tiger’ economies. That period did not last for even a generation.
The reasons are not far to seek. Singapore’s ruling party went through changes that altered, fundamentally and unfortunately, its character. Under the direction of the man who recently passed away, the first generation of workers and people’s leaders who shepherded Singapore through a tumultuous independence that included a fractious parting with Malaysia (the Federated States) was removed.
The replacements for this generation were to prove utterly unequal to the task that had defined itself in 1965, when Singapore became an independent republic. Gradually, Singaporeans began to feel new burdens – health subsidies were reduced, the prices of public housing and education rose, the wages of low-income workers started stagnating.
The spin-doctors for new Singapore did not once mention the fear that was instilled into even the highest levels of governance was responsible for breeding a generation (now two generations) of an unquestioning proletariat.
This is the sorry legacy of the man who recently passed away – a small country of unhappy serfs struggling under burdens their parents never dreamt would fall upon Singaporeans, a small country whose income inequality is shameful, whose ruling party has kept itself in power for half a century, whose press freedom ranks on a par with Rwanda and Iraq, whose ‘meritocratic’ and ‘champion of globalisation’ government controls an estimated 60 per cent of the economy. It is a dreadful legacy that hard-working Singaporeans deserve to be rid of.