Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Poor Know What to Do

The age old question is why there are so many poor people. I think I got this from "Fiddler on the Roof". Jesus Christ said that "the there will always be poor people"

There is a way out of poverty and this is not through doles. The poor know how to get out of poverty but are too poor to do it.

Poverty is linked to environment. In fact as an environmental scientist, it is a moral obligation to teach my mostly middle to upper class students that poverty is THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM. Almost all our environmental problems have a root in poverty or cause more poverty.

The first priority would be to do immediate environmental intervention. As Jeffrey Sachs has it, meet poor people's immediate environmental needs; clean water, sanitation and health care. The second step is to take steps to boost productivity primarily through education, investment in agriculture and provision of basic health care. Education remains as the best investment to a permanent rise in productivity. Education is empowerment while agricultural investment guarantees food security. With investment in infrastructure, expect people to be able to save and invest. When these all snowballs, poverty will be history.

These are so commonsensical that poor people I know know about these.

But is the Philippine government doing the right thing?

Allow me to comment only on one thing, our dependence on OFW cash inflows. This may sink people into more poverty as the money is largely not invested in the areas just mentioned. Consumption increases as remittances increases and this state of affairs is environmentally damaging to say at least. It can only provide the immediate aid against poverty and not the long term boost to permanent productivity.

Thus the need to look at the issues more critically.

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