August 20, 2016

Taking a new tack to fight poverty

Myint Win Thein

Education — or a lack thereof — is commonly attributed to the extreme inequality that persists across the world.
However improving educational standards in order to level the playing field will not be enough to eradicate poverty. When governments focus on education to the exclusion of all other factors at play, they are not seeing the full picture. Allowing extreme wealth to be accumulated by a handful of individuals is one of the major culprits of inequality, but is rarely identified as such. Unfair trade agreements, land grabbing, structural debts, the privatisation of publicly owned utilities in a non-transparent way and tax evasion each play a role in perpetuating an ever-deeper divide between the haves and have-nots. It is therefore important for governments to invest equal efforts in fighting the various causes of inequality, which are admittedly complex and multi-faceted.
In many countries around the world, the failure to create more equitable societies is due to governments only addressing the superficial causes of poverty.
Poverty is not a natural phenomenon. We do not have to accept its existence. But what we do have to do is tackle the actions of the people who cause it. We ought to listen to the economists who have pointed out that the real culprit behind poverty is the accumulation of extreme wealth by only a handful of high net worth individuals. They are asking that addressing inequality becomes a new millennium goal of the United Nations. As past attempts to tackle poverty have fallen short of their aims, why not give this idea some serious thought?


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