In a recent interview, Ana Revenga, senior director of the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Group, talks about ending extreme poverty. See, Ending Extreme Poverty: World Bank Economist Ana Revenga @ The Christian Century.
(The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 per person per day, and the article describes how they’ve arrived at that figure.)
Revenga is focused on Third World poverty, but her insights into poverty prevention are relevant even in less dire situations.
Consider her answers to two questions from the interview:
What is the single most important contributor to the decline in world poverty?
The biggest driver of the success is economic growth—but not any kind of economic growth. What’s needed is economic growth that improves the income-generating opportunities of the poor. This kind of growth involves either raising the value of the agricultural products that the poor are producing or generating better jobs. Anywhere between two-thirds and 80 percent of the decline in poverty rates is due to this kind of economic growth….
Are there forms of economic growth that are not good for the poor?
Absolutely. You could have a country where all the growth comes from commodity extraction or from a pipeline. Those funds might generate income, but that money does not go back into the economy to improve the lives of farmers and is rarely invested in building further infrastructure….
Needless to say, Dr. Revenga is more than capable of setting the boundaries of her own views, yet it seems fair to infer that if not all growth should be valuable, then not all spending is valuable.
Whitewater’s conditions are milder than those Ana Revenga faces in her work, yet not so mild that some who experience them would describe them as mild at all.
This leaves us with a question: is it, can it be, a solution merely to buy capital, goods, or the means of their distribution at public expense?