Poverty, Inequality, Development Role of Governments and NGOs

My Essay on Poverty, Inequality, and Development for Development Economics class.

To paraphrase Adam Smith, no society can be jolly, happy and flourishing when a great part of its members is poor, miserable and suffers greatly due to poverty, malnourishment, and social exclusion.

These words resonate strongly with the innate sense of social justice inherent to majority of feeling, breathing and thinking human beings, but the feeling of pity for the poor is not enough; taking proactive steps in eradicating poverty, misery, suffering and great inequality of human beings should become the primary role of government and the people in the society. For, how can a person enjoy a festive meal in the comfort of his/her house knowing that there is a poor person outside his door who has not eaten, or bathed in days, and spent numerous sleepless nights freezing from not having adequate cloths?! How can a rich family, take its children to good private school, without a feeling of discomfort from knowing that there are children doing slave-like labor because their parents cannot afford to feed them?!

The great danger for any society lies in it becoming too comfortable, immune and indifferent to the painful conditions of unfortunate poor and hungry people who may add up to great numbers in the society.
There are many countries across the globe facing the sort of problem stemming from extreme poverty and disproportionate inequality between the rich and the poor. If a rapid and effective policy is not adopted on the part of such a society, then the problem is likely to persist for many years and even decades, like it did in Brazil, and this problem will not only perpetuate unnecessary suffering of the poor, but it will also prevent the society from moving forward until these problems of the many poor and unfortunate have been addressed.

The hypothetical situation of the poor presented above is not unique to any one particular country, and it is not limited to just LDC such as Nigeria, Mozambique, and Zambia. In fact, it extreme poverty and inequality affects many different countries across different levels GDP and GNI; Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, South Africa, and Honduras are greatly affected by the disproportionately high degree of inequality between the top 10% percent of income earners and bottom 40% of income recipients in those countries. These statistics do not account for the source of income, but rather they depict the disproportionate gap between the rich and privileged and the poor and isolated in those countries.

The role of Governments should always be to protect the safety, and well being of its citizens, because the governments are generally assumed to be entrusted with the power derived from the people, its constituencies, in order to make fair policies and decisions that should better the lives of people and the society.

The country’s government actions and decisions, as well as lack thereof, can have the single most influential and profound impact on the lives of people, especially the unfortunate ones in the society.
As we have seen in the case of Asian Tigers such as China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore, successful and disciplined governmental policies can help pave the road to success for its citizens, if only the governments truly desire to attain such lofty goals.

As nice it would be for a country’s government to take a stance and create the policies that can help eradicate poverty, and shorten the gap between the rich and the poor, all too often the reality is far from the ideal. The unfortunate reality is that the world is filled with inefficient, selfish and outright corrupt governments ruling over its people. Countries such as Russia, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Africa, and many Latin American countries are prime examples of lazy, ineffective and inefficient at best, and sometimes outright corrupt at worst, governments. Notably, Brazil and Russia, the countries that are among some of the biggest countries in the world, have drastic levels of poverty and inequality that has persisted for decades in case of Brazil, and disturbing levels of corruption and lawless that plaque people ever since the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991, now Russia, an upper middle income country, where many people are malnourished and live beyond the poverty level in Russia’s rural areas. The Russian government seems so corrupt and preoccupied with power and secretly stealing money from the state funds, which goes towards purchases of multimillion dollar real estate in London and the like places, or quietly gets funneled to the Swiss Bank accounts on behalf of many corrupt individuals in power, that is seems like there is no awaking in sight, and thus little hope for the poor.
And, if the territorially vast and resourcefully rich countries like Russia and Brazil seem to be caught up in an endless cycle of corruption, poverty and inequality, what more is there to expect from the poorer Nations?

Indeed, it is very unfortunate that there are so many corrupt and ineffective/inefficient country governments, even in the 21st century! The unfortunate truth is that if the government is corrupt or too comfortable and lazy to implement the successful poverty elimination policies, then there is very little that can be done unless some powerful NGOs such as BRAC that originated in Bangladesh, choose to enter the scene and start making some real positive changes in the lives of the poor and disadvantaged, as well as taking strong proactive steps to strengthen the local governance through outreach and education, which may eventually enable it (the local governance) to be in a better position to serve the needs of its people, especially the poor and misfortune ones.

So what can we learn from NGOs in Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries? BRAC, which is the most important and influential NGO in the world works with poor and disadvantaged, especially helping poor women in areas of health and nutrition, education and legal help. BRAC also targets the bottom 27% of Bangladesh’s poorest people who own no land. It provides significant help by fighting hunger, improving health and sanitation situation, providing legal help and education, and issuing micro loans to entrepreneurial women through the Community Based Organizations for women.
It is now widely established that although eradicating immediate poverty and hunger through the efforts such as those of BRAC and other NGOs are immensely important, it is good governance that puts interests of the poor and malnourished people first and establishes the policies that help the poor escape the extreme poverty, and their kids become educated in order to stop the perverse cycle of poverty and misery.

Weak governance and governance failure sets persisting stumbling blocks such as lack of clean drinking water that perpetuates and magnifies health problems and children’s mortality rates, lack of / or inaccessibility to education for the poor, which is necessary to break the cycle of poverty, and lack of appropriate safety nets and social welfare programs that are necessary for the least protected members of society such as women and children.

Thus, the role of good government in the eradication of poverty and inequality is of a paramount importance, and cannot be underestimated. Many NGOs have become active in creating awareness against the bed governance, as well as helping the government with the implementation of projects to help the poor. Continuous efforts and resolve will be required on behalf of many NGOs operating in countries experiencing extreme poverty and inequality, people who can voice their strong desire for a sensitive, fair, and corruption free government, as well as the courage and commitment from governmental officials to push forward and implement policies that could help attain significant objectives in eradicating poverty and inequality, advancing education among the poor, and helping poor women and disadvantaged with their pressing needs for shelter, health and nutrition. Much remains to be done, in Bangladesh and other parts of the world, but the hope and drive are there.

References

Economic development Tenth Edition

http://www.bracresearch.org/publications/good_governance.pdf

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